Archive for September, 2009

Large Pocket Sized Survival Pack

Large Pocket Sized Survival Pack

A lot of hoopla is made over readymade survival kits, and there are a lot of them sold every year. I’ve looked at plenty of them and find they are either too big to carry or incomplete. I solved my problem by getting a simple first aid kit for backpacking and added a few items to go along with it just in case the worst case scenario does rear its ugly head when I’m out someplace. I spend a bit of time out photographing wildlife and nature in general so I am always getting off the beaten path. One of these days I just may get a little too far off the path, and when I do I will be ready to survive.

So what do we need in an emergency survival kit? Plenty, but not much. You’d be surprised at what some survival experts claim are essential items. If you are truly prepared and have a survival mindset, most of these so called necessities are merely useless weight in your pack. But I have put together my own, based upon my own skills and needs. I normally carry a compass, canteen of water and food, so many of the big ticket items can be left out of the emergency pack in favor of more relevant emergency type items.

Portability is a main aspect of the emergency pack, so you want to make it as small as you can. This being the case, I purchased a readymade package of first aid supplies because containers that are empty cost almost as much as a kit does, and thus reduced some of the expense. The kit contained the following;

  • 1 howler whistle
  • 1 button compass
  • 10 antiseptic wound wipes
  • 12 1″X3″ bandages
  • 2 knuckle bandages
  • 1 extra large bandage
  • 3 butterfly bandages
  • 4 3″X3″ gauze dressings
  • 4 2″X2″ gauze dressings
  • ½” by 10 yards of medical tape
  • 1 2″ elastic bandage for sprains
  • 1 piece of moleskin
  • 1 pair tweezers
  • 2 triple antibiotic ointments
  • 2 After Bite© wipes
  • 4 Ibuprofen tablets
  • 2 Diphenhydramine tablets
  • 4 Acetaminophen tablets
  • 2 Aspirin tablets

This is a pretty good assortment for basic first aid supplies, and it came in a tough nylon zipper pouch. Of course, this is hardly a complete survival kit so I added some goodies to the bag including;

  • Folding knife
  • 4 squares of aluminum foil 12″X24″ (cooking)
  • 24 strike anywhere waterproofed matches (fire ignition)
  • 4 1 quart zipper lock bags (for water collection and storage)
  • Fishing and snare kit (These items all fit into a tin candy container)
    • Tin candy can (can also double as a cooking utensil and mirror)
    • I – 110 yard spool fishing line (can also be used to make snares)
    • 1 Dozen split shot sinkers
    • 1 dozen hooks
    • Package of Eagle Claw© Snell hooks on leaders.
  • 1 button cell LED headlamp

All told, this zips up into the Adventure Medical Kits© bag into a bundle about 5″X7″X3″ thick. There are some simple survival and first aid instructions that come with the store bought kit, but I would also suggest a copy of the pocket version of the Collins gem SAS survival guide(ISBN 0-00-718330-5) and a copy of the DK pocket first aid guide (ISBN 978-0-7894-9625-4) tucked into a zipper lock bag as well. If nothing else you’ll have some reading material for those long stretches until you get found. Oh, also make sure you pack a survival blanket and some high calorie food bars into your kit as well. You’ll be glad you did one cold and frosty night.

As an added tip, if you are planning on going out in weather that may be wet, or maybe in winter, this whole bundle can be slipped into a one gallon zipper lock bag that fits into a belt pack. It’ll keep dry and safe, as well as at hand at all times that way. If you are carrying a backpack put it at the top so that you’ll be able to get to it quicker. Also, keep an eye on the expiration dates for any medications your first aid pack has, as well as making sure your flashlight has good batteries. In cold weather, slip the flashlight inside your clothing to warm the batteries up. They’ll work better warm.

The biggest complaint I have with many of these companies that sell readymade kits is that it is difficult to obtain replacement medications at a reasonable cost. They can be found but it takes some doing, and I’ll address this issue at another time. I also have a smaller first aid packet for my camera bag for quick day trips, and a gear bag as well that I’ll also get into at some other time, until then, keep surviving the times!


It would be nice to believe that in a survival situation we’ll still be able to drive our cars around, and in short term emergencies, we still can. But if the ultimate meltdown occurs, where are you going to get gas? If the ultimate survival scenario does take place and society disintegrates into a series of fractured communities with no real government, the infrastructure goes away. Big business will no longer be able to operate, and your money will become useless, except to wipe certain parts of your anatomy. Or maybe to take note on. so how are you going to get around? Out choices are limited in this scenario. Country folk can have horses, and many do already. But they have the pastures and stables to care for our equine friends. It’s kind of difficult to look at how you can care for a horse if you live in a high rise.

And speaking of the high rise dwelling, your first plan when the melt down comes should be to get yourself gone from that environment. That’s the last place you want to be surviving in, if you even can.

Gasoline deliveries to the retailers will stop, partly because there will be no one to deliver the goods, but mostly because there will be no one to distill the oil that will no longer be pumped out of the ground into gasoline. The roadways will begin to deteriorate as there will no longer be any government highway crews to keep up the maintenance of the highway system. Your choices for the most part will be limited to foot-power, or the ultimate survival vehicle, the bicycle.

There are a lot of choices to be made when it comes to two wheeled vehicles, but as a guideline I would suggest that you get the best quality bicycle that you can buy with the money you have. Some bikes run into thousands of dollars, but you really don’t need to spend that kind of money, either. Remember that in the costs of your purchase you should budget for things like spare parts, tires and tubes, panniers and other equipment. With the right set up you could actually plan to survive for years as a biking nomad, if you really wanted to do that sort of thing. But don’t forget one important detail if that is your choice. That one thing is the fact that as we get older, we do not get any younger.

As to what brand, that choice is yours. Again, bear in mind that you needn’t spend several thousand dollars on a bicycle, unless you can afford to. I purchased one off the rack at a local chain store three years ago and it still works fine after changing out the factory parts with better quality ones from a bike shop. There are two major points you need to look at when buying a survival bicycle. Number one is the terrain you will be using it in, and number two, do you have a family to consider.

Basically, there are three types of bicycles that you can buy on the general market; street, off-road, and what I call the ride around the block bike. There are sub categories in each of these main types which will narrow your decision down to an even finer category. For touring bikes you have the higher quality touring set ups, the urban bike, and the racing bike. Off road bikes include the mountain bike and what some call a BMX bike. A BMX might be a blast to ride and you can pull some cool stunts with them, but they are useless over the long haul. The around the block bike should be avoided if you want a bike to last for years. These include the designer style bikes that look flashy and often come branded with some famous name attached to it somehow. They also include the kids bikes that are OK for kids riding around after school, but also will not hold up well.

For most purposes, if you will continue living in a populated area, you shouldn’t need a mountain bike at first. As the streets deteriorate you will find that the benefits of a mountain bike may come in handy though. The advantage of a good mountain bike is that the frame is usually stronger that the frame on a street bike, although for most brands on the mass market there seems to be little difference. The advantages of a street bike is that the suspension and braking system is much more comfortable and easier to use that with the mountain bike. A mountain bikes suspension is practically nonexistent, by the way, compared to a street bike. The best option is a bike that has a sturdy frame, but more comfortable suspension, tires and breaking system.

So here’s what I came up with for my own personal survival transport—

I bought a higher end mass market bicycle with what is called a street, or urban frame. It’s a heavy bike, but sturdy as all get out, and gets me to where I want to go. It takes a little more effort, but it was worth the cost, which was under two hundred dollars. I’ve been on several highway trips approaching 100 miles in length, and one a tad over one hundred miles, and I have owned the bike for three years now. I’ve had to replace the cassette (the big gear thingy on the back wheel) because some of the teeth wore off, but other than flat tires have had no further problems. I bought an aftermarket chain made of better construction and some off road tires for wet weather and rough road driving as well. I also replaced the bearing with better quality bearing sets as well.

The back sports a pannier rack and a pair of large panniers, and I have a detachable front pack with a map case on the lid. On the pannier rack I also have an expandable rack bag as well. I only wish that these packs had D-rings so I could more easily attach things like a tent and sleeping bag. I did learn that even though the sales-jerk said the pannier bags were waterproof, they aren’t. I learned all about packing in plastic after that soggy trip.

With a headlight and rear light I’m all set to go the distance on this jobby. Because of the frame weight, it’s a little heavier loaded than a regular touring bike would be, but I wanted a frame though would last for many years, just in case. To be on the safe side, and to remain in a prepared state, I would suggest you have on hand the following:

  • Extra chain
  • Chain link repair kit
  • Spare inner tubes
  • Tube patches and adhesive
  • Spare tire
  • Spare brake cable
  • Spare gear shift cable
  • Brake pads, at least two sets
  • A few extra spokes

This list is just for the long haul, and to be considered an emergency supply kit. You should also have the usual parts and pieces in your riding/tool bag such as;

  • One set brake pads
  • Chain links
  • Bicycle multi tool
  • Tire repair kit (spoons, patches, adhesive etc.)
  • Air pump
  • Lube and cleaner
  • Extra screws for all moveable parts (shifter, derailleur etc.)

This is a pretty simplistic overview, and perhaps sometime I’ll go into more detail on some different aspects. I know some purists will disagree with me, but I am looking at worst case scenarios here. Buying and preparing a bike for an extended camping trip is totally different than preparing for the end of transportation as we know it. If for some reason the refineries stopped working, the gas would stop being delivered to your local station, and then where would you be? Fancy summer highway bikes would have a hard time adapting to be ridden in a snowstorm, and a sturdy mountain bike would be quite uncomfortable for a three hundred mile highway ride. I am trying to suggest a compromise that will last for a long time, and require minimal repair work.

As usual, I suggest you take the time to learn all you can about the issue, and make the best choice you can for the money you have available to invest. In many countries people use a bicycle as a main means of transportation. Take a look at what they are pedaling around and you’ll see that most of the bicycles in use look very much like the arrangement I’ve suggested. If it works for them, why won’t it work for us as we survive the coming times?

Last time we talked about the commonly available tarps, and parachute cord. The simplest and quickest shelter is the A frame style tied to a couple of trees and staked down with some stakes made from branches.

Another easy type of shelter is the Adirondack lean-to. This one is the best if you will be using a fire for warmth. This one takes a bit more effort, but it can still be done quickly, and it has more advantages than the A frame. You’ll need to cut four poles, a shorter pair for the back and a longer pair for the front. The poles should be of equal lengths in each pair, and the tips should be trimmed to fit into the grommets on your tarp.

Start by staking down the back edge of your shelter with the stakes described in part one. You’ll want to make sure that this is the shorter dimension of the tarp. Insert the two shorter poles into a grommet on each side, about 1 3rd of the tarps length up the side. Tie a length of cord around the post above the tarp, or through the grommet and tie the other end off to a tree near ground level, or via a stake at about a 90 degree angle from the tarp. This will give you a back wall that is straight up and down. You’ll be needing an assistant for this type of shelter in most cases.

Take the other two poles and insert them through grommets about a 3rd of the way from the other end and tie these off the same way, except that your cords should be tied off at about a 45 degree angle towards the front of the shelter. At the front two corners you’ll need to tie cords directly to the grommets and stretch them tightly towards the front. This will give you a pitched roof for optimum rain runoff. You’ll be able to build a fire in front of this shelter, and the back wall and roof will radiate heat back and down onto you.

Of course, if all you want is a shade cover for a picnic lunch, than a simple dining fly set up is all you need. Simply tie off the four corners and suspend the tarp over your dining area. Unfortunately, if there is any dampness, it will collect on the trap and concentrate into the middle, making the tarp sag down under the increasing weight. To circumvent this problem, cut a tall pole and stick it under the center of the tarp. This will result in abrasion and possible tearing, but that can be alleviated as well. Wrap a rag or other soft cloth around the end of the pole and tie it in place. this makes for a big ball and won’t tear through the tarp.

Windbreaks can be made with the traps as well. The best way is to wrap the tarp partially around a couple of trees, and then tie the two ends of the tarp to each other. This makes for a good strong wall, but you can always tie the tarps off to other trees as well if there are not two trees close enough where you need them. One of the points you should keep in the back of your mind here is to make sure you tie off your tarp so that it is neither too tight nor too slack. Experience will tell you how tight it should be for varied circumstances. If the wind is blowing strongly, and your tarp is too tight then you will have too much stress along the seams and grommets and end up with a torn tarp.

Tied too loosely in a strong wind and your tarp will flail like a banshee in the wind, becoming useless and possibly breaking loose and doing nothing to protect you from the rain, wind or sun. A lot of people make the mistake when the cover loads with tarps for protection from the elements of neglecting the potential for damage for these reasons. I’m sure you have seen trucks loaded with household goods tooling down the interstate with a big blue tarp flapping like an angels wings over the load. Tied too loose and not enough. Sometimes you have to use more than just the grommets as a securing point. there are many occasions where you will want to weave a long rope through the grommets and back and forth across the tarp spider web like.

By doing that you can secure the four corners, and then pull the tarp taut by pulling the two ends of the rope. This will keep the excess tarp close to your load. But experience is a great teacher, even though sometimes very costly, and I cannot give very detailed comments in a place such as this so, experiment and learn before or need disaster strikes, and when it does you’ll be prepared to survive the coming times.

I have mentioned the public shelters that many are herded into when a calamity strikes in a widespread fashion, but what do you do when there is no community shelter? Logically, one would anticipate staying in the home to ride the storm out, and that is the normal case. But what if you lose your home for some reason, like a fire. If you are not in a position to quickly find a solid structure you and your family can stay in, you’ll definitely be between a rock and no place. that isn’t good for anyone, especially in bad weather. The quickest solution is that old standby, a tarpaulin, or as more commonly called, a tarp. The common flavor is blue. You know what I mean, don’t you.

Of course, tarps are indeed available in other colors, but blue, followed by green are the two most prevalent colors. Silver takes a close third place followed by the camouflaged flavor. There are distinct advantages and disadvantages to the many colors but the everyday, super cheap blue tarps are OK for nearly every case. In many situations I prefer the camouflaged variety, but there are a couple of drawbacks to their use. For one thing, being dark in color they reflect less sunlight than the other colors, so they can become warmer underneath in the hot summer months.

Another drawback is that the dye used for coloring can stick to surfaces in the heat. I once received a nasty stain on the roof of my truck when the temps reached the mid 90s. I draped the camo tarp over the roof and tied it off, and the dye stuck to the paint of my trucks roof, and it made for a miserable time cleaning it off, so be careful if you desire to use your vehicle in rigging a tarp. The blue and green tarps don’t have the same drawback, and neither does the silver.

Speaking of silver, if your main goal is to produce a shaded area, the silver tarps have the best reflective properties. Blue seems to be a denser color than the green and provides better shade, but the green blends in better in a wooded area. That said, decide what your main goal in the tarp(s) you buy will be. Silver equals the most shade, but higher visibility, especially from the air. It is also usually more expensive. Camouflage gives better protection from searching eyes, but retains more of the sun’s heat. Green gives a good shade, and blends in better in a woodland or field situation. Blue, like silver, is also highly visible, but gives a good shade cover, highly reflective and usually costs less, as well as being more readily available. Mull the point over and decide what you want to do, then buy the tarp that best meets your needs.

Now, as far as shelter use goes, there are an unlimited number of ways to utilize that piece of flexible plastic in building a temporary shelter. But first let me clue you in to one little tip here. There is a way of tying off one of those tarps into a shape called a flying diamond. It looks pretty cool, but you lose a lot of real estate underneath it. It works as a great dining fly when you can’t do anything else, but that’s about it. If you have a family, you’d need one heck of a large tarp to fit everyone in under it in the flying diamond shape.

Also, let me also point out here that very often, the cheaper tarps will have a minimal number of grommets around the perimeter. This keeps the cost of manufacture down, which is one of the reasons they are cheaper. The other reason is that the thickness is less than in the more expensive varieties. But the grommet problem can be easily solved. Simply go down to a hardware store and pick up a grommet repair tool and some grommets. They can be easily installed, and only require a hammer of the back of a light axe to use. We’ll get into the details of grommets and repairs in a later post, so I won’t take up space with it here.

Let’s talk for a minute about rope here. One thing I have seen is that some people seem to feel as though a thick rope is always better because it is stronger. This is not necessarily true, you know. Sometimes a smaller rope can be stronger. It depends upon the material, and how it is made. For tying tarps, your best bet is to actually use parachute cord. This is a small diameter, about ¼” thick, or less, but has a very high tensile strength. Plus, you can pack along a few hundred feet in less space, with less weight than bigger rope. I wouldn’t use it for tying a load of lumber onto a trailer, or any other job requiring a high safety need, but it’s great for tying tarps and such.

As an alternative, a ⅜” inch rope can be used. Cording of a much greater diameter makes it tough to fit through some tarps grommets available on the market. That makes it harder to tie the knot. Some people want to use bungee cords, but that isn’t a good idea. It may be easy, but bungees stretch, and if it rains your tarp will become a swimming pool liner, at least until it dumps the rain onto your little party. The cords you use should be tight, but not so tight as to cause anything to snap in a heavy wind gust.

Probably the quickest shelter style is the simple A frame. Cut some stakes from some branches about ten inches or so in length. Make sure to cut them so you have a bit of a forked look to them. It will look like a Y with a short base, and one leg of the Y much longer than the other. Use at least one for each corner for a small tarp, more along each side for the bigger tarps. Tie a rope between two trees at a sufficient height to make your A frame, and peg down the corners and sides. The short leg of the Y shape pins the grommets to the ground while the long leg is the one that gets pounded into the ground. Simple and quick. I can put one up in just a few minutes in most situations, with no help.

The shelter will look like a pup tent, but it will be open on both ends. It’s good for a rain cover but not much else, as you cannot build a fire for warmth in front of it. Not only that, with two open ends, it’s hard to keep the wind out and retains no warmth. But it works in a pinch. There are variations to the design that will allow you to close one end off, which helps, but those options are not as quick and easy. I’ll cover them at a later time.

We’ll continue with quick and easy tarp shelters in part 2 next time.

Sounds like something you do after a Bachelors party, doesn’t it? What was that slimy crap I ate? Actually, what a Wikiup is happens to be an ages old style of Indian shelter. Simply, and easily made from materials at hand, this type of shelter can keep you pretty snug should you find yourself far away from civilization. Basically, the Wikiup is a dome shaped structure made from supple green plants such as Willow or other slender young trees. This type of structure was commonly used by many Southwestern Indians, and covered by thatch, bark, or branches, but it can be used anywhere in the world to provide a cozy little semi-permanent shelter. In fact, you could even use it as a permanent shelter with a good water tight covering. That is of course if you build it strong enough to keep heavy snow build up from crushing it.

Here’s how you make the structure;

Find yourself an appropriate spot with plenty of young trees and clear out a circular spot. Cut the growth inside the circle right down to the ground. If you are planning on making it big enough to have a fire inside, now is the time to remove all plant growth. Leave a ring of saplings standing at the outer edge so that you can utilize them for the structure. If you are someplace where natural growth doesn’t give you enough saplings in a grouping, you may have to cut some and import them to your site. Leave the foliage on these saplings for now. If you have a shovel, remove the top soil and place it around the outer edges of the circle.

Next, and this may take two people if the shelter is a big one, take a sapling from either side of the clearing and bend them towards each other. Tie or twist them together so that they form an archway. Then do two more saplings the same way at 90 degrees from the first two. If you are going to have a fire inside your Wikiup tie these four branches together so that a square hole is made as a smoke or chimney hole.

Continue on around the perimeter until you have your dome shaped frame. Trim off the branches sticking into the interior of the dome at this point, but leave the outer ones. These will help to secure your outer covering. If you are building this in the winter months, you may wish to have a more inverted V shape so that the snowfall will not accumulate on top of you. Pack the topsoil you’ve removed around the circle to act like a curb, and ditch it off to divert rainwater away.

Next, place your covering materials over the dome. If you are using Spruce, or other bough type material such as Cedar, bunch a row tightly around the bottom leaving a couple of feet free at your opening. Make sure that the boughs are supported firmly on the saplings. As you go up the wall the boughs will not stay in place if they are not supported by the saplings, but are supported by each other. One trick you could do here is to weave thinner saplings that you may have cleared from the circle at even heights around the Wikiup to hook your boughs into. Keep doing this until you reach the top, remembering to leave that top hole open if you have elected to have a fire inside your Wikiup.

If you are going to use bark as a covering, which I don’t recommend as it needlessly destroys trees, you’ll need to remove all of the foliage from your framework. Not only for that reason, but it also takes much longer to erect. Take your cut slabs of bark and place them around the base. Wedge them into a ring of saplings woven into the framework at a constant height around the Wikiup. Make another ring of woven saplings and bark above that one, overlapping by a few inches so the rain doesn’t get in. keep working your way up to the top.

Making thatch walls is preferable to the bark as it is just as permanent and can be made from easily accessible grasses if you are in a plains or meadow area. Cut your grasses close to the base and group into fist sized bundles. It’ll look like a handful of spaghetti. You’ll need to weave a fairly tight grid work of saplings into your dome. Insert the bundles of grass between the openings and pack them in tightly. Otherwise a good breeze may take your covering away.

Another, and probably the best choice for a semi-permanent structure is the wattle and daub approach. Remove all foliage if you take this approach. After your dome is completed, weave sticks into the framework so that you have a series of square openings about one to two inches square. Cut some grass into short lengths and mix into some clayey mud to make a plaster and spread this over the walls. You may need to make several layers to get it thick enough, but when dry should give you a nicely finished home. This is one of the ways the first homes in the new world were built, although the framework was of a post and beam style. This was imported from England when the first settlers and explorers came over. Log cabins didn’t become the norm until much later.

Of course, you can also place sod over the framework as well, but this makes the covering heavier, especially if it absorbs a lot of rain water. And then there is the old American standby, the blue tarp approach. However you decide to cover your Wikiup, make sure that you follow good sense practices. Don’t make it too large, and if snow is a factor, make steeper sides to prevent buildup. Also, while a fire inside may not be the smartest thing you can do, make sure you have ventilation and remove all flammable groundcover for safety.

Experiment with the design and come up with your own way of covering the framework, and have fun with it. The design has been around for centuries and has worked well for many peoples. It can even be lived in year round if made well. If you are stuck out in the wilds or just trying to escape the city, this structure may be what you need to help survive the coming times.