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Ham radio recommendations?

I recently earned both my Technician and General Class licenses, and I’m pondering about radios to buy. Of course, I have a number of BaoFengs, but they don’t get great reception where I am. A lot of hams recommend the Icom 7300, sort of the gold standard of HF radios, but it’s expensive and very large. I’ve considered the mobile Icom 7100, because it’d be a bit easier to work in my space and it also does VHF/UHF, though it’s not as “fancy” as the 7300. Then you have the Elecraft K3, which is small and can run off batteries, but is very expensive and has low transmit power.

For the hams in the forum: what radios do you like? I’m also open to suggestions about antennas, power supplies, and all the other necessary accouterments.

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Packing a first aid kit, IFAK discussion

After reading the First Aid Kit Article, my first thought was, “How the heck does that all fit in there?”

IFAK first aid kit list

There are a few comments beneath the article asking the same question. Rather than wait on a guide, I figured I’d throw a kit together to see how it turned out. Most of this kit was purchased and assembled in September and October of 2019. The pictures I took last week. The kit is not finished, I’m still missing a few things, and I’m likely to make more changes as time goes on.

Full Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. There are people here with a lifetime more experience than me. Comments and criticism on the components and layout are welcome.

The bag itself was purchased from Amazon, it is an Orca Tactical MOLLE Rip-Away pouch. Nominal bag dimensions are 8″x6″x3.5″. Different bags will pack differently, but I wanted something roughly this size as my own proof of concept for a level 3ish kit.

I may have screwed up the embedded images below, but it’s late, I’m tired, and all the links should be there regardless.

Full post:

Full kit laid out:

IFAK packed, open:

Left side, packed:

Left side, large items: Shears, Tourniquet, Elastic Compression Wrap, Rolled Gauze:

Packed flat in the large pocket in the back of the bag. From top to bottom: Emergency blanket, Moleskin, Abdominal Pad (x2), Gauze Sponge (x2), Chest Seal, Steri-strips:

Middle section, on top: Gloves (x2), Coban, Medical Tape, Silk Tape, Z-Fold Gauze. Bottom: Pressure Dressing:

Middle section, packed below: Hydrocortisone cream, Petroleum Jelly, Cravat:

Right pouch: Tweezers, Syringe w/ 18ga tip, Band-aids (x10), Butterfly Bandages, Alcohol Prep Pads, Non-Stick Pad, Nasopharyngeal airway:

Inner mesh bag: Immodium, Pepto-Bismol, Advil, Benadryl, Tylenol:

I was surprised that everything so far ended up fitting. The bag is still closing easily. I’m unsure of the long term quality of the bag, but I haven’t noticed any splitting, or stitching coming undone around the zipper. The current weight is about 2.4lbs. (I have a terrible scale, and I’m not sure how accurate that number is.) Everything has stayed strapped in place, but I haven’t tried punting the bag down the stairs yet to test just how secure things are.

IFAK Measurements:

Here’s the breakdown of items from the level 1, 2 and 3 first aid kits in the IFAK guide, along with what I’m missing.

Level 1

Tourniquet Pressure Dressing Z-Fold Gauze Coban Roll Trauma Shears Acetomihophen Ibuprofen Benadryl Imodium Band-Aids Chest Seals

Level 2

Tweezers Irrigation Syringe Petroleum Jelly Needle and Thread in Alcohol – MISSING Silk Medical Tape Moleskin Rolled Gauze Gauze Pads Plastic Cling Wrap – MISSING Cravat Butterfly Bandages Safety Pins – MISSING Elastic Wrap / ACE Aluminum Splint – MISSING

Level 3

Emergency Blanket Gloves Saline Eye Drops – MISSING Abdominal Pad Nasopharyngeal Airway Aspirin – MISSING Pepto-Bismol Caffeine – MISSING Hydrocortisone Miconazole – MISSING Doxycycline – MISSING


With regards to the missing items

Needle and Thread in Alcohol: I haven’t found a small bottle I like that I also don’t need to order two dozen of that I also trust to seal tightly. I realize this is a pretty dumb reason not to have this item sorted out, since I do have needle, thread and alcohol on hand. Plastic Cling Wrap – I don’t have a lot of first aid training, so I’m not sure when it would be appropriate to MacGyver something out of cling wrap. This is easy enough to add, it’s in my kitchen now. Safety Pins – Dumb oversight I’m realizing now. Aluminum Splint – I threw this in my car bag rather than the FAK. I might try bending it differently to get it to fit, especially if I move the tourniquet and shears to the outside of the bag. Saline Eye Drops – I was looking at some sterile single use ampoules. Otherwise the smallest bottle I found was 4oz. I also don’t recognize all of the brands for this stuff, which makes me a bit hesitant to squirt it in my eyes. I also have concerns on these freezing if left in my car during the winter. Aspirin – I need to buy some pill pouches for these since I don’t have any of the single dose packets. Caffeine – I bought some NoDoz recently that I could throw in a pill pouch, but I don’t think I’ll ever use them. I’ve only tried a caffeine pill once, years ago, and I hated it. I can drink a litre of coffee without issue, but one pill got me all kinds of jacked up. Miconazole – Still need to buy this. Not a high priority for me, though it does have other uses. Doxycycline – I still need to talk with my doctor about this. I’ve done some travelling in South America in the past, and got prescribed Cipro as a “just-in-case” antibiotic. I want a better understanding of side effects and stuff before adding this or really any broad spectrum antibiotic.

Other comments

The bag strikes me as a little “Tacticool” which I’m not a big fan of. I also bought some of those black Talon gloves, and snark aside, they do feel pretty good and I like how they come packaged. The tourniquet could be attached to the outside for easier and faster access, while freeing up room inside. Same goes for the shears. I was unsure of how to do this securely using rubber bands or elastics. I left this kit in my car over most of the winter, so it was below freezing for days or weeks at a time. On returning to room temperature, I couldn’t find any issue with the petroleum jelly or the hydrocortisone cream. They also didn’t burst or leak in the bag, which was nice. Immodium – My general rule while traveling is take double the amount any reasonable person would bring with them, especially if in a group. Someone always forgets it, and someone always needs it. This is morale insurance too. No one has ever been upset they brought too little with them. I think I’m going to add more to my kit. I should have labeled the images with numbers next to each item, corresponding them to the level 1, 2 or 3 lists for reference. I might go back and do this. I’ve thrown in some things that aren’t on the “official” list, but I have some extra and I’ve found them useful in the past. Steri-strips, non-stick pads, woven gauze and alcohol prep pads.

So there it is. I’m still figuring this out. I’m planning on making level 1 and level 2 kits at some point as well, but I’m looking for the right bags or pouches.


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Preparing for CLO induced bank failures?

This article makes a compelling case that a 2008-style financial meltdown has already begun:

I’m wondering about good ways to prepare for this.  An obvious way is to get liquid assets “out of the system” by moving money into gold, silver, and Bitcoin.  Would it also make sense to move cash out of banks and into local credit unions?  Perhaps they have less exposure to CLOs?  What else can we do?  Perhaps open bank accounts in foreign countries?

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Adapting BOBs for family use

I’ve noticed that most BOB guides (including the very good one here) seem to focus on equipment for one person, with only a bit of lip service paid to larger groups.  How does everyone handle kits for, let’s say, a family of four?  A few considerations:

– Which items scale and which don’t?  Obviously you probably wouldn’t need four Level 3 first aid kits and four radios, but you would need four sleeping bags and four sleeping bag pads.

– Shelter – increase the size of the tarp for level 1?  For level 3, one large tent or two 2/3-person tents?

– What do the kids carry (we’re talking grade school kids here, not teenagers who I would treat like adults), other than let’s say a backpack with a sleeping bag, water, etc.?

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Basswood Tree (American Linden) – great tree for survival

One of my favorite trees is the Basswood, or American Linden.  It is a large stately tree that is loved by bees at it puts out huge quantities of blooms that bees love & does so later in the year when the bees are hunting nectar & pollen.  For that reason it is also called the bee tree.  Basswood honey is considered some of the best in the world.  My son has a few large basswoods at his house & they can be just loaded with bees.  I have planted two on my property.

What many folks don’t realize though is that the leaves and young buds are edible… and quite tasty.  They can be eaten raw in a salad or cooked down.  The native Americans also used the bark.  The Indians soaked the bark for two to four weeks to loosen long fibers. They used the fibers for many of their needs: Bags, baskets, belts, fishnets, house mats, snowshoe netting, ropes, sewing thread and even suturing wounds. 

IMO, this is a tree preppers should need to recognize, as there is a lot of leaves on a mature tree.  It is also a great tree for our bees, which we need to protect & nuture.

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Caching a tent and sleeping bag – Should I do it?

I was browsing through Reddit and saw a post titled: “Advice whether to cache tent and sleeping bag?”

At first glance, this seems like a wonderful idea! Tents are heavy, sleeping bags are bulky. I’m just thinking about how compact and light my BOB will be if I don’t have to carry these two items.

I’m not quite sure how I would create a cache though that would be durable and waterproof. 

What are your thoughts? Is this something you can see yourself doing?

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Heating your home (without electricity)

We’re heading into winter. If something goes down and the power gets shut off, staying warm is suuuuuuper important.

I’m a renter, and our home has central air (electrical) and no fireplace. Anyone have experience to share with the rest of us? 

In the beginner’s checklist is a link to a few propane-fueled heaters; I would love to hear about those, in addition to any other ideas.

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AR-15 Maintenance Schedules and Guidelines

An AR-15 rifle purchased from a reputable manufacturer is extremely reliable, though it does need periodic maintenance to function correctly. Basic maintenance schedules discussed below.

Some key points about the AR-15 rifle.

The AR-15 firearm was designed to shoot 1 round every 2 seconds (Sustained rate of fire). If you shoot faster than that, you will drastically heat the rifle, and reduce the barrel’s life. Consider the Ar-15 a mini precision rifle. Yes, it can shoot fast, but the weapon, with the right optics, is best used with deliberate, aimed fire. Magazines can be a source of malfunctions. If you have a bad magazine, throw it in the garbage or mark it for “training purposes only.” A 5.56/.223 mil-spec/military-grade rifle can run at least 15,000 rounds before the barrel needs to be replaced. Some higher-end barrels can go 20,000 rounds + before they need to be replaced. An indicator that the barrel is worn out is the rounds key-holeing (hitting the target sideways) or an extreme loss in accuracy at 100 yards. The bolt carrier group is one of the most critical components of the rifle. On a hobby rifle, shoot your gun until a lug cracks on the bolt, then replace the bolt. If your life depends on your rifle, replace the bolt carrier group every 10,000 rounds. If you can afford it, carry a spare bolt carrier group with you. If your rifle fails during training, there is a good chance it is a component in the bolt carrier group. Simply swapping the bolt carrier group can get you back in action. If you cannot afford a training rifle or another bolt carrier group, at a minimum, carry a spare bolt with you. Before you train, swap out your “SHTF” bolt with a training bolt. Every time you clean your bolt carrier group, check for cracks. Cracks form around the cam pin and the lugs on the bolt. If you are missing a lug on your bolt, it is time to replace the bolt. While checking the bolt carrier group, check your gas rings, extractor, and ejector. A great way to check gas rings is to extend the bolt, then stand the bolt carrier group upright with the weight balanced on the bolt. If the bolt carrier collapses on the bolt, replace the gas rings. This method only works on a “Mil-Spec” bolt carrier group. You can check your extractor by removing it from your bolt and looking at the lip that holds the bullet case. If there is still a lip and the metal is not worn down, it’s probably okay. Check the ejector by taking a shell casing, seat it in your bolt, and let it go. If the shell is flung 5 to 6 feet away, the ejector/ejector spring are probably okay. Firing pins last a long time, but it is not a bad idea to keep a spare. Modern, well maintained AR-15’s do not need as much cleaning as people think. Wiping down the bolt carrier group with a carbon remover like M Pro7 is more than adequate. You can also use a bore snake and clean the carbon out of your barrel. After you clean your chamber and bolt carrier group, make sure to lubricate your bolt carrier group. Don’t fret about copper in your barrel, only carbon. Carbon pits barrels. Once a year, or every 2,500 rounds, give your rifle a very detailed cleaning (carbon removal) and check all surfaces for cracks.

On a training or hobby gun, you can keep track of firing schedules and diligently replace parts, or shoot the rifle until it stops working and then start replacing parts. If you carry a gun for a living, take firing schedules and parts replacement seriously.

Basic Maintenance Schedule for a 5.56/.223 duty rifle with a 14.7 or 16 inch barrel/Carbine or Mid length gas system. 

Please note, this is preventative maintenance. AR-15’s have been documented to run for 10,000 rounds + with no maintenance, save for lubrication. If you want to swap parts every 5,000 rounds, you will probably be okay.

At 2,500 rounds, replace the extractor, extractor spring, and gas rings. At 5,000 rounds, replace the extractor, extractor spring, ejector, ejector spring, and gas rings. Check every surface for cracks, especially the bolt lugs and the cam pin area. You will need the bolt ejector tool, hammer, and punch to swap out the ejector and ejector spring. At 7,500 rounds, replace the extractor, extractor spring, and gas rings. At 10,000 rounds, replace the bolt carrier group, and buffer spring. Attach a precision rifle scope and shoot a few 3-round groups for accuracy. At 12,500 rounds, replace the extractor, extractor spring, and gas rings. At 15,000 rounds, replace the extractor, extractor spring, ejector, ejector spring, and gas rings and once again check accuracy. You will need the bolt ejector tool, hammer, and punch to swap out the ejector and ejector spring. At 17,500 rounds, replace the extractor, extractor spring, and gas rings. At 20,000 rounds, replace the bolt carrier group, buffer spring, and barrel. Have a certified armorer check out the system as a whole. Read More

First gun for prepping in California

If you were to buy only a single gun for prepping in California (which has the strictest gun laws in the US [0]), what would it be? I’ve been researching what my first gun purchase should be, and it looks like the options at a high level are:

A handgun A shotgun A featureless AR-15, meaning it lacks certain features like a pistol grip or vertical foregrip [1] A maglock AR-15, meaning the top and bottom halves of the rifle have to separate for reloading [2] A “traditional” rifle (for lack of a better term), meaning something that’s not an AR-15, like an M1A [3]

I think the ideal would be to not have to choose, and instead have a rifle + a handgun. But that still leads to the question of which type of rifle to have.

My primary worry is worsening civil unrest as the election approaches, but in keeping with the Sane Prepper Mantra [4], it would ideally be a generally useful firearm: home defense, self-defense while bugging out, even hunting. I plan to take multiple classes with whatever I end up getting.

(And if you’re new to guns altogether like me, I highly recommend The Prepared’s guide for basic background knowledge:

[0] is a good overview





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I didn’t see anything on trapping, but it’s smart to have some on hand in a SHTF situation.  Trapping is a silent way to hunt and much easier than trying to find and shoot game.  I have 5 small game traps and 5 fish traps.  As a test, I put one out last week (I live in a small suburb in S.C.).  Within a few days, I caught a possum, two squirrels, and a feral cat.  Released them all, but I know it works.  

A few on my garage wall.

Below is my next trap. A hog trap from Tractor Supply.  I checked it out; it’s very well made.  I hope to get one sometime in the near future.  

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Good Storage for Prepping with limited space

I have a one bedroom ~600 sq ft apartment and my kitchen has limited space. I need some more storage space and was thinking good shelving unit – something like this or this . I was wondering what other folks had done and if they had any set ups they reccomended that were reliable, didn’t need to be pinned to the wall and not a pain to set up. 

Leaning strongly to get this, which is pricey but looks nicer than some of the others.

Ideally 36 in or less in width as well if that as an option. 

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The beginnings of a food forest…

I have a big empty hill behind my house. It’s too much of a pain to go up there every day, but I wanted to use the land for something.  I decided to start starting a food forest.

The concept is pretty simple: you plant food-bearing trees together to create a forest and then put low-maintenance crops in between them. So you might have a large nut tree surrounded by apple and pear trees, with strawberry plants in between them. (Amaranth would also be a good addition).

It’s what Nassim Taleb would call an “anti-fragile” system. A traditional garden has to be cultivated, weeded, and watered regularly, but once a food forest is established, it can be left to its own devices. The book Gaia’s Garden is a good reference for starting a food forest.

Yesterday, I received the two one-year-old Dunstan Chestnut trees I ordered over the summer. The chestnut tree is a great resource of both wood and food and was once a key resource to Appalachia. Unfortunately, the American Chestnut was wiped out in the early 20th century by a fungal blight. If you try to plant one now, it’ll die from blight within a few years. However, a single blight-resistant American Chestnut was found and piece of it were grafted onto blight-resistant Chinese chestnut trees, creating the Dunstan Chestnut tree.

I already had my tools and other gear in my truck ready to go. I started by using my scythe to make a clearing in the tall grass and weeds and then used a string trimmer to eliminate as much grass as possible in a large circle.

I then used my Root Slayer shovel to dig a hole for the tree. I love this shovel. The saw teeth on the sides make it easy to dig into the hard ground here. I really needed it yesterday, because some sort of tree has started to root in my field. I cut through the roots and ripped out all the tree roots I could find.

I put the tree in the hole, covered it up, and then slid a tree tube over the top, which acts as a miniature greenhouse and protects the tree from deer. I fixed it in place by zip-tying it to a piece of bamboo.

Finally, I watered the tree in with liquid compost, put some compost around the tree as mulch, and then dumped some saved kitchen scraps around the tree. They’ll also serve as mulch and will feed the tree as they break down over time.

Next, I’m set to receive three mulberry trees. They’re cheap and should start producing berries within a year. I’m also going to put in some apple trees this fall.

Hopefully, within a couple of years, I will have a steady supply of food that will require no work other than just walking up and taking it.

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Community Challenge: Bags for the Unprepared / Mercy Bags

Winter is quickly approaching and the news of the pandemic globally is becoming increasingly bleak. The US still hasn’t officially finished its first wave and elsewhere is showing staggering signs of an overwhelming, inbound second wave. 

Ultimately, the only way we’re going to get through this is by banding together as a community of preppers and as human beings helping other human beings in need.

Today, we put together a few basic-level BOBs using some of our own surplus stock and a few former packs) for anyone that might be in need. The packs cover the basics: water, food, fire, shelter, first aid, pandemic supplies (gloves, disposable masks, sanitizer, masks with filters), and batteries for the flashlights and headlamps.

We’re fortunate that we have the means to do this. Others in our community are not.

In all, each bag as 7-10 days worth of supplies.

And I wish we could do more.

We’d also like to challenge everyone who can do so, to take up this cause: build a bag to help someone you don’t know, who isn’t prepared to face the pandemic or a disaster.

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Thinking about school in the fall

Curious how everyone here is thinking about school/childcare in the fall. Have started to see what different districts are planning (mid-size Midwest city).

The biggest district is doing a 2/3 day split, alternating which students get Wednesday each week.
Two more districts have announced that their current plan is 100% in the classroom, though they have numerous contingencies around distance learning and the like, so that plan could certainly change.

Obvious given forum rules I don’t want to make this a political discussion (though if you take politics out of it entirely I still find it a fascinating balance of tradeoffs…) – I’m more curious about how other preppers are thinking about handling schools if they reopen/childcare if they don’t/impact on their children.

Our only child right now is not yet a toddler, so they are not personally impacted by schools, but my wife is a teacher, and thus obviously is. From everything I’ve seen on mortality the statistical risk to any of us given our age/health is roughly equivalent to that of driving 10,000 miles. The morbidity risk is still pretty unknown – as Mr. Stokes often brings up. From what I’ve seen my thoughts on that risk *to us* is trending in the optimistic direction -recent reports around T-Cell impact and potential cross-immunity from common cold strains (see: wife = teacher for analysis of past cold prevalence in our household) are driving much of that.

However, obviously our risk of transmitting it to grandparents and others is high if we are in school/daycare situations, which makes decision making a bit trickier.

I see several options (I work remotely, for context below.):
Wife quits job, takes care of kid at home (best for exposure/safely seeing grandparents – bad for wife’s career)
Wife works at school, but wears mask and hopes to not be overly exposed, in-home childcare for kiddo (made trickier due to wife’s potential exposure)
Wife works at school, kiddo goes to daycare, avoid grandparents (outside of very socially distanced settings) until we get it and are over with it.

That’s what our rough decision matrix seems to look like. Curious what those of you with school-aged kids and no teacher spouses are thinking.

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If you moved to the country, what do you wish you’d known first?

Hi folks, I just published my guide on things to expect if you’re moving to the country from the city. If you’ve made the move, what do you wish you’d known first?

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Prepping for disabled people


I’ve been reading about bug out bags etc. etc. 

My situation is that I’m a power chair user so the option of walking whilst carrying a rucksack is just a happy memory.

Living in the UK with the extremely restricted firearms laws means that having firearms for home defence is out of the question too.

No before you say, “well you’re s**t out of luck”, I do have a plan.

The plan is to stock up, stay put, keep in touch with neighbours & family then tough it out.

This approach had worked thus far during this pandemic.

Any suggestions for a disabled prepper would be gratefully received. I’m especially interested in options for home defence which do not include firearms.

Thank you in advance.


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Comms Recommendations for Neighborhood Emergency Preparedness?

I live in the East Bay area of CA. Several years ago I collected the names and contact information of about 60 individuals on my block for a city-sponsored community emergency response program I took part in.

* Last week, workers hit an underground gas line on my block. Our family bugged out and I struggled to communicate with just a few other neighbors about the situation.

* This week, a 3-alarm fire began in close proximity to a gas station a mile from home. I got the word out via text and email to all the contacts I had, but not as quickly as I’d have liked.

* This weekend, we are expecting hot, dry winds: extreme fire danger.

Do any of you have recommendations for decent (and free?) electronic communications systems or protocols that you’d implement in such circumstances? I want to protect my neighbors from having their contact information stolen or otherwise compromised, and I’d like to be able to share vital information quickly.

Maybe you know how to set up a phone tree and would share that process with me. 

My partner has a license for Ham Radio comms, but I don’t. Further, I think that ham isn’t a viable option for most folks around here. While the power’s on, I feel like SMS/email/phone are the best options; I am open to–and grateful for–your opinions on the matter.

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Hardtack – The bread that lasts Forever

I didn’t see anything on hardtack [Flour + water + little salt].  Great way to store carbs for soups. Easy and cheap to make.  I’ve started making it and storing in mylar bags (not sure if they’re needed).  It’ll keep 100 years.  Youtube hardtack.  Thanks and great website.

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Submissions from The Firearm Blog’s “Build of the Week” contest using TP’s kit builder

I used to work over at The Firearm Blog, which focuses on “firearms not politics.” They just relaunched a popular contest where people submit builds related to firearms using TP’s kit builder

There’s a submission published on a weekly basis (when there is a set of four queued up), and eventually those submissions will compete to crown an overall winner.  I’ll share the submissions here in case anyone’s interested!

Contest info if you want to enter:

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Prepping’s lessons for quarantine

Greetings.  My scenario stands at the 3-way intersection of prepping, quarantine, and vanlife, and it’s not a hypothetical scenario so much as an actual procedure that we had to follow, and may need to follow again.  

 This past summer, my husband and I drove our off-grid van almost 3,000 miles from our home in the U.S. to undeveloped land that I own in eastern Canada, observing the isolation rules along the way.  Once we crossed the border into Canada, we had to drive 450 miles without entering any premises or contacting any person.  And then we were legally required to remain on my property for two weeks, a property that contains no electrical, water, or sewer utilities – it’s just forested land with a small private road into it.  

 DH and I had already spent several years engineering our van with a solar-lithium-inverter-alternator-generator combination that makes us power-unlimited in most contexts, but I had to step up my game to enhance the rest of our preps, because we had never before been cut off from normal consumer supplies such as groceries, hardware, pharma, etc.  Some ideas I pull from the boating community, which is the other big group that is off-grid almost continually by definition, but increasingly I’m checking out the prepping community for ideas on strategies and gear.  Every piece of equipment has to be completely thought out and tested, ever piece has to be reliable, and every contingency has to be accounted for.  Plus, there are more comfortable and less comfortable ways of doing things, and I’d rather thrive than survive.

 We enjoyed our 2 weeks of “exile” (as my Canadian father called it) far more than we thought we would, to the point where I almost hope for the opportunity to do it again.  When do any of us get 2 unbroken weeks where we are completely segregated from society and not compelled to be answerable to outside demands on our time, where we can just focus on being present and developing our skills?  It hardly ever happens.  We’re looking forward to more, and for that, I need more learnin’. 


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Chucknuck – The ultimate char cloth?

Was looking at reddit today and saw that someone made something called a chucknuck. I had never heard of it before, so the adventure began! But first, I want to explain what char cloth is. 

Char cloth has been one of the most effective ways to start a fire using flint and steel or a ferro rod. If you are unfamiliar with char cloth, you cut up an old 100% cotton t shirt and put those strips into an Altoids tin. Punch a small hole in the top of the Altoids tin and then throw the entire tin into a campfire. The heat from the fire will then convert the cotton shirt into char cloth through a process called pyrolysis. In layman’s terms it burns the shirt inside the tin, but not fully because it is slowly burned in an oxygen deprived environment. What remains looks exactly like your shirt pieces, except black. This char cloth is extremely fragile because it is just made up of carbon. The benefit of this new creation is that if a single spark of a flint and steel or ferro rod touches it, the char cloth will hold onto that spark and it will grow. You then transfer that piece of char cloth to a tinder bundle and is a fast and easy way to start a fire.

The one downside of char cloth though is how brittle it is. Even today, I tried to pull out a piece of from my zip lock baggie of char cloth in my fire kit and I couldn’t pull out the whole piece, it always breaks into a smaller piece. If you do not store it well, when you go to use your char cloth it could just be powdered ashes because it got agitated too much in your pack.

A chucknuck is supposed to be the more durable solution to a char cloth. Below is my experience making one today.

I started off with an empty .223 and .308 win casing. Any rifle casing should work. 

I then made my first mistake and I cut through the extractor groove. I thought this would be a good place to put my saw blade and keep it from slipping all over as I started cutting.

The issue is that it did cut off the rim, but I thought it would open me up into the inside of the casing. Instead I just opened up access to the primer well. Next time I will cut right above the extractor groove, and it should be alot less cutting and less steps.

To fix my little mistake, I just drilled out the bottom of the casing. 

The finished product is a casing that has a large opening at the bottom.

I then took a roll of cotton twine that I got from the dollar store and laid out multiple strips a bit longer than a foot long. I fed the twine through the casing.

I wanted the end product to be a foot long so that extra length helped out when I tied off the end.

WE ARE DONE! But what is it!?

Well, you are supposed to burn/char the end of the rope sticking out of the tip of the casing. This creates a small piece of char cloth that you then can retract into the casing to protect it by pulling on the longer end of the rope. Whenever you need a piece of char cloth to catch a spark, you can push the rope back out through the tip of the casing and expose that area.

Did it work? No, not for me. I think I have some cheap junk twine and should find a better quality cotton string. The tip wouldn’t accept a spark, and was even hard to light with a lighter. Char cloth won this round against my chucknuck. I do want to go out and buy some quality cotton rope though and give it another shot. 

I did a little research after my failure and found that this guy on YouTube was able to make a successful chucknuck. And I was right, he used some good looking rope, so I think it should work if I get some. 

What do you guys think? Are you going to give this a try? How do you like to start your fires? If you do make one, PLEASE share it here and show me up! I want to see a working model.


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Home heating sans electricity?

Hello, and thanks again to all the awesome people who make this website possible.  It truly is a wonderful resource.

I am researching various methods/options for heating my home in the case of an extended power outage.  I have a traditional masonary fireplace that I never use because it’s so innefficient, but am considering a fireplace insert or other options.  I’m curious if anyone has gone down this road and has words of wisdom to share.

A fireplace insert would be nice, but they’re also spendy, and outside of an emergency and/or the occasional holiday-time fire, I would likely rarely use it, so I am also eager to find safe alternatives, if there are any.  

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Do You Know How a Home Well Works? – Might Save Your Life To Know.

IMO, the following knowledge could be priceless for many preppers… even if you don’t have a well.  Are you planning on bugging out into the country?  Out there, most folks will have home wells.  You might say, what good is that for me?  Let me let you in on something.  99.9% of folks with home wells have no way of accessing their water when the power is out.  Do you think maybe if you came with the tools & knowledge to access that water, that you might have made friends?  Being friends with a landowner might be the difference between surviving… or not.

Many, if not the vast majority of rural homes & farms get their water from a well, which is nothing more than a pvc pipe in the ground with a submersible pump sitting under the water and a pressure storage tank below the frost line.  At my farm, my submersed pump is around 125′ down.  This all works fine as long as you have electricity but what happens when there is none… and won’t be for weeks if ever? I live on a farmstead, with a well, & have plans to get to that water during such a crisis. Sure I have my personal water filtration devices but for me that is short term. You really want to live on hot, stinky, filtered pond water?  Why use such when cool, pure water is so close by… if you know how & are prepared to get to it?

So this submersible pump hangs in the well from the pitless adapter, which is a two part device (male & female). One part stays in the well casing & the other part is what the well drop pipe attaches to. This device is what keeps the water from freezing in the winter as it redirects the water 90 degrees, so that the water stays underground, below the frost line for the area.

The top of the adapter has female threads, used to pull the pump & attached riser pipe out of the well. DIY folks, like me make a simple tool that allows you to attach to the pitless adapter & pull everything up. Mine is a T made from 3/4″ threaded metal pipe, which anyone can buy the sections in a hardware store. You simply need two short pieces for the handle, a threaded T & a longer piece of threaded pipe to reach the pitless adapter, which will be maybe 2-3′ down inside the well casing… deeper the further north you live. From what I understand, most pitless adapters accept 1″ NPT thread, so I have a series of adapters to go on the end of my 3/4″ pipe. I have 3/4″ – 1″, 1″ – 1 1/4″ and 1/1/4″ – 1 1/2″ just to be safe. All these piece screw together to make the T so obviously can be taken apart & not take up much space.

I’ve never done this before but from what I understand a strong man can pull the pump by himself if it is not real deep, otherwise you will need help and/or some lifting device such as a block & tackle. Once the pump & pipe is out of the way, you now have access to the water & just need rope & a device to get the water out. You can make your own or purchase something commercially. I use the Well Waterboy bucket. I’m sure anyone could rig up some container to get to the water, just might take some engineering to figure it out.  There is a great discussion here on building your own.

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PrimeDay prepping deals

Hello all, I’m hesitant to start this thread because I’m not particularily a big fan of Amazon or consumerism in general, but there are some good deals on prepping gear associated with Prime Day.  One that caught my eye was the highly rated BigBlue 28W Solar Charger on sale at at 25% discount:

If anyone bumps into any other great deals please share!

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Are you doing something extra to prepare for this winter, because of Covid or else?

There’s a good chance that this winter we’ll go into a second lockdown because of Covid (paired with flu). So I am taking extra steps now in preparation for this winter, something that in normal circumstances I would have not felt the urgent need to do right now. 

This is what I’m doing before the winter:

Changing my car’s tires. They’re not awful right now but they’re getting to the point that they need to be replaced. In normal circumstances I would have waited until next spring/summer, but in the event that something actually happens to them while we’re into a second lockdown and shops are closed I am doing that now. Winters are also snowy and icy in here so I don’t want to take any chances. Bloodwork. I have avoided doing tests (routine  or otherwise) or go to the dentist throughout the summer, but I am taking advantage of this window where infections are lower to keep on top of my health. My GP herself suggested I’d wait on all of the other stuff, but she’s of the opinion that I could at least do some quick bloodwork now. It should be quick, in and out. Let’s call it a calculated risk.  CCW permit. Ok, the reason why I feel compelled to that that now rather than later, is more political than infection-related. Although this is not the place to open that can of worms, I always hope for the best and prepare for the worst. Yup, I’m taking my CCW permit in case shtf in Nov.

Are you doing something extra now to prepare for this winter?

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