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A review of NextDNS. Stop unwanted content from ever reaching your internet connected device

Summary: This post goes over how to speed up your internet and stop unwanted content from ever reaching your device for free. It’s very easy and can be done in less than 15 minutes.

What is DNS?

In simple terms, it’s like a phone book of the internet. If you type https://theprepared.com into your web browser, that request is sent over to a DNS which converts that to the IP address (172.66.43.161) which computers can understand. This all takes a fraction of a second, but those fractions of a second can add up over time.

What DNS do I have?

Most devices by default are setup to query your internet service provider’s DNS registry. This not only gives your ISP more in-depth data on which sites you visit on the internet (so they can sell that valuable data and make more money on you by targeting you with ads), but it is often quite slow compared to other options. A faster option is using Google’s public DNS, full instructions here. While it is fast, many may not like Google having even more info on them because Google is not known to be the most privacy conscious company out there. Would you like an even better option though? The fastest DNS resolver out there, and one that doesn’t sell your data to advertisers is Cloudflare. You see in the below chart how your default internet service provider might have a query speed of 70ms, Google has one of 34ms, and Cloudflare is 14ms.

Another benefit of Cloudflare is that there are some optional malware and adult content blocking options. Click here for full instructions on how to set Cloudflare as your DNS resolver and/or enabling these minor blocking capabilities.

While it may not be as fast as Cloudflare, I’ve been playing around with a different DNS called NextDNS. The reason you might want to try this one out is because it has a free, stylish, and easy to use interface that allows you to add many more layers of filtering. By doing this, you will have even more control to stop the bad stuff of the internet from ever getting to your device. If you aren’t tech savvy at all, don’t worry there are some simple toggles you can click to set it and leave it. If you want to dive deeper and have more control though, you can.

How do I get started with NextDNS?

It’s super easy to get started, go to https://nextdns.io/ and click “Try it now”. No signup is required to try it out for a week and you have full control right out of the gate without any account creation necessary. If you do like it, create a free account and have control over things for longer.

Next, scroll down on the page and see step-by-step instructions on how to set it up on practically any device.

The next tab on top of the page, is security.

Each option you have to toggle on/off has an easy to understand description underneath so you know if that is something you want or not.

On the Privacy tab, there aren’t as many options, but instead you can add individual blocklists.

Don’t go all crazy and add every block list possible, just pick a few that call to you. I’d at least do “Energized Ultimate and NextDNS Ads & Trackers Blocklist”

These filters are very impressive and are updated very regularly. For example, some of the privacy filters I have enabled were updated 10 minutes ago, 4 days ago, and 3 hours ago.

On the Parental Control tab, you can set up specific times in which certain sites such as Facebook, Netflix, or Snapchat are blocked, like after 10pm so your kid will get to sleep.

You can also block entire categories of sites such as pornography, gambling, or social media websites.

The Denylist and Allowlist tabs are if you want to copy and paste specific websites to either block or allow them. Maybe a site you like is getting caught up in one of the filters, you can allow that particular site instead of disabling the entire filter.

The Analytics tab is fun because that shows a summary of how many queries were made and what percentage were blocked.

The Logs tab goes into more detail on which site was accessed. If you see repeated calls to Adobe for example, you can copy and paste that and add it to the denylist if you don’t want that ever happening again.

On the last tab, Settings, you can disable logging, change how long logs are kept for, download logs, or clear them.

This first test run of NextDNS works for a week and then you need to create a free account to save your settings and access them in the future. The free tier of NextDNS gives you 300,000 queries per month per device, which should be enough for most of us, but you can pay for more if you need it.

Overall I am quite happy with this service in the few days I’ve been testing it. I’ve set up a Raspberry Pi powered pihole DNS blocker before, which is similar to this but attached to your network, and I prefer this easy, quick, and free way over that.

Setting this all up takes only a few minutes and can be reversed in seconds if it’s not for you.

Why this is relevant to this crowd

Be prepared against security and privacy threats by stopping it from ever getting to your device. If the website is totally blocked, no tracking or malicious software can even bother you. This can help you kick a bad habit of gambling or spending too much time on social media, or block unreliable news sources you may come across.

I am in no way an expert on DNS, but if you need help troubleshooting things let me know and I’ll see if I can help.

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DNS

Essential medical reference books for the prepper library

I wanted to start compiling a list of great medical references at different levels that are useful for austere medicine and hopefully longer term survival.  Also curious what books others have found useful to study or have on hand as reference. 

Quick reference

Wilderness & Travel Medicine – fairly good first step and comes with larger AMK kits, which I like for the packaging.  Written in an accessible and easily referenced way. NOLS WFA reference card – Good for rapid reference for those in your group who are less trained or practiced

First aid

Wilderness Medicine (Forgey) – Well written and it has a good focus on being more remove from definitive care Fix Your Feet – A good reference on foot care.  It is targeted more at runners and hikers, but if you suddenly increase time on your feet it will be valuable to know how to care for them Hypothermia, frostbite and other cold injuries – a good deep dive into cold injuries for those of us who live in climates with extreme cold.

First responder

Outdoor Emergency Care – This is the textbook use for national ski patrols certification.  I don’t love it, but it is a reasonable textbook at the FR/EMT level that also includes some more environmental emergencies and dealing with more austere situations such as backcountry rescue.  

Advanced

Auerbachs Wilderness Medicine –  THE textbook for wilderness medicine.  It is a 2 volume medical textbook, which is very comprehensive.  Depending on your science background this could be a hard read.  

What have others found?  

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Drop, cover, and hold on? Maybe not— esp. if you’re in the PNW!

I almost never read an article about earthquakes and feel like I learned a substantial new thing that will change my approach to preparedness, but this one, sent to me by a geologist friend this afternoon, was an exception. Also cool because it vindicates the generally-useful-for-preppers idea of “situational awareness”. 

https://temblor.net/earthquake-insights/opinion-when-the-next-cascadia-megaquake-strikes-heres-what-ill-do-13866/ 

Citation: Goldfinger, G., 2022, Opinion: When the next Cascadia megaquake strikes, here’s what I’ll do, Temblor, http://doi.org/10.32858/temblor.242

Chris Goldfinger is a professor at OSU and one of the leading authorities on the Cascadia Subduction Zone— he did some of the research that demonstrated that it has unleashed megaquakes in the past (and will do so in the future)— so I take his thoughts seriously!

Summary:

The conventional wisdom on what to do when you feel ground shaking is “drop, cover, and hold on.” This makes sense in places that don’t have an earthquake early warning system, where earthquakes tend to be smaller (M5-7 instead of M8-9), and where most of the buildings are engineered to withstand that magnitude of quake. Given virtually no warning and low likelihood that the building you’re in will collapse, it’s smart to get under the nearest table, as fast as you can, and protect yourself from objects rocketing off walls and shelves. If you try to get outside, you’ll probably be thrown to the ground by the force of the quake or fall on the stairs, and if you do make it outside, then you’re exposed to falling bricks and signs, shattering glass, etc.

BUT in a big subduction zone earthquake, if you’re decently far away from the rupture (which you’ll likely be, because the rupture happens offshore), the faster but weaker P-waves will arrive significantly (i.e., maybe 45-60 seconds!) in advance of the stronger surface waves, which means you get a warning in the form of lighter shaking. Throw an early warning system (which the West Coast now has) on top of that and you might have 2-3 minutes of notice before the really violent shaking starts— enough to get out of the building you’re in, if you’re on one of the lower floors.

The article describes how, in some places— especially those with big earthquakes, buildings prone to collapse in them, and early warning systems, e.g., Mexico City— this understanding has been incorporated into earthquake preparedness for a long time, and in lieu of a simplistic “Drop cover and hold on” directive (which in the U.S. may be more of a cultural holdover from Cold War nuclear strike drills than anything else— to the extent that it’s efficacy in earthquakes is backed by data, they seem to be the wrong data!), preparedness advice is more contingent on the setting.

Goldfinger advocates a “situational awareness” approach, in which the messaging is more nuanced and reflective of the reality that the best thing to do depends on where you are. While this lacks the simplicity (and ease of recall) of DCHO, more and more entities, including the government of Israel and a school district in the Portland suburbs, seem to be moving away from one size fits all directives toward this model.

My thoughts:

“Situational awareness” seems like the best approach for organizations that are housed in one building: You still give your employees/attendees/students one directive, but it’s tailored to the structure. Downside is that saying, “In case of an earthquake, evacuate,” is essentially the same as saying, “This building is crap”— especially to a public that is used to hearing these differing directions and will increasingly understand why they differ. Without accompanying policy change (and it would have to be well-designed policy), we might see messaging that is more about preserving the users’ sense of safety in the building (and desire to return to it) than it is about informing people of hazards.

Situational awareness will also be much harder for individuals to implement than organizations. After all, we go in and out of buildings all the time without knowing their construction and retrofit history. Most people won’t pay attention or care, and those of us who do care will still be making educated guesses. That said, I’ve been making educated guesses about the seismic resilience of buildings for years— I just didn’t have anything to do with the information (unless you count being more or less nervous about going to this doctor’s appointment or that meeting as “doing something”). Now when I go into a building that I don’t like the look of, I can scan the exterior for fall hazards and pay attention to how long it takes me to get to where I’m going within the building from the entry, and have a sense of whether or not to run when the P-waves hit.

Hope others find it as interesting as I did!!

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Success! I finally made a batch of soap that I liked

After some great advice from the wonderful people here on the forum my second attempt at making soap turned out MUCH better than the first time. Check out the comments on this forum thread to see my first failed attempt.

For those who are interested in making soap, I’ll give a brief summary of how to do it.

Shopping list:

Pure sodium hydroxide (lye). I bought 2lb for $16 on Amazon and it came with a free silicone mold. I’d link to the item I bought but it doesn’t seem to be available any longer. Silicone molds. These make the process much nicer and produce a better bar than homemade cardboard molds, so it is definitely worth investing in these. Two small 3-4 gallon buckets Silicone spatula Soap blender Disposable paper cup Kitchen scale to measure ingredients Fat sources. Coconut oil, beef tallow, olive oil, and many other options. Check out the possibilities on soapcalc.net to see what they can help you use. Avoid polyunsaturated fats, I learned this the hard way in my first attempt, which is linked up above. Distilled water Eye protection and disposable gloves

A quick and dirty summary of how soap is made is that you take some fat source like olive oil, mix with lye and water, and chemical reactions happen that turn it into soap.

To calculate what recipe you are going to use, go onto soapcalc.net and plug in your various fat sources and how much you have. For this successful attempt I used about 2/3 beef tallow and 1/3 coconut and olive oil. The users on this forum taught me which parameters I should shoot for. I went with an INS of 160, higher than this gives you a harsher soap and having some superfat to offset possibly being off on your recipe and avoiding excess lye that will burn you. Tweak your fat levels until you reach the goals you are going for. Here is my recipe. I don’t know what all this means but I’ve highlighted the things I look at.

According to your recipe, measure out your ingredients. Use a disposable cup for the lye, but the other food grade materials (water and the fats) can be measured into your normal kitchen’s bowls because they won’t touch anything toxic. 

Take one of the 4 gallon buckets outside and put on eye protection, gloves, and a long sleeve shirt. Pour in the water first and then the lye and stir with the spatula. It will give off some nasty fumes and heat up pretty hot from the chemical reaction. 

Back inside you will heat up your fats to as close to the same temperature as the lye mixture. I just threw it all in the crock pot and melted down the solid beef tallow and coconut oil. If you are doing just oils like coconut oil and olive oil then just heat them up in the microwave.

Combine the lye and oil mixture in your second bucket and mix for 2-3 minutes with the electric mixer until it is very creamy and thickens up a bit.

Pour the liquid soap into the molds and use the spatula to clean out the last drop. Put the molds in a cool dark cupboard and cover with a cloth for it to harden. I gave it a couple days and then pulled the soap bars out of the molds and stood them up on a piece of cardboard to get more airflow. Let them sit for a month to cure and they are ready to use.

The nice bars in the back of this picture were from the mold, and the weird pieces were ones that I broke up from a large chunk in a cardboard mold that I made. I won’t use a homemade mold again and will get more silicone molds because they make it so much nicer.

My soap bars smelt very strongly like beef broth when they were just poured into the molds. By the time a month had passed and they were ready to use they still smelt slightly beefy if you put your nose up to them. When you lather your hands a smell of beef broth can be smelt but your hands don’t smell like anything after you rinse them off. It’s an interesting smell that I don’t particularly like, but my wife has showered with it and said she didn’t smell anything. Maybe I am just more sensitive to it. Next time I make soap, I have some pig lard that I need to use. It probably won’t smell as strongly as the beef tallow, but I still am going to only put in 25% lard because I am not a fan of the meat smelling soap. I also do not want to add essential oils because I don’t want to smell peppermint beef either.

Well, that’s about it. I am extremely new to this world of soap making and if I said something incorrect please correct me. I don’t know how everything works, I just know that if you do steps A+B you get C and that’s what I want. It’s a fun experiment and I feel a sense of self sufficiency. If there was a nationwide run on soap for whatever reason I could make my own and share with others. Soap and cleanliness is very important for health and moral so it is an important survival and prepping skill to know how to make. At first I was scared and worried I wouldn’t get the chemistry right, and I actually didn’t the first time, but once I knew what to shoot for it was very easy to do. It is not a hard skill to learn and there are so many things and variations you can run with from here. I just like plain, simple, cheap survival soap though. Maybe one day I’ll expand into scents, colors and shapes.  

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Soap 1

Mental health preps

A lot of prepping is focused on our physical readiness to respond in time of crisis. Much of our time, energy, and money are spent amassing gear, equipment, and supplies; monitoring stock levels and expiration dates; reviewing and practicing potential courses of action; and getting ourselves in physical shape – all so that we have some sense of readiness for dire moments that we hope will never come.

Over the years, I’ve come to think of prepping like a giant puzzle. As all the right pieces click into place, we get one step closer to realizing the bigger picture of our own readiness.

I put to you, my fellow preppers, that this puzzle isn’t complete without some form mental preparedness and having coping preps at the ready. After all, you can have years of food and water, medical supplies, ammo, and all the comforts you could possibly want and need to physically survive a crisis, but none of that is worth it if you can’t mentally cope with the challenges that arise from the chaos you’re attempting to survive.

DISCLOSURE
Before I go any further: I’m not a psychologist, psychiatrist, social worker, or trained counselor -not by any stretch of the imagination. I do, however, have experience in receiving mental health services and it is the entirety of that experience that I’m calling upon to share these thoughts with you.

As you read, please keep in mind that this is my subjective experience. At no point in time should you consider this mental health advice to be acted upon without the guidance of a trained and certified professional.

If at any point in time you find yourself in crisis, I urge you to reach out to crisis services in your state, city, or region to seek immediate help.

BACKGROUND
As someone with a diagnosed history of PTSD, anxiety, and depression, prepping can sometimes be a challenge for me. If I’m not careful, my prepping can easily break free from its reins and run wild. If I’m not vigilant and mindful, that is, if I’m not present and thinking about my thinking, I suddenly find that my thoughts have raced very far afield. The result, for me, manifests in feelings ranging from overwhelming anxiety and hopelessness to extreme hyper-vigilance, and catastrophism.

The experience is somewhat similar to what you might have felt as your started your own journey into prepping, perhaps before you found The Prepared (or similar communities) -and yet, for me, it’s a very different kind of anxiety. If I’m not mindful, I can find myself feeling anxious to the point of overwhelming paralysis and that is completely counterproductive to my own efforts.

MENTAL HEALTH & STIGMA
Let’s be really honest with ourselves and each other for a few moments. There exists, even now in the 21st century [at the apex of the information age!] a continued stigma centered around mental health and those that suffer from a myriad issues. Sure, we’ve come a long way as a society, but not far enough -not if (for example) upon reading my “background” paragraph, you might have found yourself cringing slightly or knee-jerking in response. If that’s the case, then my point has been made and that’s part of the topic I want to address here, the stigma. -And, look, that kind of response is okay. I’m cool with it. It’s understandable and forgivable because I understand myself and, perhaps more importantly, I understand the human instinct to fear the unknown or unknowable.

That said, it should come as no surprise that myself and those who suffer and live with mental health issues are often perceived as being strange, scary, weak, damaged, flawed or in desperate need of repair. At the individual level, issues that go unaddressed (because of the stigmas we impose on each other and the topic mental health) can’t or won’t seek help, much less admit they need help. Worse still, they – I – don’t want to be perceived by others as weak, not manly enough, “crazy”, or whatever. -Even then, even if you might perceive your own mental health as a weakness, wouldn’t you want to strengthen that weakness rather than shaming it or ignoring it? Wouldn’t addressing that lead you to being more prepared to face other important challenges?

FACING REALITY & POSSIBILITIES
It is an undeniable fact of life that there will be injury, illness, and death. Everyone acknowledges this (to one degree or other). This is, after all, why we prep our first aid kits, familiarize ourselves with important things like field dressings, suturing, administering CPR, etc. Some of us have even had (or will seek) formal training of some kind in order to prepare for these and other situations.

DIG DEEP, A THOUGHT EXPERIMENT
[!TRIGGER WARNING!]

What follows are the kinds of questions I often ask myself -and that I’m asking of you, right now -and they go something like this:

What are you mentally and emotionally prepared to deal with? Are you truly prepared to face blood and gore, the onset of illness and disease, fatigue, famine, or utter exhaustion? Are you mentally ready to face the possibly of an unknown or uncertain future?

Sure, it’s easy to say that you are, but dig a little deeper! How will you potentially deal with, for example, losing some portion (or all!) of your hunker down preps because you had to bug out or suddenly found your stash area(s) unreachable or off limits? How prepared are you, truly, to face death, to potentially bury a friend or loved one, if need be? How will you cope with that loss? How are you coping with the loss of life right now, during the pandemic? What about widespread destruction, you ready for that? How might you cope with hours, days, weeks, or even months of ceaseless silence, of being alone, lonely, or left with your own thoughts? On the other end of that spectrum, how prepared are you to cope the ceaselessness chaos and destruction due to civil unrest or ongoing, active armed conflict?

I’m not really trying to drill my point home or to put too find a point on this. The last thing I want is to make anyone’s day crappy by throwing out these gruesome ideas and leave your ruminating. It’s just that… it’s one thing to have some vague, blurry idea of the possible things one might face, especially if you don’t have any frame of reference or practical experience. It’s one thing to have a relatively secure faith in humanity and in the fact that the vast majority of people will work together toward a common good. And, yet, it’s another thing entirely to face down the possibility of things going horribly, horribly wrong.

There are, undoubtedly, those among us here that have never experienced these sorts of things (and my personal hope is, they never will!). Fortunate are those who’ve never experienced combat or a natural disaster firsthand. There are, without a doubt, some preppers who might not have any frame of reference for what these truly traumatic experiences are like -the sights, sounds, smells and the impact those things can have on your psyche and it is to that that I’m calling for- and advising- a few preps.

Experienced or not, these kinds of thoughts and questions are really overwhelming, I know. Nevertheless, I offer to you that these are the kinds of questions each of us should take time to stop and truly, deeply consider. I propose that we must also mentally and emotionally prepare (or, for some, prepare to re-experience) the kinds of situations we physically already prep to face.

And as we consider these things and explore some of the ways we can prep our mental health and stability for times of uncertainty and crisis, we might suddenly find that we have added yet another tool to our preps.

WE NEED MENTAL HEALTH PREPS
Nothing is going to be a suitable substitute for a trained, certified professional, counseling, or medications. Nothing. Professionals -whether psychologists, psychiatrists, or social workers of every degree and stripe- invest years of their lives learning, studying, researching, and practicing [to the extent of our most current understanding of-] how the human brain works, how our thinking informs our decisions, and how what we experience can impact us in ways that might not be obvious to ourselves or others.

In the absence of a professional -perhaps in any number of the scenarios we might imagine, or in a world gone horribly wrong- what can we do for ourselves and each other to keep cool, collected, and organized in our thinking. How can we attain and maintain our emotional stability and health? What can we do to prepare or triage these issues until mental help arrives?

MINDFULNESS
Chances are, you’ve probably heard the term or seen it floating around somewhere by now. If you’ve spent a little too much time in your bunker or if you aren’t already familiar, mindfulness is a practice, an exercise to train your brain to turn your attention inward. At the heart of mindfulness is noticing and noticing that you’re noticing. Think of it as a kind of self-diagnostic mode.

Mindfulness practices (also called meditations) vary. Some variants include awareness of breathing (to find a place a clam), body scanning (noticing places of tension), or focusing your awareness on the senses. Some guided mindfulness routines dive deep into topics like emotional discomfort and building compassion (toward both yourself and others). At its heart, mindfulness is all about you and providing you a means of directing your attention to things, events, or experiences you may not have realized are impacting you and your well being.

TRADITIONAL MEDITATION
Although the aforementioned mindfulness practices are a form of meditation, I’ve separated what I call traditional meditation from mindfulness because this form of practice is all about, well, nothing.

Contrasted with mindfulness, one of the major ways traditional meditation practice differs is that it focuses on not having thoughts at all. As one begins this practice, one must first learn that that the mind is like a wild horse. It wants to run free! As you become more experienced and more disciplined in your practice, you learn to brush aside and let go of these spontaneous and wandering thoughts. Thoughts are a forgivable intrusion into this mind space and the goal is to seek calm, quiet, unperturbed peacefulness, a place of respite.

MOBILE APPS FOR MINDFULNESS & MEDITATION
Depending on your individual needs and your individual use- and threat models, there are no shortage of apps available to help you on the path to mindfulness and meditation. Some I’ve personally used and have found useful (on the Android platform) are as follows:

Calm
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.calm.android

Mindfulness Coach
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=gov.va.mobilehealth.ncptsd.mindfulnesscoach

MOBILE APPS FOR SOOTHING CALMING SOUNDS & WHITE NOISE

Naturespace
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.naturespace.naturespace

Binaural Beats
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.productions.dz.brainwaver

White Noise Pro
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.tmsoft.whitenoise.pro

Noice
[Note! This app is available via F-Droid. For those not familiar, F-Droid is an alternative Android repository for Free, Libre, Open-Source Software] https://f-droid.org/app/com.github.ashutoshgngwr.noice

FEEDBACK?

I welcome any feedback you might have and would welcome any constructive thoughts or personal anecdotes that might help each of us add more tools to our mental health preps.

Thank you for reading!

Be well. Be safe. Stay healthy.

Edits for spelling and grammar. Lots of edits. OMG, so many edits.

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Solar power options for a home

I’ve started looking into a solar system for home and I’m getting a bit confused/overwhelmed with trying to understand how it all works and if it is even worth it. Hoping someone in the forum can help shed some light on the topic for me. 

I’m in Oregon. We have a lot of cloudy days, but also a lot of sunny days. We have occasional short-term power outages, but the longest for us has been 12-hours. From a preparedness aspect, our most likely need for solar would be to mitigate energy costs as prices rise or for potential long-term need in the event of a Cascadia EQ event. We have a generator and fuel for short term 1-2 week needs. 

My confusion comes from how they work with the power company and batteries. One person that responded to a quote request said he doesn’t do battery set-ups because outages are so rare here. So, without a battery set-up, does that just mean the sole purpose of my panels would be to sell the power to the power company, thereby reducing our monthly costs (after the panel system is paid for)? Or would it provide power to my home during sunlight hours, even if the power company’s line goes down? 

It seems the overall expense, even with rebates and tax credits, would not be worth it without the battery backup option from a preparedness standpoint and that we would be better off investing in a generator switch to power essentials in the event of an emergency. 

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The basic model my family uses for planning to Shelter in place vs Bug out

I’ve been a prepper for a long time and developed my plans before finding The Prepared. It feels good knowing that the plans we developed on our own mirror much of the officially recommended plans on this site. I’m thankful for this community and thought it might be helpful to share my personal version of our plans.

Lately I’ve been sleeping (somewhat) better, because I’m using the pandemic as a driver to review and update Go-Bags for the three adults living in our home. In addition to straight “physical survival” I’m giving a nod to Maslow and building in some “psychological comfort” as I work my way through this exercise. Staying grounded and sane can be critical during an emergency, and also go a long way toward helping you recover after one.

During an emergency our “Primary Plan” is to shelter-in-place in our home. We’re well equipped and prepared to stay in place for weeks. But we know we can’t count on that option, and we might have to leave in a hurry. So we have an “Alternate Plan” and that’s where the Go-Bags are essential. (We also have “Contingency” and “Survival” plans, but that discussion is for another time.)

Planning for an emergency is a vital step in stocking a Go-Bag that will fit your personal needs. I’ve found it’s a big plus to think about “what might happen? what am I preparing for?” When you’re planning, think of the ASSUMPTIONS you’re making (“I’ll be able to drive my car 30 miles to get out of the city and reach my brother’s home”) and CONTINGENCIES (“I might have to spend the next 12 hours in my car because the highway is blocked”).

To help you develop your personal plan (and your Go-Bags), I talk about my family and the scenarios that we’re working to prepare for, with a focus on the “Alternate Plan.” For the most part, I’m NOT going to tell you what to put in your bag; solid info on that subject is available on this site. 

My goal in being prepared is to help reduce the impact of an emergency on my family, friends, and neighbors. What kind of emergency? Well, that’s where my “scenarios” help me out, and that’s the focus of this post. 

Another thing to keep in mind is your location: mine is the Pacific Northwest. We’ve had a few earthquakes (and a volcano eruption) since I moved here so I know “seismic shift” is a risk for us; if you live in the Midwest you may focus your prepping on tornadoes; if you live near water you may need to prep for floods; and if you live in the SE USA naturally you’ll think about hurricanes.

Here are the possible situations that I think about when I’m prepping. They’re in descending order from “most likely and simplest to prepare for.” I live in a house that I own; in an apartment or a condo you may need different solutions.

Scenario #1: Shelter in place (“minor crisis”)

Our family typically experience one or more of these scenarios every year.

There are significant challenges in your region: a weather event or minor earthquake causes a power-outage or conditions that threaten the supply chain. After evaluating the situation, you conclude your best option is to stay home. You will need food, water, heat, meds, and a plan for self-defense. You may want to draw on your Go Bags to sustain you – or you may choose to keep them intact in case you need to GO.

A generator & fuel, a well-stocked pantry, cash in smaller denomination bills, a back-up source of heat in cooler months, and accessible tools will directly make a difference on your level of comfort and safety. Plan for at least two weeks. Try to keep a low profile while you shelter in place; anticipate that people who did NOT plan ahead will be in your neighborhood.

Scenario #2: Short time away from home with indoor shelter available (“significant crisis”)

We’ve only had a few of these scenarios in 40 years.

You need to leave your home because a minor earthquake makes it uninhabitable, or a local environmental issue pushes you out, or you need to go the ER and can’t be sure when you’ll return. You might shelter with a member of your family, or in a public shelter, or in a hospital.

This is a situation where you expect to travel in your own vehicle or walk a short distance to get a ride, spend most of your time INDOORS, be SECURE from harm, and have support from others including water, food, blankets, and a place to sleep. This is NOT about extended travel by foot or for outdoor-living survival situations. Wear comfortable clothing: scrub pants, long sleeve top, a zip-up fleece hoodie, and a baseball hat (to shield eyes).

Important: If communication channels are not working, leave a written message in a previously-agreed-to onsite secure location that will tell family/friends where you plan to go.

Keep in mind that when you are in public spaces, like a shelter, anything you have may become lost, contaminated, or taken from you. Firearms might not be allowed either.

For this scenario, I make sure that our go-bags have copies of all important documents; for all three of my family-members I carry scans on a thumb-drive AND hard-copy: medical info, family and friends contact info, driver’s license, passport, veteran’s ID and VA ID, Medicare card, a list of passwords, bank & insurance info – you take it from here.

We each also have earbuds (connect to phone for music), “quiet headphones” (earmuffs) to screen out noisy surroundings, and eyeshades (to screen out light – some places may have lights on both day and night, and basic PPE: nitrile gloves, N95 masks, and goggles.

Scenario #3: Extended time away from home (“recoverable emergency”)

Only once so far: a major wildfire complex came within miles of our family home, and we were put into a “mandatory evacuation” classification.

You need to leave your home and circumstances suggest that the infrastructure will NOT recover in a reasonable amount of time – say, two weeks. Think: pandemic, major earthquake or environmental disaster, and/or the prospect of civil disorder; the grid is down or at-risk. Assume you decide to go early in the cycle, the roads are drivable, and your destination is more distant. You do not know when you will return.

Scenario #4: You may never return home (“major disaster”)

In my opinion this is both the “least likely” scenario, and the most critical. The current SARS-CoV-2 pandemic exposed us all to a hint of what might be on the horizon. If this hits, your family’s life may depend on how well you prepared.

This is worst-case: imagine news reports of major displacements like Chernobyl, or war-time chaos and refugees. Take everything you believe you need to survive: food, water, clothing, firearms, AND high-value items including all your cash. Take any/all Go Bags. Load up your vehicle but don’t overload it; secure your load and do your best to keep a low profile as you implement your plan. Use your situational awareness skills. Stay safe: use extra caution if entering your house/apartment after an earthquake or other natural disaster!

If you read this far – thank you! I hope you found something that will help you prepare for the adventures life brings your way. Stay Safe, Stay Sane.

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Community Discord/Slack

Does a Discord or Slack server exist for the community? I like forums since they’re asynchronous communication, but real time discussion has its perks too.

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An introduction to lightweight backpacking

An Introduction to Lightweight Backpacking

Greetings everyone here at The Prepared. I have been asked to write out my thoughts on lightweight backpacking and how it can play a part in helping people get through the very difficult conditions we may have to face in the near future.

This essay is not intended to be a hiker vs prepper series of arguments. Hikers have a distinctively different outlook than preppers. However, backpacking gear comes from the same desire to survive and thrive in a hostile world. Hikers and preppers can learn a lot from one another. This essay is intended to open a path between our communities so that both may benefit.

Some Principles of Backpack Weight Reduction

1) The heaviest thing we carry on our backs is fear.

Write down what you fear.

Learn how to overcome it.

2) Weigh everything.

List every item and record its weight.

If you do not use it, it is just a rock.

3) Reduce weight where possible.

Eliminate factory packaging.

Carry the least amount of non food consumables between resupplys.

Trim excess whatever as is possible without damaging a things integrity.

Can one item do multiple tasks?

Are lighter, equally useful substitutes available?

Can some pieces of equipment be shared among a committed couple or dependable group?

Are resources available in your environment which can be used, then discarded when done, so that there is no need to carry it around?

4) Properly distribute all weights

Pack in modular sets so that weights can be adjusted as needed to maintain balance: water bottles against your back, food bags in the middle, never let anything dangle off the packs exterior, gadgets in your belt pouches, trekking poles in your hands (not your pack).

5) The more you learn the less you need to carry or the more effective it is.

6) When useless weight has been eliminated, add weight back, as the situation requires, to ensure minimum safety and comfort under anticipated conditions.

Definitions

The following is mainly a presentation on what lightweight gear is and how to use it under normal wilderness trail conditions.

‘Lightweight’ is defined in the current sense of a base weight at about 20 pounds. This does not include what you wear on a normal day or carry in your hands. This also does not include the rapidly changing weights of fuel, water and food.

Over the years, gear weights have gotten ever lighter. It is now fairy easy to get pack, base weight down to about 10 pounds. Somewhere around this point is where the gear starts getting expensive but IMHO worth it.

There is no one single source of ‘got it all figured out’ book or web site which tells you everything you need to know about lightweight backpacking. There are, however, dozens of summaries from personal experience – such as this one – which are a useful starting point for the motivated individual.

Not Included Weight

Shoes and Walking

Very few people know how to walk (including experienced hikers) and most shoes cripple the feet. A way to learn how to walk properly is to buy whatever kinds of shoes and boots offered at thrift stores, experiment with various off the retail shelf socks and inserts then consciously walk as much as possible in them.

Once you have learned enough to have a conversation about feet, shoes and walking, locate a running shoe store operated by qualified personnel. They probably won’t care too much about SHTF scenarios but they will be interested in helping you to select a shoe suitable for extensive back country hiking.

Trekking Poles

Trekking poles are the human version of four wheel drive. The nominal pole height is with your forearms at 90 degrees to your body. Adjust as you feel is needed.

On flat land, the poles will become outriggers preventing ankle roll outs or serious stumbles from becoming injury delivering falls. On steep downhills the poles can be lengthened and now extended out in front as a kind of brake. This will take some stress off of your legs and back and prevent a downhill fall. When your arms are strong enough, the lengthened poles can be used to push yourself uphill.

Animals and predatory humans instinctively regard trekking poles as weapons, which they are. Tarps and one pound tents are possible because trekking poles are used to hold them up.

Wear Clothing 

The clothing layers that are considered normal wear are the base layer or underwear and the shell or pants, shirt, hat and sunglasses on a lanyard around your neck.

Please take the time to do your own base layer research. Fully test out your choices by wearing them for days at a time. An inappropriate base layer will cause all sorts of problems.

The fabric of choice for the shell is nylon or a variety of synthetic blends. Synthetic fabrics are extremely light, dry fast and wear forever. Up until recently, safari shirts and kind of limited pocket cargo pants were the most popular choices on the trail. These are probably still good choices for preppers.

Two key requirements of a shirt is that it have full length sleeves and that there not be a stitched seam across the top of the shoulder. This goes for the base layer T shirt or sports bra as well. Such a seam at this location will cut into your shoulder under the weight of even a lightweight backpack. The pain comes on fast and will put a stop to your hike.

One very useful type of pants is the ‘convertible’. This allows the bottom of each leg to be unzipped to create temporary hiking shorts.

A reminder: Cotton Kills!

Rapidly Changing Weights

As previously mentioned, fuel, water and food are not counted against the base weight of the backpack because these weights change quickly and in practical terms are very difficult to measure. However, these obviously are weights which needs to be managed.

Fuel & Stove

If you do not need to cook your food you do not need a stove or its fuel. An upfront savings of 1 to 2 pounds.

Water

Water weighs 2.2 pounds per liter. Hikers generally favor the tall plastic bottles made by Lifewtr or smartwater. Both are about 1.4 ounces empty weight each. 1 quart Nalgene plastic bottles weigh about 6 ounces. Metal bottles tend towards Nalgene weights.

Food

A rule of thumb is that we can go without air for 3 minutes, without water for 3 days and without food for 30 days. The air and water estimates are highly controversial, but people can go without food for extended periods and generally are the better for having done so. The health improving effects of not eating are widely documented and even formalized in fasting disciplines.

Thru-hikers routinely, but inadvertently, practice a kind of fasting because the act of long distance hiking will burn more nutrition between re-supply points (usually measured in calories) than can be carried in a pack. The way we deal with this is to eat like starving coyotes while in town.

Historically, refugees have routinely had to travel hard with minimal food or no food at all. Preppers will have to deal with this in future SHTF scenarios. It would be interesting to hear a qualified nutritionist comment on how conscious fasting disciplines can be used to extend food supplies.

Actual hiker foods are normally straight off the grocery store shelves. Some hikers will cook, dry and vacuum package food then have someone send it to a re-supply point on the trail. Very few eat the freeze dried backpacker foods. No one eats MRE’s.

An understanding of food values is as important as an understanding of lightweight gear. Unfortunately, it is outside the scope of this presentation.

Food weights vary from one hiker to the next and one re-supply point to another. This is where lightweight backpacking really pays off: you can load up with as much food as you can get in your pack and still make big miles without crippling yourself.

The estimated load limit for my light weight backpack is about 35 pounds. As my total pack weight is about 13 pounds 9 ounces, that allows for about 19 pounds of food and 2 pounds, or one liter, of water. That is enough for 5 to 7 days of normal hiking. Rationing and/or fasting could potentially double that estimate. Water weight obviously varies daily and is replenished on the fly but as food weight decreases, water weight can increase. Water is an very important part of a fast.

Backpack Base Weight

This base weight presentation will be organized around my backpack and some of my personal gear selections. This is not an attempt to promote my gear choices or my favorite vendors. I do not financially benefit in any way or receive free gear. This is simply the outfit I know best and hope that a examination of it will serve as a departure point for others who wish to assemble their own lightweight backpack. Out on the trail there are almost no two packs alike as there are hundreds of ways to put one together. Just ask any gear head.

Pack Sack System, about 24 ounces

There is no need for built in compartments with zippers and excessive loops. There is no need for strong fabrics or heavy duty hip belt and shoulder strap harnesses either. I have an original Gossamer Gear ‘G4’, bought in 2010, now with 1300 miles of mountain hiking bushwhacking on it and its still good to go. It is just a big empty sack. With two belt pouches it weighs 20 ounces. Too bad its not made anymore. But you can make your own with a very low cost pattern from Quest Outfitters!

There are two easy to overlook sources of weight that properly belong to the pack sack category: pack cover and gear stuff sacks.

Pack covers are a pointless weight and a waste of money. They do not keep the surface next to your back dry so moisture leaks into the pack from there and the bottom of the cover collects water. Hikers have been experimenting with a variety of plastic bags used inside the pack as pack liners and stuff sacks. Current favorites are turkey roasting bags and the Clean Zipper brand zip lock bags (lighter and safer than ZipLoc). I use 5 dyneema fabric stuff sacks and a waterproof liner from Zpack. These weight just over 3.5 ounces.

Sleeping Bag system, about 48 ounces

The most common choices are goose down insulation in the 0 to 10 degree range. Do your research as you will get what you pay for. I threw down a kilobuck for a state of the art 10 degree bag that all but sings me to sleep. Weighs 37 ounces.

Like pack sacks, total sleeping bag weight includes two other pieces of gear: the ground sheet and the ground pad.

A 6×4 foot (or so) piece of black Tyvek can be bought from picture frame shops or online and is a good choice for the ground sheet. It weighs about 4.5 ounces. The same size piece of clear plastic Polycryo from Gossamer Gear weighs 1.8 ounces and is claimed to be tougher than Tyvek.

The Thermorest Z-lite pad is an all around good choice. I cut off 4 of the sections to make a  ¾ length pad which dropped the weight from 13 ounces to 9.2 ounces. Two reasons: A) the G4 backpack uses the Z-lite as the frame. You will have to study the pattern from Quest Outfitters to see why. Anyway, 14 sections make too thick of a frame. 10 sections is perfect, B) when the ¾ pad is laid out for sleeping, you can put the empty pack sack under your feet for a full length ground pad insulating effect.

Tent, about 33 ounces

Free standing tents are more popular than tarps and bivvy bags because tents can more easily handle a wider variation of weather conditions as well as provide privacy in public areas like campgrounds. The tent will add several degrees of heat capture even without direct solar gain. 2 person tents for single person will also allow for room to wait out a multi day storm without going stir crazy.

Tents of any kind, as well as tarps and bivvys, need to be carried in waterproof stuff sacks because they are usually wet from overnight dew or rain.

I transferred the tent stake weight to my one of my trekking poles.

Note: The rain poncho and the bivvy always seem like good light weight gear choices but in practice they never work out very well. The poncho is simply not big enough and the bivvy becomes a sauna on a warm, skeeter filled night because it cannot be opened. I have always wondered if these technologies could be improved. If so, the weight reduction would be on the order of several pounds. The light weight backpacking community has pretty much abandoned both of them. Perhaps gear heads in the prepper community would be interested to keep exploring this weight reduction opportunity.

Carry Clothing, about 55 ounces

The insulating layer is quite important as is easy to imagine. What usually gets overlooked is that hiking burns calories which heats the body. Too warm of an insulating layer gets the body too hot while hiking and thus is pointlessly heavy to carry.

The most common list is: insulated bottoms & tops (which double as pajamas and increase the heat capture of the sleeping bag) Second pair of socks. Possible second pair of shorts. Dedicated sleeping socks. Skull cap & balaclava. Weather resistant gloves. And zip lock bags which are carried to isolate dirty socks.

The same problem of overheating applies to the weather shell, usually a goose down puffy under a rain jacket. But there is an important additional problem; body heat also generates sweat which can be captured by the rain jacket. Unless vented, this can lead to soaking wet clothing then to chaffing or hypothermia.

One solution is to wear a vest, made of synthetic material, under the rain jacket and keep flapping air between the several layers. The other is to buy a crazy expensive rain jacket at the hardshell level which will vent out the sweat without letting the rain in.

Water Containers, About 5.5 ounces

A noted earlier, tall skinny smartwater bottles weigh 1.4 ounces each. I prefer to carry 2 Platypus 2 liter bags at 1.6 ounces each with the drinking tube attachment at 2.2 ounces. These are BPA free and work very well with the Sawyer inline filtration system.

Water Filtration, about 6.5 ounces.

Micro Squeeze Sawyer filter, its misc parts and the A/B containers of Aquamira chemical disinfectant. The Micro Sawyer works with the smartwater and platypus containers but not with any other water container that I know of.

Food Containers & Utensils, about 4 ounces

Food containers are a bit of a wild card. The normal container is a couple of simple stuff sacks or even heavy duty plastic grocery bags. For no-stovers, add a P38 can opener and titanium spork for about 2.5 ounces.

In some areas, bear cans, Ursacks or hanging your food bags from trees are advisable or required. As bear cans and a two Ursacks are in the pound range, hanging food bags is the preferred option. I made a food hanging kit from the little stuff sack that the tent stakes came in and a length of macrame cord. Weighs about 1.5 ounces.

Medical / Hygiene / Repair / Misc Kits, about 7 ounces

Note: There is a truism on the trail that the bigger the medical kit the less likely the hiker knows how to use it. With any luck this is not true of preppers. However, your recommended medical kits look like they could stand to be measured against the Principles of Backpack Weight Reduction and still be as effective as you intend them to be.

Medical: 2 Neosporin goop packets, one with tic fork in it. Two band-aids. 20 Advil tablets. 6 electrolyte tablets. Not counted weight is duct tape and muscle tape attached to one of my trekking poles.

Another Note: It is also a truism that very few hikers know anything about wilderness first aid regardless of med kit size. Our guiding philosophy is: ‘Don’t Get Hurt!’. Granted, not a very good one, but injuries are quite rare.

Hygiene: (it is unethical to use soap in the backcountry) 2 ounce spray bottle full of 70% rubbing alcohol and dedicated handkerchief for daily cleaning of feet and smelly bits. 1 toothbrush with handle cut down (to get it inside a plastic bag) 6 dental floss toothpick things. Plus a plastic comb.

Repair: 20 feet of polyester thread wrapped around a plastic thing I found with a sewing needle stuck through it.

Misc: mini lighter in tiny plastic bag with vitamin bottle absorbent pouch and small piece of cardboard soaked in candle wax for fire starter. A KN95 face mask and two sets of soft ear plugs.

Poop Kit, about 6 ounces

In a small stuff sack are a half roll of toilet paper, a 2 fl oz squeeze bottle of hand sanitizer gel and The Deuce cat hole digging tool. In addition are 4, one quart zip lock bags for areas where packing out your toilet paper is required.

The Bat Belt, about 32 ounces

More and more hikers are attaching little pouches to their hip belt and shoulder straps. Photographers often have a not so small camera bag hanging off of their sternum and shoulder straps.

If done correctly, this throws weight forward and down in a kind of counter balance to the loaded backpack weight without interfering with the back and forth movement of trekking pole swinging arms.

Here is what I carry:

100% Deet skeeter juice.

Skeeter hat net

Petzl Zipka headlamp (eliminates the bulky head harness)

Reading glasses

3 AAA & 2 AA batteries in a plastic case

Garmin Oregon 450 stand alone GPS (uses 2aa batteries)

Small cell phone

BTECH UV-5X3 handy talkie (do not have ham license yet)

Opinel folding knife (can sharpen on a river rock)

BASUNE slingshot (never runs out of bullets)

Some of this stuff is a new addition to my regular outfit and I am struggling with how to incorporate it. Given the list of hardware that preppers like to carry around, the Bat Belt seems like a backpacking technology that your community would be motivated to advance. I am very interested in any in any suggestions or innovations that you come up with.

Happy Trails!

Chance

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Pack

Minor prepping victory: Perennial Fruit!

I was inspired last year by Josh’s review of “The Resilient Farm and Homestead”. I love the author’s take on improving resilience and regenerative systems, and seeing what we can do to provide more for ourselves. e.g. Falk says

> “Self-reliant households are the basic building blocks of any culture that is viable over the long term”> “If our goal is a peaceful, just society, self-reliance at the home and community levels must be a central focus of our lives”

I have been reading and learning about permaculture over the past few years. We don’t have a lot of space available, but last summer I decided to see what I could do in my own small life. I spent many hours of research learning what resilient, perennial species might grow well in our area (gardening zone 3), and spoke with several local gardeners and permaculturists on what food, plants, and species do well for them.

I landed on two perennial fruit bushes: saskatoons (also known as juneberry or pigeon berry), and haskaps (also known as honeyberries).

Both of these plants are hardy down to gardening zone 2, and both produce perennial fruit. They don’t seem to need a lot of care. When fully grown the bushes should take up space roughly five feet by five feet (depending on variety), which is great for me as they won’t get out of hand. If you’ve never had them – haskaps are similar to a long blueberry, though usually a more tart flavour.

I took a hard look at the yard space around our house and was able to free up enough space to plant four bushes – a path roughly five feet wide and twenty feet long, wrapping around a garage building next to our garden. It took some solid work with a five pound pickaxe and a sturdy shovel to dig deeply enough to plant them. But growing up doing manual work on a farm I find that kind of labor feels rewarding.

I have been attentively watering and working to care for the bushes since last year. During the hottest summer heat they took quite a bit of water each day; part of the reason I was motivated to set up a water barrel and system for rain capture. I did not expect the bushes to fruit in their first year. Haskaps are a bit finicky to plant and cultivate – you need specific varieties next to each other in order for them to pollinate. What’s more I discovered they are quite difficult to source and find – it took several months of hunting and calling before I found a greenhouse nursery that even carried them!

However, this week it all paid off: I was rewarded with a first harvest of perennial fruit!

This first picking was roughly one cup of berries:

It may be small, but this feels like a wholesome success. Is it a large amount? No. Will it feed an entire family? No. But it is more than zero. And it is hopefully renewable, and free. I have been able to build and introduce some valuable habitat, and add some flavour, nutrition, and variety into my meals.

One step forward!

Best of luck to everyone with your own gardens and journeys.

(edit: I have edited one of the photos and increased the contrast to make it easier to see)

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haskap33

Games that teach survival skills

What games have you found that teach survival skills in a fun way? I’ll include some of my favorites as comments and encourage others to do the same.

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Has anyone read the book “Easy Cellar” by Tom Griffith?

Has anyone seen/used the “Easy Cellar” by Tom Griffith? He is a terrific sales person but I would like some feedback from persons who are not making money from his book and site. Thanks. Eileen — 

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DIY Project: Rain barrel water collector

If you have a roof, and it rains, you can collect and store rain water to improve your resilience. Having extra water increases your drought tolerance, extends your watering window, and may even save you some money.

Note: This assumes you already have gutters and downspouts connected to your roof, to move the water away. If not you will need to set those up first, which is big enough to be its own project.

Where Rain Water Collection Is Legal

Strangely, some countries allow collection of rainwater, and some do not. Check your country or local laws to confirm, before you begin. I collected a list of links and countries at the end of this article; updates or additional sources are welcome.

Tools You Need

A drill A level A pencil Safety goggles

How To Do It

You will need a rain barrel, a sturdy base to stand it on, and a diverter to get the water from the downspout into the barrel. The diverter is the trickiest part, but I’ve done the research so you don’t have to.

The Barrel

[There are many different styles of rain barrel to choose from. Photo credit – Jennifer C on Flickr. Licensed under CreativeCommons CC-BY 2.0]

You want a food grade barrel. Depending on your goals and budget, you can often find these for free on craigslist or from local restaurants and food supply stores. You can also buy them at hardware stores. Some cities and counties have water barrel programs where they may give away or sell you barrels at a discounted rate. Check your local water utility.

I sourced a free barrel from a neighbour but it was not opaque. I wanted an opaque barrel so no light would get through to reduce algae growth. I ended up buying one from the hardware store.

A Closed Top

I prefer a barrel with a closed top, so mosquitos and critters can’t get in and breed or drown. Some barrels come with hatches. I assembled a hatch cover using some plastic and some old landscaping cloth, to keep sunlight out.

The Base

One gallon of water weighs 8.3 pounds or 3.7 kilograms. A 55 gallon barrel of water weighs 460 pounds, or 208kg. You need a sturdy base to hold this weight.

I used the following layers as a base:

Sand on the ground, below the base. Make sure this is level before you start. 24” square cement pad. These might be called “paving stones” or similar names, depending on where you get them. Four standard cement blocks. These measure 8” bx 8” by 16”, so if you fit them into an “L” pattern you can put an 8” side and 16” side together to perfectly cover the 24” pad. A second layer of cement blocks to raise the barrel up. This increases the water pressure, and is tall enough that you can fit a standard 5-gallon bucket under the tap A second 24” cement pad on top

Make sure your base is level again, then set everything into place.

The Diverter

The diverter moves the water from the downspout into your rain barrel.

I spent thirty hours researching eleven different models of downspout diverters. In the end I chose the EarthMinded FlexiFit diverter.

I chose this diverter model because:

You only need to cut one small hole in the side of your downspout You do *not* need to sever the entire downspout. So if the project does not work out, you can simply plug up the hole (plug included) and move on The diverter fits many sizes of downspout. Depending on where you live, your downspouts may be square, round, rectangular, and many different sizes -2”x3” , 3”x4”, round 3 to 6”, K-style, etc. The EarthMinded diverter is made of flexible, UV-resistant rubber (EPDM) so it can change shape to accommodate your downspout. Even if it doesn’t fit exactly it can still collect *some* water. They do also sell a round model for round downspouts. The diverter automatically handles overflow, so you don’t need to do anything. When the barrel is full, water flows back up the attachment hose to the top of the diverter. Any more rainwater then simply continues on through a hole in the diverter and down the spout. You don’t need to worry or adjust anything when it rains or stops raining. The water barrel system stays closed. Because the water flows in from the side, you can use a closed top barrel. This keeps out mosquitos, keeps out sunlight so algae doesn’t grow, and keeps animals from crawling into your barrel.

I prefer to buy from the company themselves, but you can also sometimes find this diverter at big box stores or hardware stores.

The EarthMinded installation video is pretty clear. Around 3:38 you can see how the diverter fits into the downspout. Because of surface tension, rain running into a downspout clings to the inside edges of the material. This diverter collects water nicely and funnels it into the connecting hose.

[The EarthMinded “FlexiFit” diverter is made of flexible rubber, and fits into many different sizes of downspout. Once the rain barrel is full, excess water flows through the hole and away normally.]

Screen shot of EarthMinded diverter in cross-section of downspout – from their installation video.

Setting It Up

Now that you have all of your parts the procedure is fairly easy.

Assemble your base, and put the water barrel on top. Make sure the connecting hose can reach from the downspout to the barrel. The important part is: make sure that the hole in the downspout is lower than the highest water level of the barrel. This is what makes the diverter work. If the hole in the downspout is lower than the top of the barrel, then once the barrel is full, water will push back into the connector hose and down the downspout, to continue away on its journey. If you attach to the downspout too high or too low, this won’t work. See the image below. With your barrel in place, use your level to mark where the diverter should go, and where to drill the hole. If you have a short level, you can use a 2×4 or wooden board to help measure.

Image from the manufacturer instructions. The diverter hole in the downspout must be cut _below the highest water line_ of the water barrel. This ensures that water will flow back down the connector hose, and into the downspout, once the barrel is full. e.g. If your barrel has a hole in the top or front, the downspout must be installed at a level _below_ those holes.

The EarthMinded kit comes with three circular saw blades for your drill – these are the sizes needed for the tap at the bottom of the barrel (small), the connector hose in the barrel (medium), and the diverter in the downspout (large).

I like to drill the hole for the connector hose in the barrel first, about 2-3” from the top of the barrel. Then place the barrel on the stand and measure a level connection for the hose. This tells me where to drill into the downspout.

Once you have drilled your hole, connect it up. If you have a garden hose you can test the diverter works by spraying water onto the roof.

How Much Water Will You Get?

You need to know:

How big is your roof? How much rain do you get each month?

One inch of rain on 1,000 square feet of roof collects 623 gallons of water. That’s enough water to fill more than 11, fifty-five gallon barrels. The pitch of the roof doesn’t matter. So multiply your roof’s square footage by 0.623 – that’s how many gallons you will get from one inch of rain.

In metric: one millimeter of rain on one square meter of roof collects one Litre of water.

Rainwater collection calculator here: https://www.watercache.com/resources/rainwater-collection-calculator

I have to put my barrel away during winter, so I only count rain received during the summer months.

If you have multiple downspouts, choose which one(s) you will use to install a barrel. Consider whether you want the biggest roof area, the closest spout to your garden or where you will use the water, or other needs.

How Many Barrels Do You Need?

[Photo by Pete Favelle – licensed under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC 2.0]

One way to estimate how much water you might use is to calculate 0.5 gallons per square foot of garden space, per week.

Another strategy is simply to look at the space you have and how many barrels you could fit.

Starting with just one barrel is a fine plan. Use it for a season and track your use. How often do you empty the barrel? How often does it rain before you use all of the water? You can decide whether you need more barrels in more locations.

What Can You Use It For?

You shouldn’t normally drink rain water that has been collected into a barrel without properly filtering, cleaning, and processing it first. Main non-potable uses include watering your garden, watering trees or perennial fruit, or flushing toilets.

Return On Investment (ROI)

So how well does a water barrel pay for itself? The biggest factor will depend on where you get your barrel. If you find a free barrel from a local restaurant versus paying $200 for a fancy barrel from a big box store, that will obviously affect your ROI.

Based on rough pricing and some rounding, I find the following costs for these materials:

Barrel: $0 to $150, depending Cement pads: $15 each * 2 pads = $30 Standard cement blocks: $5 each * 8 blocks = $40 Water diverter kit: $50 with shipping

That gives a base cost of $30 + $40 + $50 = $120, plus what you spend for the barrel.

You will also need to know how much you pay for water. In many places if you are on metered city water they charge you not only for the water you use, but also a “drainage fee”; so you are charged two amounts for the same water. All the more reason to install these barrels!

All-in-all – In my area with my roof sizes, yearly rainfall, and price for water, a rain barrel should save me $20 to $30 per summer in reduced water use. At a cost of $120 for the base, this means the project pays for itself in 4 to 6 years. If you pay another $120 for the barrel itself, the project pays itself back in 8 to 12 years.

Personally I am happy with a 6 year return on investment that extends my drought tolerance and allows me to make good use of a free resource that would otherwise flow away. If the price of water goes up in your area, this would pay for itself even sooner. And if you are counting on this water to water your garden, water perennial food or fruit, or serve activities like flushing toilets during water restrictions, it is even more valuable. You will have to decide how much peace-of-mind and improved water security is worth for yourself.

I would love to hear about your rain barrel project!

(edit after posting: Corrected bad wording about “being level”. The important part of setup is not to “make sure the connector hose is level”, but rather: ensure the connector hose attaches to the downspout at a level *lower* than the highest water mark / highest water line of the rain barrel. This is what makes the water stop filling the barrel, and begin to backflow into the downspout, continuing on its journey. Thank you to community member Robert Larson for the questions and help identifying this incorrect phrasing.)

More Info

Demystifying Diverters – info on how downspout diverters work, and related topics Rainwater Harvesting Calculator US Climate & Rainfall Data World Water Reserve – more info on diverters

Laws On Rain Water Collection

Collection assessment – Australia, Brazil, China, Germany, and Singapore all allow and encourage collecting and using rain water. United States – collection laws by state The UK, collecting rain water is legal so long as it is kept separate from main drinking water Canada (link to PDF) – legal to capture for use flushing toilets and surface irrigation Japan – encouraged in many areas, with subsidies available Belgium (source1, source2) – Rights to using and collecting water protected in the Constitution, with no legal requirement to connect your home to the local water distribution network. Many municipalities offer rebates for installing rainwater collection tanks. Read More
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COVID at home: prepare for a severe case

Covid might seem so January 2022, but if it stays true to form, there is likely to be another variant and another peak at some point. So I thought this was worth posting!

We had a covid case in the family during the omicron peak that became somewhat serious despite the person being vaxxed, boosted and taking paxlovid. (one bad night, but all turned out fine). In most ways I was prepared, but I had one important gap, which was figuring out in advance how to get medical help and support after hours. This was for that all important “should we go to the ER??” call in the middle of the night when we knew the ERs were completely overwhelmed, and my relative was fighting me on it, and I didn’t know what to do. If I had thought to find out ahead of time what my after hours resources were, I would have been better prepared. My overall suggestion is to remind people that even now, covid can randomly hit you hard, and it’s good to prepare in advance and also the second you get a positive test – just in case it does. Here are my tips! 

Ahead of time:

Have at-home rapid tests so you can test as soon as symptoms appear. Have a primary care doctor if you can. If you have barriers to health care, try to identify a free clinic or other medical resource you can turn to if needed. Know ahead of time if/how you can get medical help/advice after hours. Many primary care services have an on call doctor, and health insurance companies may have a nurse help line. You may also have a close relative or friend who is a medical professional. Have a pulse ox and a thermometer at home Ideally have a blood pressure cuff and know how to use it Have basic meds on hand like tylenol, chloraseptic, anti-diarrhea  Have gatorade, pedialyte or similar on hand Have plenty of easy to prepare food in the house Have a plan for who you can turn to for errands and other help

As soon as you get a positive test:

Contact your doctor or a clinic and find out if you can get an anti-viral pill or other treatment. DON’T WAIT for it to get serious!!!! Start the ball rolling now, even if you feel mostly fine. It sometimes takes time to get it, and it is most effective if you take it as soon as you get symptoms. Go over the list above and address any gaps. Order or have a friend/family member drop off any meds/equipment/food you need. If you don’t already know how to get medical advice/help on weekends or after hours, find out now! If covid does take a turn for the worse, it’s practically a given that it will happen in the middle of the night or on a weekend. Take a baseline pulse ox reading and temperature, write it down, and keep monitoring. Familiarize yourself with emergency symptoms. Go over them with your household so you are on the same page about when to get help. Trouble breathing Persistent pain or pressure in the chest New confusion Inability to wake or stay awake Pale, gray, or blue-colored skin, lips, or nail beds, depending on skin tone Remember hydration! You need to drink more when you have a fever, and things like sweating and diarrhea make you require even more fluids. If you already feel horrible, you might not notice you are getting dehydrated. My relative’s bad night was in part due to dehydration, which led to low blood pressure and passing out. Low blood pressure made it hard to get a pulse ox reading. Scary! 

That’s a LOT of bullets but it really doesn’t take that much time to go through. If you get covid, you will probably be fine – but just in case, prepare!

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New affordable online pharmacy saves people thousands on life saving medicine

You may have seen Mark Cuban on Shark Tank as the famous billionaire investor/businessman. He recently opened up an online pharmacy that is trending all over the news right now with the amazing cost savings that it is offering to people. Instead of selling drugs for ridiculous amounts, they only mark it up 15% (still a healthy profit for them). A traditional pharmacy may charge you or your insurance company $9657, but at this place it is only $39. Isn’t that insane how much of a savings that is for you? Important medications are now accessible to people who may have just gone without, rationed, or went bankrupt trying to stay alive.

If you need a lifesaving prescription medication, check out costplusdrugs.com and see if you can get it cheaper on there. 

They don’t take insurance cards to pay for the drugs, but the savings are still so incredibly good that you might end up paying less for the same medication then you were with your co-pay or deductible.

It is easier to store up some extra $40 medication than it is a $9500 one. Hopefully this allows people to not only have what they need, but save some up for a rainy day if there are supply chain issues, job loss, etc.

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Best modular bag for car?

Hi guys,

I’m pretty new to prepping and have been reading a ton of stuff on this site. I’m in the middle of assembling my kit but I really could use some recommendations for a bag.  I have almost all of the items of a level 3 kit stored throughout my truck but scattered throughout. I’m ideally looking for some sort of modular bag to use that I can attach smaller packs or bags on/in based on the situation I’m in.  For example, I want to keep all my clothes/hygiene in a small day pack and possible use this also as a gym bag or emergency change of clothes for work. I also want to be able to strap a sleeping bag and tent if I’m in a bugout situation but leave in the truck if I’m just trying to get home.  I also have a rather large molle ifac  (9”x7”x5”) that would be nice to strap to the bottom or side but keep easily assessable.

I am leaning toward an Osprey Aether AG 60 or a Deuter Aviant Voyager 65+10. Both of these have removable daypacks but I’m worried they will take up two much space in my truck (won’t fit under the backseat)

Does anybody have a good recommendation for a bag in the +/-40L range with attachment options for top, bottom and sides (or separate daypack options)?  Conversely any recommendations for internal bag pouches?

Thanks

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What is the best place to buy mylar bags?

What’s a good place to get Mylar bags from? Just off Amazon, or do you all have a go to place for these things? Amazon reveals hundreds of possible vendors, most made overseas. If I’m to commit to some bags o’ rice for long term, I’d like to ensure I get decent stuff. Thanks!

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4th of July safety tips

Following the spirit of Peter 44’s topic the other day How to survive this nasty heat wave of 110+ degrees, I wanted to compile some 4th of July safety tips. Really?? 4th of July safety tips? So don’t eat too many burgers and hot dogs and maybe wear safety glasses at the parades so people on the floats don’t throw candy and hit you in the eye? Well… there are more dangers to this holiday than and upset stomach from eating too many burgers, so here are the ones I came up with and comment below if you have any other tips or things to add to the ones I do.

If lighting fireworks out on your driveway or in the middle of the street have a garden hose, fire extinguisher, and a 5 gallon bucket full of water ready. Pull cars away from where you will be lighting things and take a minute to look around your street for flammable brush, boxes, or anything else that may be nearby.  If a firework doesn’t go off, don’t disassemble it or try to light it again. Wait 30 seconds and then walk towards it with your hose and drench the sucker. Then submerge it in your 5 gallon bucket of water. In fact, take all of your spent and dud fireworks and store them in that bucket of water over night. In the morning drain the water and then throw away the firework shells. Having a first aid kit nearby can be handy in case someone gets a minor burn from a sparkler. Clear out any dry brush and material from your property. You don’t want a stray firework from your neighbor to catch and take down your house. See the below chart for a visualization of the danger of the 4th and wildfires. Bring dogs inside to prevent them from getting scared and running away If you are aware of any Veterans in your neighborhood think twice about lighting fireworks near their home or sit down and ask if they are okay with it. I’ve heard some Veterans struggle with PTSD and dread the 4th because it is a trigger. If you are grilling, make sure not to grill next to your house or a fence because the heat could damage the wall or set it on fire. Don’t be stupid. A neighbor kid the other year lit a ground bloom (also known as a Flower) firework in his back pocket thinking it would be funny and it melted his pants and fused the fabric to his butt and gave him a severe burn. Don’t have roman candle fights with each other, it’s fun but stupid.

Take the steps now to be prepared for this potentially dangerous holiday and have fun! Happy Independence Day!

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An observation on prepping in 2022

Two years of Covid 19 and the shortages of everything from food to lumber, people basically locked down for months on end, economic chaos that followed, Everything more expensive etc.

That event alone seriously stifled the mocking voices who laughed at those of us who were wise enough to get involving with prepping.

Then just as Covid 19 started to fade from the news along comes the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the mad panic to rearm by NATO, The conflict itself and the growing wave of sanctions plunged the world back into a situation once again of shortages of energy, food, fuel and raw materials, massive price rises, security threats and risks. 

OPEN threats of nuclear weapons being used, mass migration from the east have followed.  The global economy taking yet another pounding, tax rises are inevitable, already wheat, animal feed, diesel, fertiliser, nickel, titanium etc prices are rocketing and shortages announced.

In my country energy prices have risen FOURTEEN times faster than wages already, the combined gas and electricity bill for the average British house has gone up from around £1200 to £1900 and is forecast to get as high as £4500 by October.    Petrol has rocketed up in days from £1.45 a litre to £1.70 a litre.

All rather grim reading I’m sorry to say, BUT  The mocking of preppers has stopped all together, and people enquiring about how to get started in prepping / off gridding and homesteading is increasing every day.

Sales of Heritage seeds is UP, people getting Allotments (small food growing plots of land) is UP, people installing WOOD BURNING stoves UP, People caching and stock piling UP, People buying Micro wind turbines and PV panels UP, People selling up and relocating OUT OF TOWN up over 30% according to some UK media sources etc

So my oberservation is this

” Why does it take TWO global crises to make people wake to to the vulnerability of society to disruption, and for them to see the benefits of prepping”.

A report I read about two years ago estimated that 30 million of you folks in the Americas are into prepping in one form or another. I think that number is likely to rise now.

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Does anyone have experience sprouting seeds to eat?

In the spirit of trying to eat more healthy, I want to consume more vegetables. There are many vegetables though that I just do not like or don’t sit well with me, and I get sick of the others pretty quickly. I’ve also heard that the same head of lettuce today is less nutritionally dense than that my grandparents ate because soil is losing it’s minerals. The idea of sprouting my own seeds and eating those may be the way I can eat as little vegetables as possible but still get the nutrition I need. Don’t sprouts have a ton of nutrition per ounce compared to a full grown vegetable?

I’ve seen them talked about with survival groups often as a way to get fresh veggies without having to go outside, have sunlight, or even put in much work. Could be a good SHTF nutrition supply.

Does anyone have experience sprouting their own seeds? I see there are two methods, using trays or in a mason jar with a mesh lid. 

Also, where are cheap places to buy spouting seeds?

Thank you all!

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FIFO can racks for the pantry

I took a chance on these little racks I found on Amazon, bought two, and quickly decided to outfit the whole shelf with them.  They are literally shoe-horned into the shelf, but they fit, wall to wall.  I’ll never go back to boxes for regular size cans again.  I will be gradually adding more.

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Cooking in a haybox – a fuel efficient way to slow-cook your meals

This has been discussed a little before, but I’ve got a “new” resource to share in the form of a 1909 online booklet:  https://archive.org/details/firelesscookbook00mitc/page/n7/mode/2up  “The Fireless Cookbook”.  The Haybox is a type of thermal cooker that only requires fuel for the initial boiling of the food.  The container of boiling food is placed inside a box filled with hay or other insulating material and allowed to slow-cook for a few hours.  I’m just about ready to give it a try.  Bought an excellent heavy duty box from the UPS store and have a supply of hay.  Just need the time to get all set up.  I’ll start with some dry beans, which are notorious for their long cooking time/fuel consumption.

I’m pretty interested in this method because most of our power outages occur in foul weather and my cooking resources would otherwise all be mainly outdoors.

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