Archive for the ‘Supplies’ Category

Better Braided Survival Belt With 550 Paracord

July 31, 2009

If you’ve read my previous post on making your own braided belt out of paracord, then you’ll be very happy to know it gets even better :)  I’ve since made a couple more belts, with increasing complexity, coolness, and amounts of rope.  My latest has worked pretty well, and stores close to 100 feet of cord.  In a pinch, it would be easy to separate two 25-foot pieces of rope and still have a working belt.

My finished paracord survival belt - very strong and comfortable!  I used two different colors of cord, a lighter accent color, and a darker main color.

My finished paracord survival belt - very strong and comfortable! I used two different colors of cord, a lighter accent color, and a darker main color.

Start with two 50-foot pieces of paracord.  If you get two different colors, it’ll create an interesting pattern.  I’ve used two shades of green.  Locally, Cabela’s seems to be a good place.  You can get 100 feet for $7 or 1,000 feet for $40.  With as much as I’ve been using, I plan to pick up a 1,000 foot spool soon.  That’s actually a better price than I’ve even been able to find online.  Without further ado, here’s how to create a sturdy paracord belt that should hold all the rope you need for an emergency.

Start with a 1-inch slide buckle.  I found this at Cabela's for $1.50.

Start with a 1-inch slide buckle. I found this at Cabela's for $1.50.

Loop the paracord through one side of the buckle.  It's not shown here, but you want the outer strands to be the longest, and the inner strands to only be about 6 feet long.

Loop the paracord through one side of the buckle. You should have both strands of the same rope on one side, and both strands of the other rope on the other side. Don't worry, it'll create a symmetrical pattern once we start.

Pull the outer paracord almost all the way, so that only about 6 feet remains on the inner strands.

Pull the outer paracord almost all the way, so that only about 6 feet remains on the inner strands.

We're going to start tying a knot called a portuguese sinnet.  It's the one knot we'll use over and over to "braid" the rope.  Pick which color paracord you want to be the accent (outer) color.  Loop that behind the inner strands, and in front of the other outer strand.

We're going to start tying a knot called a portuguese sinnet. It's the one knot we'll use over and over to "braid" the rope. Pick which color paracord you want to be the accent (outer) color. Loop that behind the inner strands, and in front of the other outer strand.

Second half of a portuguese sinnet with paracord

Take the other outer strand, and pull it through the loop we created.

Tighten the knot, and push it upward.  Now do this about a thousand times :)  You'll always loop the accent strand, and pull the main strand through it.  You only touch the outer strands, and the inner strands stay straight.  That's why they don't have to be very long.

Tighten the knot, and push it upward.

Caption.

Now repeat the knot about a thousand times! You'll always loop the accent strand, and pull the main strand through it. You only touch the outer strands, and the inner strands stay straight. That's why they don't have to be very long.

Measure your waste, and subtract a few inches.  Keep braiding the belt until you reach that length.

Measure your waist, and subtract a few inches. Keep braiding the belt until you reach that length.

Now flip the belt upside down, and tie another portuguese sinnet over top of your last knot.  We're going to add another layer, braiding over the top of our original layer.

Now flip the belt upside down, and tie another portuguese sinnet over top of your last knot. We're going to add another layer, braiding over the top of our original layer.

Continue braiding over top of the original layer.  This creates the width and thickness of the belt, and more than doubles the amount of paracord used.

Continue braiding over top of the original layer. This creates the width and thickness of the belt, and more than doubles the amount of paracord used.

Oops!  I didn't use enough rope.  That's because I didn't take pictures the first time, and this is a cheater belt, just a few inches long.  You should have plenty of paracord, not to worry.  When you get to the end, you can simply cut the extra cord, and melt the tips together with a lighter.

Oops! I didn't use enough rope. That's because I didn't take pictures the first time, and this is a cheater belt, just a few inches long. You should have plenty of paracord, not to worry. When you get to the end, you can simply cut the extra cord, and melt the tips together with a lighter.

You should have 2-3 feet of paracord left.  Previously, we stopped the braid a few inches short.  That's because this is your room to shrink!

You should have 2-3 feet of paracord left. Previously, we stopped the braid a few inches short. That's because this is your room to shrink!

Now braid back down the extra length.  If you lose weight you can unbraid these last few inches,  remove some of the extra, and rebraid.  If you gain weight, you can let it out, as well.  Now cut the extra paracord, and melt the tips together with a lighter.  Do this on the inner side of the belt that won't be seen.

Now braid back down the extra length. If you lose weight you can unbraid these last few inches, remove some of the extra, and rebraid. If you gain weight, you can let it out, as well. Now cut the extra paracord, and melt the tips together with a lighter. Do this on the inner side of the belt that won't be seen.

Congratulations!  This was a fun project, and a much better belt than my original.  There was also an in-between version where I only braided along the line once, not doubling over.  This looked more like a kid’s belt, and only uses about half the paracord.  This project took about three hours, but I just worked on it over a couple nights while I watched TV.

There are two tough parts.  The first is that you’ll be pulling a lot of cord through the loops each time, several arm lengths.  I folded the cord twice so it was only a quarter of the original length, and tied it off to shorten this.  Second, the knots will appear a little uneven until you’re practiced enough to tighten the knots the same each time.  The good news is, your first few hundred knots won’t be seen under the double braid.

Enjoy!

Camping for Survival Preparation

July 29, 2009

As I’ve made survival preparations that include water storage, survival supplies, and surival skills, I’ve realized that the perfect way to turn them into practical experience is camping!  It’s so obvious now that I’ve figured it out.  I started out small last thursday, setting up the tent with a large inflatable mattress in the backyard.  It was the best night’s sleep I’d had in a while.  I think part of the reason is that, after setting everything up, you’re nice and tired – ready for bed!  I only had my oldest son with me.  We read one of his funnier books, laughed over cookies and milk, and called it a night around 10:30.

The next night, I tried the same thing with all three of my boys.  Partway through setup, I decided to skip the air mattress.  I wanted to see if I could really “rough it” under survival situations, and the comfy mattress seemed out of place.  Plus, it’s large and took up just too much space in my 4-man tent.  That night ended up being miserable!  I didn’t sleep very well on the ground, and the younger two boys wanted to stay up way to late playing and fighting.  When I woke up on Saturday morning, I took down the tent, ate a quick breakfast, and took an hour-long nap on my real bed.  Fail.

That afternoon, I reached out to my friends on SurvivalistBoards.com, asking for tips and experiences sleeping on the ground.  Within hours I had great advice from several experienced campers.  The most helpful for my particular situation were comments from Hick Industries, IceFire, GunGourd, and ex-hunter. They got at the core of my problem – confusing recreational camping with survival preparation.  They should be approached differently, and bedding is a good example.  IceFire even made the amazing point that in survival situations, you probably want to sleep lighter, and therefore slightly less comfortably.

So, I’m over my concern that nicer bedding isn’t “rugged” enough.  If I can thrive with small amenities like a sleeping pad and matches for fire starting, I’m still way ahead of most people.  And as ex-hunter pointed out I can always practice the harder stuff whenever I want, to build up a tolerance.

Saturday night, practice time was over.  We drove out to an actual primitive campsite.  Basically an outhouse, water pump, and fire pits were the only amenities, which was perfect.  Because it was so low-demand and low-maintenance, it was even free!  I took all three boys again. AND the mattress.  It wasn’t big enough for all of us, so I bought some foam sleeping pads from Wal-Mart, and doubled them up under the kids that slept on the ground.  They were fine with it, since it hadn’t really bothered them to sleep on the ground the night before, anyway.  It did create a space issue, the kids on the ground were too close together in a 4-man tent with a queen-sized air mattress.  I’m going to buy a larger tent soon.

I brought one of my 7-gallon water containers, which was perfect.  I prepared well, since the previous couple nights in the back yard taught me what I’d need.  There was only one gaping flaw in my plans: my cell phone was undercharged, and I ended up having to shut it off for most of the trip and only text-messaging with my wife to coordinate our pick-up time the next morning.  This was a big liability, and kept us from extending the trip well into the next day.  I’d wanted to do a longer hike, maybe even stay for lunch.  I’ll be sure to charge any electrical supplies in advance next time, and bring extra batteries for the items that use them.

Thus ended my 3-night tent streak, and I upped my number of consecutive outdoor hours from 4 to 14.  Very shortly, I plan to do a multi-day camping trip instead of just overnight visits, and then I’ll be comfortable staying outdoors indefinitely (within reason).

Water Rotation for Emergency/Disaster Use

July 27, 2009
This is the drinking water we use day-to-day, to rotate our supply.

This is the drinking water we use day-to-day, to rotate our supply.

I’ve started filling and storing 7 gallon water containers, the blue Reliance containers I talked about in my Water Storage and Purification post.  So far I have 9 containers, totaling over 60 gallons of filtered tap water.  Now it’s time to start rotating them!

I found a great spot on a shelf  above our washer/dryer, which are just off the kitchen.  I put the water container on that shelf.  Keep in mind, this container weighs almost 60 pounds, so I kept it all the way to the side, next to where the shelf is supported.  This will keep the shelf from bowing or breaking under the weight.  Now, instead of getting drinking water directly from the tap, we can use the water stored in this container.  When it empties, I’ll refill and take back to the basement.  I’ll then bring up the next oldest water container, and the process will continue.

With our containers tagged with the fill date, we never have to guess about freshness, barring a basement skunk attack :)

With our containers tagged with the fill date, we never have to guess about freshness...barring a basement skunk attack :)

Speaking of, it’s time to tag the water containers in the basement.  None of them are more than a month old, so I tagged them as “07/01/2009″ to be safe.  Whenever I get a new container for upstairs, I’ll check if any have hit the 6 month mark and refill those as well.

The result is that I never need to remember to empty/refill the water containers every few months.  It will happen automatically, ensuring fresh and clean water when we need it.

Altoids Survival Tin

July 24, 2009

The survival tin made out of an Altoids can is fairly popular, and I’m nothing if not a popularity-seeking sheep that loves to follow the masses.  With that, I present my own Altoids survival tin!

My Altoids survival tin, wrapped in 6 feet of electrical tape for waterproofing and survival use.

My Altoids survival tin, wrapped in 6 feet of electrical tape for waterproofing and survival use.

Most homemade survival tins use repurposed tins from something else.  Altoids tins are the most popular, but I’m also experimenting with “gift card tins” which have become popular.  I picked one up for $2 at Cabela’s, and I’m going to try it later.  Right off, though, I know I’d have to get a different whistle since only Altoids tins are tall enough to hold the one I have.

Here’s a list of my survival tin’s raw contents, some of which have been modified to fit:

  • 2-3 cotton balls
  • orange whistle
  • mini pocket knife
  • matchbook
  • pencil
  • button compass
  • fishing line
  • 2 fish hooks
  • 2 fishing line sinkers
  • nylon thread
  • sewing needle, magnetized
  • sewing thread
  • snare wire
  • candle
  • 2 razor blades
  • 2 safety pins, different sizes
  • 5 small pieces of paper
  • 3 band-aids
  • 1 alcohol swab
  • the Altoids tin itself
  • 6 feet of electrical tape
All the contents of my survival tin, minus the fish hooks.

All the contents of my survival tin, minus the fish hooks.

I only had to buy three things to put this kit together: A can of altoids, cotton balls, and a larger survival kit from Wal-Mart that I paired down to the essentials.  You can buy survival tins for not much more than I paid for the individual pieces.  If you do this, I recommend buying two – one that remains sealed for emergencies, and one that you open and play with.  The advantage of my kit is that I decided what was important, I’ve played with all the pieces, and I can unpack/repack them at will because I designed how they fit together.

Everything is designed for multiple uses where possible, and often many items come together for one purpose.  I’ll outline the purposes below:

Making fire. I ripped the front cover off my match book, for the added room.  It’s not very thick, but the extra folds over the matches took up room.  The candle was carved down to fit in the last available space of the tin, which is why it’s shaped so funny.  It’s mainly for lighting a fire – if I can light the candle, it can stay lit under kindling until a bigger fire emerges.  The cotton doubles as rattle-proofing for the kit, and as excellent tinder.  I wanted to include flint/magnesium, but I didn’t have room.  I should ultimately replace the matches with waterproof strike-anywhere matches that are dipped in wax to keep them from lighting in storage.

Securing food. The snare wire can be used for trapping smaller land animals for food.  The fishing gear (line, hooks, and sinkers) are used for fishing, but in a pinch they can be used for other tasks.  In fact, I used the extra space in the blue spool of fishing line to wrap as much nylon cord as possible, so that no space is wasted.  I can use the small pencil in my kit as an “axle” to allow the fishing line to spin freely as needed, and to help in reeling.

Medical care. The cotton can be used to stop bleeding, the alcohol swab to sterilize, and the band-aids to prevent infection.  The needle and thread can be used to suture a wound first, if needed.

Navigation. The kit includes a button compass, and also a backup.  I magnetized the sewing needle so I can set it on a leaf in calm water and it will point north, should I lose the compass.  Backup compass requiring no extra space was a no brainer once somebody suggested it.  The pencil and paper can be used to map your route, or take notes on landmarks or surroundings.

Getting found. The whistle was a costly item – it takes up a lot of space, which is a waste since it’s hollow.  I had to cut off the plastic loop used for a lanyard, and file it down to fit better in the kit.  But I’ve heard that when you need to attract attention, your voice doesn’t carry as well, and wears out easily.  A whistle cuts through ambient noise, and lasts as long as your breathing.  The tin itself can be used as a reflective surface to attract attention on a sunny day.

Crafting/repairing clothing and shelter. The remaining pieces are largely for the work you’ll need to do while you’re waiting for rescue.  The pocket knife required a lot of engineering to fit, but I felt it was worth it.  The nylon thread, safety pins, and razors can be used to repair clothing, tie together shelter, or even craft weapons for hunting.

As I mentioned above, the kit is closed and wrapped in electrical tape.  The first layer is mainly for waterproofing the kit.  I added 5 additional layers so that I’ll have that much extra tape as part of the kit.  Every wrap around the tin is about 1 foot of tape.

My kit doesn’t have everything I want.  I just bought a compact cable saw I’ll have to add by replacing/repositioning something else.  I wish there were more fire tools, and a light source.  I’m limited by room and budget, which is fine.  My kit also doesn’t have much for rope, just a few feet of nylon thread.  However, I’ve started wearing a belt I made out of paracord, and I plan to replace the laces in my shoes as well.  I also replaced my watch band with braided paracord which actually looks pretty good.

I’ve decided to carry my kit at all times for one month, to see how it feels.  I think the Cabela’s tin might be better for me, since it’s flatter and holds more.  It’s not as compact though, so I’ll have to experiment and see what feels right.  Below, I’ve included pictures showing how my kit fits together.  You can spend hours deciding how to make everything you need fit, and it’s not a bad idea to do so.

To start, I line the bottom of my tin with a stretched out cotton ball to quiet any rattling.  The whistle is so big, I have to form the cotton around it.  The knife goes in as well.

To start, I line the bottom of my tin with a stretched out cotton ball to quiet any rattling. The whistle is so big, I have to form the cotton around it. The knife goes in as well.

Continuing to add the bulkiest and oddest-shaped items first, I place the matches, fishing line spool (with nylon thread added), pencil (which I had to cut down by an inch) and compass.

Continuing to add the bulkiest and oddest-shaped items first, I place the matches, fishing line spool (with nylon thread added), pencil (which I had to cut down by an inch) and compass.

Next, I push the sewing thread reel into the middle of the snare wire to save space.  I add some cotton inside the reel, to keep from wasting any space.

Next, I push the sewing thread reel into the middle of the snare wire to save space. I add some cotton inside the reel, to keep from wasting any space.

I shaved a tealight down to the height and shape I needed to fit the tin.  I wanted as much wax as possible.

I shaved a tealight down to the height and shape I needed to fit the tin. I wanted as much wax as possible.

I added cotton everywhere it would fit into the nooks and crannies of the other contents.  The more, the better.  It eliminates rattling, and is valuable tinder.

I added cotton everywhere it would fit into the nooks and crannies of the other contents. The more, the better. It eliminates rattling, and is valuable tinder.

This is a little backward, but I added the razor blades and safety pins after the cotton.  I should have done it the other way around, but in my head I knew where I wanted them so I left space.

This is a little backward, but I added the razor blades and safety pins after the cotton. I should have done it the other way around, but in my head I knew where I wanted them so I left space.

This is the tin, packed with all the odd shaped objects, filling the deeper half of the tin to capacity.

This is the tin, packed with all the odd shaped objects, filling the deeper half of the tin to capacity.

I added the paper, band-aids and alcohol swap to the lid of the tin.  I add them last because they add very little width, and fit perfectly.

I added the paper, band-aids and alcohol swab to the lid of the tin. I add them last because they add very little width, and fit perfectly.

I add one last layer of cotton to take up the extra space.

I add one last layer of cotton to take up the extra space.

Water Conservation in the Shower

July 22, 2009

This is not that old joke about conserving water by showering together. Experience says you’re likely to be in there long enough to negate any water savings.  There are still benefits, but none of them are conservation-related :)

As I fill each of my 7-gallon water containers for long-term storage, and lug the almost 60-pounds down to our basement storage area, I’m filled with newfound respect for clean, purified water.  It even tastes better when I drink it.  I’m no longer a slave to milk and pop.  There was a day when I lacked the will power to drink plain water, but now I appreciate it so much more.

And so I’m increasingly agitated by just how much of this wonderful, life-giving, purified water we waste all the time.  I’m not ready to give up indoor plumbing anytime soon, but I’ve realized just how amazingly efficient outhouses were, back in the day.  Zero water usage for an unlimited number of people.  Think of how much water we waste for the privilege of going to the bathroom indoors.

I’ve also started to notice how much water I waste waiting for the hot water to make its way up the pipes to my bathroom sink before I shave – or to the shower.  In a survival situation my family could live quite well, and indefinitely, on 5 gallons of water per day, per person.  Yet the average household uses 12-14 times that.  My family could survive on much less in the short term.

All that being said, I’m looking for ways to cut down on water, and I’m not just looking at convenient ways.  I’m willing to get creative, and it’s just lucky that I found one way that is both creative and convenient.  My shower has an extra attachment with a hose, which I’ve never really needed.  The up side is that there is a push/pull button that redirects water to the hose, cutting off water to the main shower head.  This gave me an idea: clog the hose, and I can effectively shut my water off during the middle of a shower when I’m shampooing, or scrubbing.  The faucet knobs will remain in the same position, preserving the water temperature for a few minutes between uses.

In the pictures below you can see my shower setup, and how I plugged the extra shower head with just a few inches of paracord, tied in a half-hitch knot and stuffed into the head.  Don’t stuff it into the hose, or water pressure pushing on it could move it.  By stuffing it into the head and making sure it’s firmly planted, added water pressure will only serve to keep it in place.  Paracord is a nice material because it’s easy to remove (no permanent clogging) and it’s synthetic so it won’t rot.  It’ doesn’t need to be 100% sealed – reducing the flow to a dribble is good enough for my purposes.

By clogging my extra shower head with paracord, I'm able to create a shower where I can turn water flow off, and the water temperature will be just right when I turn it back on a few minutes later.

By clogging my extra shower head with paracord, I'm able to create a shower where I can turn water flow off, and the water temperature will be just right when I turn it back on a few minutes later.

Keep in mind that the longer you do this, the cooler the hot water in the pipes will be when you turn it back on.  But I just need it “paused” for a couple of minutes at a time, so it’s perfect.  This should turn a shower with 10-15 minutes of water usage into a shower with less than 5 minutes of running water.

I’m also going to try another change in bathroom water habits – not waiting so long for hot water.  I’m guessing that by waiting for shower/shaving water to be just “acceptable” instead of perfect, I can cut the wait/waste in half.

Gas Usage in a Survival Situation

July 20, 2009

Last week my parents decided to get rid of their old-fashioned 35″ HDTV CRT (non-flat screen) in favor of a larger flat screen they can wall mount.  We got the call that if I was willing to drive up to Nebraska for it, it was ours.  Woe is the day when a cutting-edge web developer like me is accepting technology hand-me-downs from his parents.  I drove the Mustang, which was kind of stupid for how big the TV actually is.  I literally had to unbolt the passenger seat to fit the TV in the back, then rebolt the seat for the trip back down to Kansas City.

On the trip back, I decided to make the most of the 180 miles by doing some “survival” driving.  Lately, I’ve gotten better and better at asking “what if?” in any given situation, like so:

  • What if my car broke down somewhere remote?  What could I use from the car itself to aid in survival?
  • What if someone tries to break into my car and steal the TV while I’m in the coffee shop?  What reflective surfaces can I use to keep the car in sight?
  • What if disaster struck, and we had a long way to drive with no guarantees we’d be able to refuel along the way?  How would we stretch our fuel usage?

I previously tackled part of this problem in my post about long term gasoline storage, where I recommend keeping your vehicles’ gas tanks topped off so you always have gas to siphon when needed.  But what about conserving gas as you’re using it?  This brings me back to that 180 mile drive.  I decided to see just how much I could improve my mileage if I was creative about it.

I decided to go as close to 60mph as possible the whole drive down, with a couple exceptions.  First, never drive more than 5mph under the speed limit unless I’m behind a slower car so it’s “their fault”.  Second, I would attempt to politely tailgate a semi whenever possible, and I’d be willing to go as fast as 70mph if it meant keeping up.

Drafting behind a semi requires a lot of concentration, and tact.  You don’t want to piss off the truck driver by tailgating, and you don’t want to get so far back that you’re not getting any benefit.  Let’s just say, on this particular day, I had more concentration than tact.  The first truck I drafted, I tried to stay out of site by trailing close enough that he couldn’t see me through the side view mirrors.  It’s not that hard, because there’s a long blind spot behind large trucks.

Sadly, around every curve I was out of the blind spot, and the driver got pissed.  I didn’t realize this at first, but he was bothered enough to take an offramp, and immediately get back on the interstate just to lose me.   Of course, he caught up to me right away because I had to slow down (no drafting).  This time, I just let him drive by, and didn’t tail him.  I’d obviously pissed him off, and that wasn’t my intention.

My next attempt, I stayed back a little further.  I figured some drafting benefit is better than none, and a happy trucker is better than one that wants to run me over.  This went better.  I didn’t have driver issues.

I’d topped off my tank right before the drive, so when I got into town I found a gas station and topped off my tank again.  Doing the math between the number of gallons I’d pumped and the trip odometer, I was able to figure out that I’d gotten 37mpg!  That’s insane in any Mustang, even my 6-cylinder.  My normal interstate mileage is 27mpg.  That was a 37% improvement using slower driving and drafting, and I even had a 200 pound TV in the back seat.

Especially after doing it myself, I do NOT recommend tailgating a trucker.  Not all of those guys would be as nice as my angry trucker was.  I could have gotten beat up at a rest stop, or possibly even pulled over if he’d radio’d a state trooper.  But I think you still get a good benefit from finding a slower-driving semi truck and following as close as safety and courtesy allow.

Our van gets about 25 mpg on the interstate, and has a 25 gallon tank.  That means normally, we’d have a range of about 600 miles.  If survival driving can increase that by 10%, and we have just 10 extra gallons that we siphoned from the Mustang, the family van would have a range of over 1,000 miles.  I’m sure we’d be more weighed down with supplies as well, but it’s still promising.

Concealed Carry in as Many States as Possible

July 17, 2009

I went back to the shooting range yesterday with a friend, for more target practice.  Going every week got expensive, so it had been a couple weeks and I was practically going through withdrawal!  When my friend asked about going, I jumped at the chance.

After shooting, I got to thinking about my plans to get a CCL (concealed carry license).  They’re on hold because I’m trying to pace my survival spending.  Other things like food, water, and survival books will prove a much better investment should disaster strike sooner, rather than later.  However, it is a high priority for me simply because the process takes so long.  I might have a month-long wait to take the class, then up to 60 days for the permit itself to be issued.  If I ever want or need it, I doubt I’ll have 90 days advance notice.

As a Kansas resident, my concealed carry permit will allow me to carry a concealed handgun in 23 states.  That’s pretty good, almost half the country.  It’s because a lot of states have reciprocal concealed carry agreements, honoring each other’s licenses.  To me, this is smart.  If you trust that another state has done the due diligence to verify a person’s CCL-worthiness, it saves time and money.

Sadly, my home state of Nebraska doesn’t see it that way, which makes it the only neighboring state that doesn’t recognize a Kansas concealed carry permit.  They will also only issue a CCL to residents, so the only way to legally carry a concealed weapon in Nebraska is to live there and get the permit.  Nebraska is the state I travel to most, since my family lives there.

But that did get me thinking.  I’d read in Neil Strauss’ Emergency that he got his permit in Arizona, even though he was a California resident.  I found that a number of states will issue permits to nonresidents.  By combining the right permits, I could potentially gain a lot more ground!  I was right.  Getting a Texas concealed carry permit (where I also have family, and occasionally visit) would add nine states to my list.  If I chose Arizona instead of Texas, I’d have to make a special trip but it would give me all the Texas states plus three more.

All of the green states recognize a Kansas concealed carry permit.

All of the green states recognize a Kansas concealed carry permit.

The yellow states are what I would gain by getting a Texas concealed carry permit in addition to my Kansas CCL.

The yellow states are what I would gain by getting a Texas concealed carry permit in addition to my Kansas CCL.

The red states are the ones I'd add by getting an Arizona concealed carry permit as my second permit, instead of a Texas CCL.

The red states are the ones I'd add by getting an Arizona concealed carry permit as my second permit, instead of a Texas CCL.

As you can see, I have the ability to add a dozen states to my concealed carry list just by qualifying in one extra state.  This is almost three quarters of the country, and most of the non-participating states are in New England which is small, and unpleasant for conservatives like me anyway.

If you would like to play around with your concealed carry options, the best place is USA Carry’s Reciprocity Maps which use flash to generate a map of your options with just a couple clicks.

Gasoline Storage and Usage in Survival Situations

July 16, 2009

I’ve been thinking about getting a generator as part of my disaster preparation.  I’ve also thought about the fact that gas would be in short supply, and we might have to drive a long distance to safety.  I started looking up how to store gasoline long term.  I’m concerned about things like vapors, and the possibility of spillage.  I know there are additives to keep the gasoline stabilized for long term storage, so that part is easy.

I’m going to do more research, but in the meantime I’ve found an excellent way to store extra gasoline long term.  There’s virtually no risk of spillage, no vapor issues, and no additives required.

Most families (and many singles) have more than one vehicle.  We have a minivan to fit the whole family, and a car.  In the event we’d need to evacuate our home, we’d only take the minivan.  The solution is simple – always keep both vehicles topped off with gasoline!  It’s the safest way to store 14 extra gallons of gasoline, and if we need to evacuate we can siphon it out of the car to take with us.   In the meantime, it stays fresh (constantly cycled) and stored in the safest, most spillproof way.

I think a good plan would be to top off the tank once a week, or whenever you hit 3/4 tank.  Try to shoot for the same day(s) of the week, to make it a convenient, regular habit.  I’ll still have to buy containers, but they can stay empty until needed.

I welcome any thoughts on this idea.  I didn’t read it anywhere, even though I’m sure it’s probably well-known to many.  So if there’s a way to improve on this idea, please leave a comment.

Survival Supplies: Water Storage and Purification

July 10, 2009

In any survival or disaster situation clean, drinkable water is one of the most important commodities.  It’s not necessarily the most immediate concern.  Depending on the climate, the lack of a warm fire might kill you before you even get thirsty.  But I think water should be the absolute top priority in any disaster survival plan.

With a little know-how, fire and shelter can be improvised almost anywhere, with any number of materials. Water, on the other hand, is one of the hardest things to obtain when you need it, and one of the easiest things to prepare for in advance.  One hour after reading this article, for under $50, you can have a month’s worth of safe drinking water ready to go.  This is the top survival priority because it’s the only one you can master today.

We often forget water’s value because it’s piped right into our homes, purified and dirt cheap.  You can even filter tap water further, or buy it distilled at any grocery store, for pennies a gallon.  The real trick is storing it, and single gallon jugs are not the way to go.  There are three good qualities in a water storage container:

  • Keeps your water as close as possible to its original condition when you stored it.
  • Fits the most water into the smallest space for easy storage and transport.
  • Quick to load in case you need to leave your home suddenly.

Single gallon jugs don’t have any of these.  They’re meant to be disposable, so their thin material absorbs impurities from the environment.  Their odd shape and small capacity take up too much space.  And in an emergency, you’ll have to move them one gallon at a time.  They’re not very stackable, either, so even if you have time to load them, you probably won’t have room.

The game becomes getting the amount of storage you need that fits the requirements above, as cheaply as possible.  I think about it in terms of cost per gallon.  You can buy 30+ gallon drums, but they’re surprisingly costly, and you will never be able to load it into a vehicle.  I found the best solution is a cube-ish container holding 8 gallons or less.  Water weighs 8 pounds per gallon, so anything more is impossible to lift without extra tools.

So without further ado, I give you the best options I’ve found:

This six gallon container isn't very stackable, but it's easy to carry.

This six gallon container isn't very stackable, but it's easy to carry.

This container is a pain in the ass to carry, but you can't beat the cube shape and stackability.

This container is a pain in the ass to carry, but you can't beat the cube shape and stackability.

While I’m not a big fan of Wal-Mart, these are the same high-quality water containers you can get at sporting goods stores like Bass Pro Shop and Cabela’s, but much cheaper.  The first holds 6 gallons, weighing under 50 pounds when full.  The slim form makes it easy to carry one in each hand if you can.  It’s also easier to carry if the larger container’s extra 8 pounds of water is too daunting.  It’s $10 at Wal-Mart.

The blue container, Reliance’s Aqua-Tainer 7 gallon water container, is my favorite.  At $11 (Wal-Mart price, other places are $18) it’s slightly cheaper per gallon, and it’s stackable.  The cube shape also makes them easier to fit in car trunks, the back of the van, wherever.  They’re stackable, and I have a reasonably flat surface to stack other supplies on top of them.

Wal-Mart is cheapest, but their inventory is potluck. Bass Pro Shop costs more, but you can buy all you need at once. If you shop at Wal-Mart already, I recommend picking up what they have available whenever you go, until you have enough.  They can be found with camping gear, which can be found in sporting goods all year, and also near the front of the store during summer months.

For around $50, you can buy enough of either container to supply one person with water for a month – one gallon per day.  For a few more bucks, you can refill those containers with water from a lake or stream, and purify them.  Here’s how:

  1. Buy Regular Clorox Bleach. I can’t stress this enough, do NOT get any fancier type, they have detergents and chemicals that make them unsafe to drink.
  2. Filter questionable water through whatever you have handy – coffee filters or clean clothing work well.
  3. Add 8 drops of bleach per gallon of water, and let it stand for 30 minutes to kill any bacteria the water may have.
  4. If you smell a slight chlorine scent, like a pool, it’s working.  If not, add another 8 drops per gallon, and wait another 30 minutes.

Plain bleach (Clorox is the only brand I’m sure of) is perfectly safe to consume in these doses, and a much better option than drinking questionable water.  One note, a better option than bleach is to boil water, but I’d rather have the bleach on hand just in case boiling isn’t an option.  For a few bucks, why wouldn’t you?

This is enough water for my large family, for five days.

This is enough water for my large family, for five days.

Due to the money I’ve spent on other survival endeavors (the gun being the most costly) I plan to gradually build up my water stores.  I have a large family to provide for, so these containers are only enough for a five day supply.  The government recommends a 3-day supply for emergencies, but I’ d like to build up to at least a couple weeks worth.  I imagine that during a disaster, the containers themselves will be a hot commodity, and I can trade some for other survival supplies, if needed.

Screw it, on my next pay check I’ll probably spend the $100 to round out my water supply.  It really is the cheapest and easiest of survival measures.

Survivalist 550 Paracord (Parachute Cord) Braided Belt

July 8, 2009
Survivalist 550 mil spec paracord braided belt

Survivalist 550 mil spec paracord braided belt

UPDATE: Please read about my new and improved paracord survival belt!

I know what you’re thinking, and it goes a little something like this:

“How can I combine my survival skills, fashion sense, and need to hold up my pants into one beautiful, functional work of art?”

The answer, my friend, is the survivalist belt.  It’s braided out of 550 mil-spec paracord.  That’s parachute cord, to the layman.  It’s worth explaining the value of paracord itself before we continue.

Government-approved parachute cord is one of the cheapest, strongest, and most genius ropes out there.  Weighing about half a pound per 100 feet and measuring just a quarter inch thick, this heavy duty nylon cord is strong, resists mold, and is easy to carry anywhere.  You can buy 100 feet for $7-10.

The key to 550 parachute cord’s strength is its construction.  The core is made of 14 strands of nylon, paired off and twisted to form 7 strands which each have a strength rating of over 35 pounds.  They are covered in a nylon sheath that makes the cord smooth, and adds to the overall strength.

The survival uses for paracord are many.  You can use the rope to build strong shelter, traps, suspend supplies above ground, and make repairs.  You can even separate the paracord into its individual strands for sewing, stiches, or fishing line.  Next to a quality knife, this is one of the best survival tools.

A survivalist belt braided from 550 paracord is a great way to carry about 60 feet of this wonder cord with you everywhere.  I made one last night in a couple hours while I caught up on some television.  This was my first attempt, so I’m sure I’ll get faster.  And after trying it on, nobody would know it wasn’t made in a factory somewhere in China.  It also happens to be the most comfortable belt I’ve ever worn.  Parachute cord is soft, with just a little bit of stretchiness.

The knots for a paracord belt are simple to start.  Just fold the strands in half and loop them through the buckle.

The knots for a paracord belt are simple to start. Just fold the strands in half and loop them through the buckle.

I started with a 100-foot hank of paracord, an old belt buckle, a knife, a lighter, and electrical tape.  I used the knife to cut five strands of paracord, each 14 feet in length.  The number of strands you can fit is limited by the size of your buckle, so only cut what you need.  That left me with about 30 feet of paracord to spare.  I used the lighter to singe and melt the freshly cut tips, so that they don’t fray.  A few seconds to melt the tips is all it takes.

Next, I folded each strand in half, and looped it through the buckle as shown in the picture to the left.  That gave me 10 strands to braid.  To start, twist the middle two strands, right over left.  Then you twist the two strands to the left, interweaving with the first two like a basket.  Do the same with the two strands to the right of the middle, interweaving with the already-twisted strands.  Repeat these steps for any remaining strands, working your way from the inside out.

There are much better instructions for doing this, including over a dozen pictures of the process.  I just didn’t want to duplicate effort by retyping and taking new pictures.  Once you’ve gotten all strands into the mix, you continue by simply braiding one side’s  outermost strand all the way to the middle, then doing the same with the outer strand on the other side.  Keep squishing the belt together and pulling the paracord strands tight with every braid, especially the inner two strands.

Using five 14-foot strands folded in half to make a 10-strand flat braid, I was able to end up with a belt just over five feet long.  I only trimmed about 4-6 inches from the end of each strand, so I have about 65 feet of survival paracord should I ever need it.  I’m a big guy, and I had belt to spare.  Thinner people may find themselves with too much belt, but paracord is cheap and you can always trim down, so start out big.

The tip of my survivalist paracord belt is just carefully wrapped electrical tape for now.

The tip of my survivalist paracord belt is just carefully wrapped electrical tape for now.

When I got to the end, I used electrical tape around the braid to keep it in place while I trimmed the tips and singed the ends with the lighter.  Not having anything else handy to use for the tip, I folded more tape over the exposed tips, then wrapped another layer around them for good measure.  I plan to hide that part of the belt when I wear it.  I’m sure it’ll be easy to find a better solution later.

The total cost of this project was $7 for the paracord at Cabela’s.  I had the other materials, including the buckle from an old belt.  It took a couple hours, but it’s easy to do during “lazy” time.  Try one for yourself, it’s fun!


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.