Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Rites of Passage for Your Sons: Rustic Camping

This past weekend, I took my two sons, ages nine and six, camping at a rustic campsite in California's Colorado Desert. Even though we spent three years traveling the United States in an RV, we did very little rustic camping. Taking them out to the wilderness in the middle of BFE was the perfect rationale to introduce them to a host of "man skills."

[Interested in traveling or living in an RV with young children? Check out my book "Must Have Been Another Earthquake, Kids"]

A major motivator for the trip was to begin creating rites of passage than my sons could experience as they approach puberty. Our society has mostly abandoned the idea of rites of passage, which results in a sort of perpetual childhood/ adolescence that seemingly lasts until men reach their med-thirties. We love our children, but we don't want them to be helpless freeloaders for decades.

This is the surrounding area:

Looking out over nothingness


Our "campsite" from afar


Once there, we did typical rustic camping shit. We set up the tent, scavenged some random materials to make a stove, built a fire, cooked lunch and dinner, did a little hiking, and busted out the BB gun.

Learning the art of fire maintenance



Sunrise in the desert



Southpaw marksman in the making



Boulder parkour?

The trip was a resounding success despite the cold and rock-hard ground (forgot any sort of padding.) My long-term goal is to continue trips like this and use them as an opportunity to teach as many "man skills" as I can teach the boys.

Eventually, for the actual rite of passage, I'll devise a series of tests that will reflect the skills I'm teaching them. 

What about you? Did your father have any rites of passage you experienced? Do you do anything like this for your own sons?

Leave a comment!


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Monday, January 11, 2016

Man Skills: Homemade Box Fan Beef Jerky

In the past, I've made beef jerky in the oven. It's pretty simple, cheap, and efficient. My recent interest in disaster preparedness brought me to a trick used by The Food Network's Alton Brown (one of my favorite celebs on the network.) He used a box fan in place of a food dehydrator. This was significant because it was done at room temperature... which could be invaluable in the event the electricity goes out for an extended period of time.

Back in the day growing up in rural Northern Michigan, extended power outages were almost always the result of ice or snow storms. Refrigeration was as simple as rounding up a few coolers and filling them with snow. Keeping things warm was an infinitely more difficult challenge than keeping things cold.

Here in San Diego, we have the opposite problem. In the electricity cut out for an extended period of time, everything we have in our freezer would eventually spoil if we couldn't eat it fast enough. Having the ability to preserve any meats we were storing in the freezer would be invaluable, especially methods that do not require electricity. All of the methods below work by removing moisture, which inhibits the growth of pathogens. Some methods utilize chemicals to further inhibit growth. Here are a few fairly easy options:

1. Canning. This would be my preferred method because the meats would last for a very long time... but I currently do not own a pressure canner. And it would require a heat source that would last for the time needed to process the jars of stored meat.
2. Salt curing. This method involves either plastering a salty mixture over the meat or submersing the meat in a salty brine for a period of time. It's a good technique to know, but I was to impatient to try. That'll be an experiment for another day.
3. Smoking. I'd love to be able to hard smoke the meat, which is using a smoker to cook it at a temp higher than about 160° F. The problem with smoking? I live in an apartment with no exclusive-use outdoor area. If I smoked meats, I'd subject all of my neighbors to the smoke in one of our common areas.
4. Dehydrating. That leaves dehydrating. This process is handy because it can be done at room temperature. All you need is airflow. Low humidity and heat help, which we have an abundance of between March and November. Dehydrated meat can last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months depending on moisture content and storage method, so it would be an ideal method to process once-frozen meats.

My Process


This is the process I used:

Required gear:

  • A box fan.
  • Some sort of tray that will allow air to pass. I used cheap, disposable wire grill racks from Walmart. Alton used cotton-based air filters for home furnaces.
  • Marinade. I made my own out of about a half cup of soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce, a tablespoon of honey, and red pepper flakes, and a teaspoon of onion powder, pepper, and liquid smoke. According to Alton, the soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, honey, and pepper each act to prevent the growth of specific microorganisms.
  • Lean meat. I used about two pounds of flank steak.
Step one - Freeze the meat for about 30-60 minutes. This makes the slicing step far easier. This is the chunk I used:



Step two - Mix the marinade in a large bowl.

Step three - slice the meat in 1/8th inch strips going WITH the grain of the meat. 

Step four - Marinade the meat in the refrigerator overnight. If I did not have electricity, I would marinade in a plastic bag for an hour or so and just leave it in the coolest, darkest place I could find.



Step five - Set the box fan up like a table with the airflow blowing upward. Place something underneath the fan to allow for air to circulate. I used cans of beans. Spread the strips of meat over the drying racks, then place the racks on the fan. Turn the fan on high.



Step six - About every three hours, flip the pieces. This speeds the drying process.

Step seven - The amount of time required to reach the desired state of dryness varies based on the humidity, airflow, and thickness of the meat. I consider it "done" when I bend it and can see the fibers separating from each other. The general rule of thumb - the drier it is, the longer it will remain preserved.

Step eight - This step is "optional" in that I probably wouldn't use it in a disaster situation, but will for this test batch. I pre-heat the oven to 350° and bake the jerky for about six minutes on the same racks. The purpose is to raise the internal temp of the jerky pieces to 160° to kill any remaining microorganisms. 

The finished product:



Storage


Air and moisture are the enemy. Allow the jerky to cool then place it in a breathable container, then store somewhere cool and as dry as possible. Avoid closed containers that will trap moisture unless something is used to absorb any moisture released from the jerky. Remember, the goal was to remove as much moisture as possible. If the jerky gets moist for any reason, it will quickly spoil or require immediate re-drying. 



Vacuum-sealing would be the best option, but I don't currently own a vacuum sealer. Dry canning is the next best option. Heat the oven to 350°. Place an open mason jar, the lid, and the sealing ring in the oven for 10 minutes. After the 10 minutes, take the jar out, place the jerky in the jar, then immediately close it. As it cools, it'll create an airtight seal. I'll do this with half of my jerky.



For the other half I'll be eating sooner, I just keep it in a sealed Tupperware container lined with paper towel in the refrigerator. It prevents airflow while still absorbing moisture. 

But Wait...


I bet you're wondering why I was using a box fan when the purpose was to test methods that didn't require electricity. Normally I would use an alternative method, but it's winter here in San Diego. That means our normal hot, dry weather is replaced by pleasant 65° days with occasional rain. The natural environment doesn't produce enough wind or heat to dry the jerky before the microorganisms start to grow to dangerous levels. 

If it were warmer, I would use a simple outdoor solar chimney to create the air flow. A solar chimney is really just a closed box or tube that creates airflow based on the idea that hot air rises. I make mine with taller, skinny cardboard boxes. Paint the outside black (I use kids tempera paint like they use in elementary schools.) Cut a large hole in the top and another hole on one of the sides at the very bottom. Devise some sort of way to support the racks inside the box. If there are a lot of flies or other bugs in the area, I'd cover the vents with a small piece of window screen.

When you place the solar chimney in the sun, it heats the air inside. That causes the heated air to escape the top while drawing in cool air from the bottom vent. Tada! Airflow. 

The volume of air isn't going to be as high as what I can achieve with a box fan, but the heat and lower relative humidity of the warmer months makes up for the difference. 


Conclusion



The ability to make beef jerky without an oven or a food dehydrator, while not the easiest way to preserve meat, is a nice skill to develop. Once you do it a few times, you start to get a feel for the art of dehydrating. Specifically, you learn how and why the meat responds to various methods, which allows you to become more proficient. It doesn't take much practice to be able to transfer these skills to a campfire scenario, which would be invaluable for long-term wilderness survival. 

I suspect at least a few of my regular readers are ell-versed in jerky-making. If you have any helpful tips, leave a comment!

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Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Disaster Preparedness Part Four: What About Da Gunz?

In the first three parts of this series, I covered the likely disasters we face in Southern California, then discussed the gear and supplies I prepared, and finally the skills that would be needed in the event of a disaster. In this post, I'll discuss the issue of weapons in general and guns in particular.

This is a bit of a contentious issue among the general population as evident by the controversy surrounding Barack Obama's recent executive orders regarding gun control.


Anyway, among the disaster preparedness crowd, however, guns are often viewed as necessary for hunting and protection. Where I grew up (rural Northern Michigan), guns were just part of life. Almost everyone hunted, though a very small number of people owned guns for sport shooting or were collectors. People rarely owned guns for personal protection, but they were available if needed. They were viewed as useful tools.

Are they really necessary for disaster preparedness, though? Let's explore the pros and cons.

The Advantages of Guns



  • Guns ARE a great tool for personal protection, especially when defending your house against home invaders. If there was a disaster that resulted in a shortage of food, water, and medicine, looting would be an inevitability. Guns shouldn't be the first line of defense against looters, but would certainly be useful.
  • Guns make hunting far easier. I spent my entire youth hunting a wide variety of game with an equally wide variety of weapons. Guns are definitely a huge advantage because they allow you to kill game from a distance. That's useful in almost any environment, especially the mountains, desert, and urban areas (you know, for hunting stray/ abandoned pets) in and around San Diego. 
  • Guns can be a powerful deterrent. If other people are up to no good but know you're armed, odds are good they'll leave you alone in favor of an easier target. 
  • Guns can serve other useful purposes. The loud report can be used as a signal. If the gun has a scope, it can be used to start fires. Same deal with the smokeless powder in the shells and cartridges. If the bullets aren't jacketed, they can be used as writing implements. In a pinch, a gun can be used as a club. 


The Disadvantage of Guns



  • They can be dangerous. This is especially true for people that do not have a lot of gun safety training. I routinely see idiots making fundamental mistakes with gun handling, including not keeping it locked up, not treating it like it was loaded, not checking the breech to see if it's loaded, keeping their finger on the trigger, etc. 
  • They're usually expensive. Good guns are not cheap. Being well-prepared for a multitude of disaster scenarios would likely require multiple guns and ammunition, which could easily cost thousands of dollars. If you're on a tight budget, there would be quite a few higher priorities.  
  • They require practice to become proficient. Shooting isn't something you can do a few times and expect to see good results, especially if the gun is used in any sort of real-world situation.
  • They announce your presence. Guns are loud and the muzzle flash can be seen from considerable distance. In some cases this may be a good thing, but most of the time would be bad news. Contrary to Hollywood's portrayal, "silencers" don't actually silence firearms all that much.
  • They take up space. This is probably more of an issue if you're on foot, but still a consideration. Most guns weigh between five and ten pounds, plus ammunition. If you're hiking fifty miles, that's a lot of additional weight to lug around.
  • They can be fragile. Most guns are fairly delicate and require routine cleaning and other maintenance. In a disaster scenario where there could be flooding a debris everywhere, this could be an issue. 
  • You have to be willing to actually use it. While a survival scenario has a tendency to motivate people to do things they may not otherwise be willing to do, using a gun for hunting or personal protection requires you to be willing to take a life AND face the legal, moral, social, and psychological consequences of that decision. 


My Approach


When I weigh the pros and cons, the pros always win out. All of the cons can be negated or minimized with planning and preparation, and guns dramatically simplify and expedite food procurement. The type of guns chosen for disaster preparedness go a long way towards shifting the decision in favor of adding guns to the disaster preparedness plan. Specifically, these are the guns I would choose, along with the rationale. The list starts with the highest priority and progresses to the lowest priority.

  • Gun #1: 20 gauge pump - This is my jack-of-all-trades gun. It can be used for small game and birds (with bird shot), personal protection (buck shot), and taking larger game (slugs.) It's light, the disbursed shot doesn't require precise aim, it's fairly simple and easy to maintain, and is easier to shoot for women and children (compared to the larger, more popular 12 gauge.) The shells are cheap and fairly easy to reload. 
  • Gun #2: .25 caliber air rifle - Surprised, right? I love pellet guns. The primary advantage is silence. Most only make a tiny fraction of the noise of a gun, and the larger .25 caliber pellets, with practice, can be used to kill animals as large as coyotes. The Benjamin Marauder would be my choice here.
  • Gun #3: .22 caliber rifle w/scope - A .22 bolt action can usually fire any of the .22 cartridges, including the .22 LR (which is cheap and plentiful) and the .22 magnum (which can be used to take large game... and don't ask how I know that.)
  • Gun #4: One of the Glock pistols - A pistol isn't a higher priority because they're primarily used for personal protection. I just don't see a high probability of a scenario going down that would require a weapon that could be concealed. Having said that, one of the Glocks would be my first choice. They're reliable, easy to maintain, and it's pretty easy to change barrels on the various models to accommodate different calibers. If situations changed where the likelihood of having to escape the area on foot increased, the portability of a pistol would make this the #2 priority.
  • Gun #5: A .30-06 or .308 bolt action hunting rifle w/ scope: Now we're getting into excessive firepower, but hey, why not? If I were spending any time in the wilderness hunting large game (like mountain goats), I'd want something with far more range than the 20 gauge and far more stopping power than the .22. In the ridiculously unlikely scenario of the U.S. being invaded, it would double as a decently capable longer-range anti-personnel weapon.
  • Gun #6: A .22/ .410 over/under -  This would actually be my choice as a first gun for kids. It combines the longer-range precision of a .22 with the disbursed shot of the mild .410 shotgun. 
The list could go on, but really, a large cache would be unnecessary. More guns would take up valuable space, would be excessively expensive, and, if others know about the small armory, would potentially make us a target if shit got really bad. Few looters would risk their lives to steal a few cans of green beans and Spam, but they might risk their lives for enough guns and ammo.



Guns I Would Personally Avoid


Based on my assessment of the possible disasters we could face, there are a few commonly-hoarded guns I would avoid. 

  • Anti-personnel gun (AR-15/ AK-47 and their derivatives) - While fun to build and shoot and a favorite among preppers, these particular guns don't offer enough significant advantages to offset their high price and relatively complex mechanisms. 
  • 12 gauge shotgun - I love 12 gauges, and they DO offer more versatility than a 20 gauge, but the mule-like kick tends to make them a poor choice for kids and weak women. 
  • An easy-to-conceal small pistol - The logic for this gun usually revolves around the idea that you'll be in a situation where you don't want people to know you're armed. I just don't see a likely scenario where that would happen. 
There you have it - my thoughts on guns in relations to disaster preparedness. This list is specifically developed based on the particulars of my situation. As such, your mileage may vary. I am interested in hearing other opinions, though. Share them in the comments section!


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Saturday, January 2, 2016

Disaster Preparedness Part Three: Survival Skills

In the first part of this series, I explored the possible disasters we face here in San Diego. In the second installment, I discussed water, food, and gear. In this post, I'll talk about the skills we need to develop and maintain in order to survive the various disasters we may face. Like I did with developing the supply of water, food, and gear, we'll start with the simple skills and progress to the more complex.

The goal of the list to to create a curriculum of sorts. Given that I grew up in BFE and my dad was an experienced outdoorsman, I'm minimally proficient in almost every skill listed below, and very proficient in about half. The goal, then, is to learn what I do not know, hone the skills that are rusty, and teach the skills to my wife and kids. And it provides lots of family bonding time.

Here's the list!

The Really Simple Shit



  • Escape a house fire
  • Stop, drop, and roll - In the event you set yourself ablaze.
  • Build a fire with a lighter or matches
  • Swim
  • Know how to dress for various activities in various climates
  • Negotiate - Both negotiating prices and bartering.
  • Hide - This includes assessing whether or not to fight, run, or hide based on the situation.
  • Traverse terrain based on conditions - Specific to our geography, this includes urban areas, mountains, and desert.
  • Getting to predetermined meeting places - This is handy given we set up three meeting places depending on where we're located.
  • Situational awareness - Constantly observe the world around you; notice anomalies.
  • Understand basic hydration and nutrition needs - What does our bodies need to stay alive?
  • Drive a car
  • Rough knowledge of our geographic area

Intermediate


  • Assess situations, develop and execute plan of action - This is a step beyond simple situational awareness.
  • Prepare all the food in our stockpile
  • Basic first aid, CPR -This includes assessing injuries and conditions, such as dehydration, shock, hypothermia, poisoning, and heat stroke.
  • Read a road map
  • Foraging for food - This includes both urban environments and in the wilderness.
  • Find water
  • Purify water
  • Use a sling shot
  • Build a fire with a magnifying glass and a 9-volt battery and steel wool
  • Build a smoke signal
  • Use a signalling mirror
  • Setting up a safe campsite, including location
  • Build a simple survival shelter
  • Identify local edible and poisonous plants - Including my favorite for berries: "White and yellow, kill a fellow. Purple and blue, good for you. Red… could be good, could be dead." Also, know the universal edibility test.
  • Grow plants from seeds
  • Change a tire
  • Basic fighting - Enough to fight off an attacker in order to escape.
  • Make money without a job
  • Know Morse code
  • Mending clothing
  • Drive a manual transmission
  • Do basic automobile maintenance
  • Shit and wipe cleanly - For this, of course, I recommend Never Wipe Your Ass With a Squirrel. :-)
  • Fishing, including spearing
  • Basics of reading body language
  • Open cans without a can opener
  • Sharpen a knife
  • Climb a tree
  • Siphoning liquids


    Advanced


    • Use a compass, map, and topographical map to navigate on foot
    • Basic gun safety, shooting
    • Build a solar still
    • Collect water from dew and plants (using a sponge or a transpiration setup)
    • Build a fire with at least two primitive methods
    • Basic car diagnosis and repair
    • Jump start a car
    • Advanced fighting
    • Build and use a solar oven
    • Make a split-tip spear from a branch
    • Trap fish and game
    • Read and predict weather
    • Preserve food via canning drying



    Expert


    • Gun cleaning and maintenance
    • Cleaning and butchering game
    • Making clothing
    • Track animals
    • Making primitive tools and weapons
    • Fermenting alcohol
    • Pick a lock
    • Re-establish society


    Conclusion


    This list is a work in progress. Once we start testing our plans, we may identify weaknesses or other problems that require new skills. If all five members of my family become proficient in all these skills, we'll be an in excellent position to survive and thrive in any disaster situation.

    In the next post, I'll discuss security and the contentious gun issue.


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    Friday, January 1, 2016

    Disaster Preparedness Part Two: Food, Water, and Gear

    In the first post in this series, I talked about the antecedents to disaster preparedness in San Diego including characteristics of the area and the most probable disasters we face here. In this post, I'll talk about the actual process of gathering the gear and supplies needed to survive in the event of a short-term disaster. 

    The general idea behind my plan is to tackle the lowest-hanging fruit first. And work on my tendency to used mixed metaphors. Or similes. Or whatever the fuck you call them. Anyway, I'll start with all the stuff that requires little effort, is free, or both. This includes things like checking smoke alarms, making sure all window and door locks work, and starting to stockpile water. We'll start by thinking short-term, then fill out the plan over time to prepare for longer and longer disasters.

    The first part of the plan is to prepare for three days of zero outside support. What would we need to survive on our own for those 72 hours? Three days is a pretty short time. Honestly, given the weather in San Diego, it would be totally possible to survive most situations with a few bottles of water and a blanket in the winter. The goal, though, is to create a foundation of gear and supplies that would be increasingly more valuable if the impact of the disaster lasts more than 72 hours. Let's get started!

    Water


    As I mentioned in the last post, San Diego's water supply is uncomfortably fragile. Given that few people actually stockpile water and it only takes 2-3 days for people to die of dehydration, a disruption that lasts more than a few days would create an exceedingly unpleasant situation. Stores would sell out quickly and the vast majority of the population would be really desperate, especially in the heat of summer. Desperate people to scary stuff. 

    The general rule of thumb is to plan one gallon per person per day. If you're active, that number should be doubled. For my family of five, that would mean five gallons per day. For all my initial planning, I assume I'd need supplies for three days. Once I get those supplies procured, then I plan for longer time frames. Water is the exception. I want a seven day supply on-hand from the onset, so I need to stockpile 35 gallons of water. I store this water in a variety of places in a lot of smaller containers both for convenience and, depending on the disaster, helps assure at least some of the supply would survive. 

    This is exclusively for drinking purposes only. I also stockpile another ten to twenty gallons of water for cleaning purposes or flushing the toilets. I would normally stockpile more, but I have access to a large swimming pool and hot tub filled with non-potable water. If there was any sort of advance warning, like an impending storm, I would also fill our bathtub with water. 

    Since we live in a small apartment, I'll limit my water reserves to about seven days. In the event it was needed, I have the capability to use some solar stills to convert non-potable dirty water (from the pool, ocean, puddles... whatever) into clean drinking water. As long as it's not cloudy, I can produce five gallons per day even in the winter. 

    Food


    Stockpiling food is as straightforward as stockpiling water. I assume we need about 2,000 calories per day for a total of 10,000 for the family, then multiply that by the number of days. Since humans can live for two to four weeks without any food, having a huge stockpile in this early stage of disaster preparedness isn't necessary. I'll start with a three day supply consisting of shelf-stable foods that do not require cooking. Spam, tuna, canned veggies, canned fruit, jerky, trail mix, dried fruit, crackers, cereal, peanut butter, evaporated or powdered milk, chocolate, Tang, and instant coffee make up the vast majority of the supply. I also have white rice and dried beans in the stockpile, but both require cooking (if there was a power outage, I have the materials to build a solar oven.)


    All the Other Gear and Supplies


    Everything else is carefully chosen to help solve specific problems that may arise, to help procure and prepare food, water, or provide security or comfort. 
    • Lifestraw - This nifty water filter typically used by hikers was chosen because it is small, light, and pretty effective. Even though I have a stockpile of water and solar stills, water is a critical need that's absolutely necessary. Order one here
    • Topographical and road maps for the entire Southwest - In the event I do not have access to the Google Maps app on my phone, the maps come in handy. 
    • (3) Bic butane lighters - Disposable butane lighters are handy because they're waterproof, cheap, and reliable. It's far easier starting a fire with one of these than a primitive method.
    • Bbox strike-on-anything matches - You can never have enough methods to start fires. I would also recommend waterproofing the matches. Here are two excellent methods
    • Basic first aid kit - This simple kit includes things like band-aids, gauze, Neosporin, OTC pain relievers, anti-itch cream, burn treatment, etc. 
    • (5) plastic spoons, forks, and knives - So we don't have to eat with our hands... until all the plasticware is broken, of course.
    • Steel wool - Can be used for cleaning or starting a fire with a 9 volt battery. Instructions can be found here
    • Bottle water purification tabs - Again, water's important. 
    • Roll paper towel
    • (12) rolls of toilet paper 
    • (6) cans Sterno - It's not ideal for cooking, but it's cheap, stable, and easy to transport if needed.
    • Bottle rubbing alcohol - Can be used to disinfect and can be used as a fire-starter. If you happen to have the materials, you can even make a small alcohol stove
    • Can opener - It's not necessary, but a nice convenience. Here are some more labor-intensive alternatives if you don't have access to one.
    • Bar of soap
    • Small bottle of dish soap
    • Fishing line, sinkers, hooks 
    • Emergency radio - I like this particular model. It can run on batteries, solar power, and crank, or can be attached to external power, and it can even be used to charge your phone.
    • Set extra shoe laces
    • 100 feet of paratrooper cord - Paracord is handy shit. If you like spending cash, these premade "survival" bracelets can be fun additions to your supplies. 
    • Adjustable wrench
    • Vice grips
    • Crowbar
    • Hammer
    • Multipurpose tool - I recommend the Leatherman Wave.
    • (3) glow sticks
    • (2) LED flashlights - I HIGHLY recommend the Fenix LD22
    • Rechargeable batteries, solar/crank charger - I haven't tested these enough to give specific recommendations. The goal is to have a method of charging batteries for the flashlights and other devices in the absence of electricity. 
    • (3) candles
    • Compass - As a backup to a real compass, download a compass app for your cell phone using the built-in magnetometer. . 
    • Sharpening stone
    • Whistle
    • Roll heavy-duty aluminum foil
    • Pack straight razor blades
    • Mechanical pencils, pens, Sharpie marker, and paper
    • Roll duct tape - Make sure it's high quality. I like the extra-sticky Duck brand. And it can be used for almost anything
    • Potassium iodide (anti-radiation) - Admittedly, this feels a tad excessive, but still a good precaution. Here's some useful reading from the CDC on the hows and whys of potassium iodide.
    • Extra contacts for all + solution
    • 10 coffee filters - These could be used for a cup of joe, or they can be used to filter all kinds of shit. 
    • Box large plastic storage bags - For storage, I prefer gallon size freezer bags from Ziplock.
    • Box black garbage bags - They can be used for garbage, making a solar still, sealing windows and doors, or as a really shitty shelter.
    • (5) toothbrushes and toothpaste
    • Close-able clothes pins
    • scrub brush
    • Small signal mirror - I recommend this one
    • Unscented bleach - When mixed with one part bleach and nine parts water, it can be used to disinfect. Mixed at a 1:16 ratio, it can be used as a quick and dirty water purifier.
    • (5) pairs of surgical gloves
    • (5) mylar space blankets - These gems have a ton of useful purposes.
    • (2) large sheets of plastic, one clear, one black
    • tarp
    • Playing cards - to combat boredom. For the adventurous, I recommend these
    • Box of wine
    • Wall and car phone chargers for any device you may be carrying 
    • Copy of all important documents - This includes birth, marriage, and death certificates, loan documents, pictures, passports, insurance papers, etc. When time allows, I like to make a hard copy and store it in a waterproof bag, and also burn PDFs of the documents on a DVD. 
    • ABC fire extinguisher - The "ABC" refers to the types of fires the extinguisher can be used to extinguish, and these cover all the bases. 
    • Dental floss - Waxed, unflavored, which can be used for a multitude of purposes.
    • Hand sanitizer - it can double as a fire-starter.
    • Q-tips
    • Tweezers
    • Small glass magnifying glass - can be used to start fires. Or fry ants.
    • Sun screen - SPF 50, waterproof. This is a biggie here in the Southwest.
    • Break-proof thermometer
    • Eye dropper - used to measure bleach
    • Tent - Keep them simple. 
    • Small pocket umbrella
    • Bolt cutters - Having the ability to cut through chain-link fences could be handy. This pair is small, cheap, and effective.
    • Sewing kit
    • Earth-colored and flat black spray paint - Sometimes you want to be as visible as possible. Other times? Not so much. 
    • Insect repellent
    • Bottle of multivitamins - I specifically choose my food supply to provide for all required vitamins and minerals, and malnutrition isn't likely going to be an issue over the course of three days, Still, this is something that will be handy if you don't have access to a diverse diet.
    • Sling shot - They're quiet, reliable, and can be used for defense and hunting. 
    • Pellet gun + 2,000 pellets - I would label this one as a low priority, but something useful to have on-hand if you have the resources. Pellet guns are quiet, accurate, and reliable. They can be used for hunting, and a .25 caliber can be used to take rodents, birds, and varmints. Note - faster muzzle velocity is NOT better. The Benjamin Marauder is an excellent choice. 
    • (2) headlamps + batteries - Hands-free lights are especially handy.
    • Pepper spray
    • Foam ear plugs
    • (5) wide-brimmed cotton hats - I prefer the military-style "boonie" hats.
    • Large sponge - Can be used to collect dew off plants and other surfaces in the morning.
    • Two-way radios - Having alternative communication devices is smart, and two-way radios are a good choice. I recommend these
    • Neodymium magnets - These tiny wonders have a million potential uses.

    Putting It All Together


    Back in Michigan, there would have been little reason to ever evacuate other than a house fire. Our duplex we were renting actually flooded once, but it only affected the basement. As such, there was no need to make sure all the gear and food was mobile. 

    San Diego is another story. Some of the possible disasters discussed in the previous article would require evacuation. In other cases, evacuation would be advisable, but not necessary. Because of this, we need to be able to keep the gear together in one place. I'm currently using a large duffle bag, but will soon upgrade to two backpacks for ease of carrying should it become necessary. The food is kept in a Rubbermaid storage container, which can double as a water receptacle. 

    The goal is to have all the gear and supplies ready so we could theoretically bail out in a matter of minutes. If we did have to evacuate, the earlier the better. As I mentioned in the previous article, the huge population, limited highways, and rugged mountains and desert make Southern California a potential evacuation nightmare. It requires me to consider the pros and cons of evacuating versus staying put, which would be determined by the nature of the disaster. 

    In the next post, I'll discuss the skills we need to develop to be adequately prepared to survive a disaster.

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