The Survival Mom » More http://thesurvivalmom.com Helping moms worry less & enjoy life! Thu, 26 Mar 2015 17:54:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.1 A Classic Piece of Outdoor Gear: The Walking Stick http://thesurvivalmom.com/walking-stick-uses/ http://thesurvivalmom.com/walking-stick-uses/#comments Fri, 13 Mar 2015 07:00:14 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=21927 When venturing into the wilderness, a constant companion for many is a walking stick, but most people don’t realize the potential for walking stick uses. Some folks just pick up a new stick each time they head down the trail, Read More

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A walking stick has many different uses. www.TheSurvivalMom.comWhen venturing into the wilderness, a constant companion for many is a walking stick, but most people don’t realize the potential for walking stick uses.

Some folks just pick up a new stick each time they head down the trail, discarding it at the end of the hike. Others head to the store and buy a fancy adjustable aluminum staff, complete with rubber or foam hand grip.

Walking stick uses for every outdoorsman/woman

If you think about it, the walking stick might be the original multi-tool! They serve a variety of purposes, each with the intent of keeping you safe while on the trail.

If you come across a stream or river, the stick can be used to gauge the depth, letting you know if it is safe to cross or not. It can also find sudden drop-offs or holes before you end up going for a swim.

When traveling through dense underbrush, or even a lightly forested area, the stick can be held in front of you to brush branches and such aside. It can also help alert snakes and other small animals of your approach.

A walking stick can extend your reach, allowing you to snag something floating away from you in a stream or knocking something down from a high branch.

When traveling on uneven terrain, a walking stick can be a tremendous help in keeping your balance, even for the most experienced and confident hiker.

A walking stick can also serve as a fairly decent weapon, whether the threat is on four legs or just two. While perhaps not ideal, it is certainly better than nothing.

There are also a few true survival uses for a walking stick, should you end up having to unexpectedly spend a night or two out in the wild. The stick can be used to help craft together an expedient shelter, such as being used as a ridgepole.

Many a fish has been caught using a simple pole with line and hook tied to the end. Most of us already carry some amount of fishing gear in our survival kits.

If you need a way to carry supplies, go the hobo route and use your shemagh to make a bindle to tie to the end of the walking stick. By the way, a shemagh scarf has many, many uses and should be a part of your outdoor gear.

How to choose a walking stick

There are three basic considerations when choosing a walking stick. The first is length. For most people, a stick that reaches from the ground to about their sternum works well. You want something that is long enough that when you’re traveling downhill you won’t be slumped over.

Next is thickness. This is largely a matter of personal preference and comfort. I have fairly large hands and prefer a walking stick that is about 1.5″ thick.

Finally, material. I much prefer a wooden walking stick, ideally made from something I’ve found in one of my travels. It just seems quite fitting to use a natural material when I’m in the wilderness. Others, though, prefer aluminum or even PVC. Again, this is a personal choice.

I recommend a good wrist strap, too. Using the strap will help to prevent your hand from becoming fatigued over long hikes.

Some people prefer to use pairs of trekking poles. Personally, I’m not sold on them as I like to have at least one hand free at all times. Many people, though, swear by these sets of poles so you might consider trying that option and seeing if it works for you.

A walking stick is more useful and versatile than most people realize.

Resources mentioned in this article:

 

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Happy, Healthy, & Prepared — A FREE Ebook For You! http://thesurvivalmom.com/survival-mom-book/ http://thesurvivalmom.com/survival-mom-book/#comments Wed, 04 Mar 2015 19:00:01 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=22091 The Survival Mom Radio Network produced over 700 shows during its very successful run. We aren’t producing new episodes now, but together, the hosts contributed to a handy ebook with tips for homesteading, survival, family life, and more. That book Read More

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Happy Healthy and Prepared ebook  www.TheSurvivalMom.com

Click to download from Kindle.

The Survival Mom Radio Network produced over 700 shows during its very successful run. We aren’t producing new episodes now, but together, the hosts contributed to a handy ebook with tips for homesteading, survival, family life, and more.

That book is completely FREE!

Here’s the link for the Kindle version of Happy, Healthy & Preparedand you don’t need to have a Kindle in order to read it. Here are complete instructions for reading Kindle books from your computer!

 

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The 3 Food Storage Companies I Recommend and Why — Important Update http://thesurvivalmom.com/best-food-storage-company/ http://thesurvivalmom.com/best-food-storage-company/#comments Thu, 19 Feb 2015 15:30:50 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=19494 A few weeks ago I wrote an article about the 3 food storage companies that I purchase from the most and sent it to my newsletter subscribers. Since then, I’ve received numerous questions about my selections and the best food Read More

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Survival Mom recommended food storage companies.A few weeks ago I wrote an article about the 3 food storage companies that I purchase from the most and sent it to my newsletter subscribers. Since then, I’ve received numerous questions about my selections and the best food storage company to use, so I wanted to address those here on the blog.

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Briefly, the companies that I use most often are Thrive Life*, Ready Reserve Foods, and Augason Farms. Here are my reasons:

  • Thrive Life* has an outstanding, user-friendly website, and a huge array of mostly freeze-dried foods that can be incorporated in thousands of recipes. This is my recommended form of food storage. Just-add-water meals, not so much, although I do have some of those as well for urgent emergencies. Thrive Life offers the opportunity to earn money and have foods auto-shipped, which helps stay on track with food storage goals. In short, they have some unique features similar companies do not offer. I’ve been a Thrive Life consultant for 4 years.
  • Ready Reserve Foods is a smaller, family-owned company in southern Idaho who sells mostly dehydrated, not freeze dried, fruits and vegetables, as well as many other food and survival products. They are one of the very few companies in the country who use nitrogen to package their food, which is far superior to the use of an oxygen absorber. They carry peanut butter powder and parboiled rice, which I love and have plenty of in my pantry. Their products are also competitively priced. I’ve visited their facilities and they have worked with me on and off over the years.
  • Augason Farms has been a long-time sponsor of my blog, but that isn’t why I selected them. Although many other companies carry similar products, Augason Farms foods can be found in stores across the country, like Sam’s Club, Winco, and Walmart. This is important because it makes “survival food” available to everyone who may not be able to order online. Their food is consistently good, their website immense with both products and information.

The Best Food Storage Company?

So what about other companies such as Emergency Essentials, Walton Feed, The Ready Store, and Honeyville?


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None of these companies are inferior, they just don’t rise to the top in the various categories that I specified — best website, dehydrated food options and nitrogen packing, and products readily available without having to place a mail order.

I’ve visited the main Emergency Essentials store in Salt Lake City and found the manager there to be friendly and helpful. The survival products they carry are priced well and I ended up buying quite a few MREs.


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For a year or so I taught classes at the Honeyville Farms retail store in Phoenix and bought quite a few food items each time. One thing I noticed was that the food purchased in the store was very nicely priced but the price increased dramatically online. They advertise their low shipping cost, but obviously, the price of shipping has to be made up elsewhere, thus the increase in their online prices. This made it difficult for me to determine which of their products were priced well and which might be more expensive than other brands, whose shipping charges were higher.

Currently, a 50 pound bag of hard white wheat costs $19.99 at a Honeyville Farms store, but it’s $43.99 online. That’s quite a difference and is typical with all their food products. The $4.99 shipping charge becomes meaningless, and it also makes it very difficult to truly compare Honeyville cost and value with other companies.

TIP: Learn about wheat before buying it in quantities!

Walton Feed was the very first food storage company I encountered, and the ordering process, at least back then, was quite confusing and complicated to a newbie. Their products are good quality, we are still using the cocoa powder I bought back, and I have no complaints. If you want to take a look at their products and pricing, it’s best to place a huge order with other people, if possible, in order to save on shipping. When I did this, an 18-wheeler delivered the order to my friend’s house (she was the coordinator), and she divided up the orders for each person.

All that food is surprisingly similar. Here’s why.

One factor many don’t realize is that all this food, whether it be wheat, strawberries, corn, and everything else comes from only so many farms! Just as food processing plants package food and then place different labels on them for different brands, these farms and packing plants do the same thing. So wheat purchased from Emergency Essentials just might come from the exact same farm as Augason Farms wheat, or vice versa. There are very few plants that freeze dry produce, so it’s just logical that the food itself is the same from one company to the next, and only the label and, likely, the packaging process,is different. Exactly where the food comes from is highly confidential, and you will probably only find out the country from which it originated.

When I spoke with Ready Reserve Foods about their parboiled rice, I was informed that it was grown on a farm in Idaho, not too far from their offices. That was nice to hear! Locally grown food, whose practices can be monitored, is always best.

Food  storage mistakes abound!

Before making a large purchase of this food, even if you’re in a huge panic and think that time is running out, please don’t buy anything you aren’t familiar with and may not actually use. I have about a dozen cans of germade. It’s wheat germ, something my kids have never had and of which I only have distant memories. One of these days I’ll crack open a can and serve it to them. If they like it, great! If not, I’ll be looking on Pinterest for other recipes that call for germade!

TIP: Read my Quick Start Guide to getting prepared if you’re panicking, and even if you’re not!

One mistake I’ve made is to buy far more wheat and less rice, which in many ways is more versatile. It’s also advantageous for families dealing with gluten issues. On the upside, I have loads of wheat to barter with, and now I’ve started to look for 50 pound bags of rice that I can repackage.

TIP: If you buy food in large quantities, you’ll probably have to repackage it for the longest shelf life.

Whichever companies you choose, start with buying small quantities. Thrive Life sells small, #2.5 size cans, as well as pouches of their foods. This is a very, very good way to check the quality, taste, and versatility of a food.

This food is for more than just storage

One reader asked me if I ever actually ate this food! Right now in my kitchen, I have opened cans of freeze dried blueberries (used them in a baked oatmeal this morning), freeze dried strawberries (we use them in smoothies), freeze dried cheese (ran out of fresh cheddar one day…), oats, parboiled rice, cocoa powder, bell pepper slices, and instant milk. Although most of my food is specifically for long-term storage, it’s pretty common around here that we have to track down an ingredient that I need.

This is very handy, and in many ways, I have my own grocery store at home! Because dehydrated and freeze dried food stays fresh for months after the container is opened, I just keep it in my kitchen pantry and use it whenever I need that particular ingredient. After a while, you figure out which of these foods you should probably stock up on more than others. For me:

  1. Berries
  2. Freeze dried corn (We use it a lot in chowders.)
  3. Freeze dried sausage crumbles. These are amazing and such a great way to have sausage for pasta meals and pizza.
  4. Instant milk. Good to have on hand when we don’t have any fresh.
  5. Freeze dried bell peppers. Fresh from the store can be pretty expensive, and this is a good way to have peppers when I need them.

The bottom line

Whichever company you purchase from, try to compare prices and quantities. Also pay attention to serving sizes, especially when buying just-add-water meals. Those can be deceiving and are a topic for a separate article!

For your convenience, here are links to some of the major food storage companies:

Augason Farms

Emergency Essentials (You may see the brand name Provident Pantry associated with them.)

Thrive Life*

Honeyville

The Ready Store (Brand name of foods is Saratoga Farms.)

Walton Feed, aka Rainy Day Foods

Ready Reserve Foods

Lindon Farms

Mountain House Foods (Read my Mountain House review.)

Legacy Foods (I tried 3 of their entrees — very good!)

Resources to help you stock up

Survival Mom: How to Prepare Your Family for Everyday Disasters and Worst Case Scenarios  (I include 2 very full chapters on getting started with food storage, which foods to buy first, and how to keep your pantry organized.)

Food Saver Vacuum Sealer – this removes oxygen, which will extend the shelf life of your food.

Food Storage for Self-Sufficiency and Survival by Angela Paskett

*This link will take you to my personal Thrive Life website. The lowest prices from this company are reserved for customers purchasing through a consultant. Whether you make your Thrive Life purchase through my website or not, be sure to order through a consultant rather than on the main Thrive Life website where prices will be higher.

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Review: Ka-Bar Last Ditch Knife http://thesurvivalmom.com/ka-bar-last-ditch-knife-review/ http://thesurvivalmom.com/ka-bar-last-ditch-knife-review/#comments Tue, 17 Feb 2015 08:00:49 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=21424 Ka-Bar’s LDK or “Last Ditch Knife” is a valuable tool for anyone wanting a small, handy blade as part of their everyday carry. The LDK isn’t much larger than a credit card. But, unlike most of those gimmicky credit card knives Read More

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The Ka-Bar Last Ditch Knife is handy and recommended by The Survival Mom. | www.TheSurvivalMom.comKa-Bar’s LDK or “Last Ditch Knife” is a valuable tool for anyone wanting a small, handy blade as part of their everyday carry.

The LDK isn’t much larger than a credit card. But, unlike most of those gimmicky credit card knives that seem to be all the rage, this is a very good quality knife, albeit in a small package.

Crafted from a single piece of 9cr18 stainless steel, it arrives razor sharp and with a wicked point. Personally, while I like carbon steel in most of my knives, I prefer a stainless steel in a neck knife because, if you wear it around your neck, it will be coming into constant contact with body oils and such. Stainless steel won’t rust under those conditions.


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Because it is so small, the LDK isn’t something you’d consider for a primary blade in a survival kit. But, again because of the size, it works great as an easy-to-carry backup blade. You can toss it into a side pocket in your purse, backpack, or briefcase or, as it is designed, wear it on a chain around your neck. At about 2.5 ounces, you’ll not notice the weight in the least.

The actual blade is 1 5/8” long and the entire knife is 3 5/8”. It comes with a kydex sheath. There is no clasp or snap on the sheath. The knife is secured by friction. I have no concerns about the knife slipping out accidentally as you actually have to give it a pretty good tug to remove it from the sheath. This is a good thing, of course. The last thing you want in a neck knife is for it to come sliding out and be loose inside your shirt as you walk around.

The LDK is exceptionally thin (0.078”), likely the thinnest knife you’ll own outside of your kitchen cutlery. Because of this, it isn’t a tool for prying apart things. But, even at this slim size, the knife is very strong and doesn’t feel flimsy in the least.

Now, the LDK was essentially designed to be a self-defense weapon, albeit one of absolute last resort. Personally, I’m not fond of the idea of an untrained individual using a blade for self-defense. Don’t get me wrong, if that’s all you have to work with, it is certainly better than nothing. But, I think the LDK has a lot more potential for use in small survival kits, such as the ever popular Altoids tin kits, as well as just keeping it handy for opening boxes and such. At a little more than $20 on Amazon, it is worth the small investment.

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7 Tips for Finding Natural Sources of Water http://thesurvivalmom.com/finding-natural-sources-of-water/ http://thesurvivalmom.com/finding-natural-sources-of-water/#comments Sun, 15 Feb 2015 08:00:38 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=21426   In a wilderness survival situation, particularly one where you likely aren’t going to be found in the immediate future, locating a source of water can be critical. Sure, having the means to filter and disinfect it is important, too, Read More

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7 tips for finding natural water sources  | via www.TheSurvivalMom.com

In a wilderness survival situation, particularly one where you likely aren’t going to be found in the immediate future, locating a source of water can be critical. Sure, having the means to filter and disinfect it is important, too, but you have to find it first, right?

Where to Look

Here are a few tips on finding natural sources of water.

1.  First, if there are animals in the area, and there are almost always critters around, they need water just as much as you do. Let them do the work for you. Follow game trails, if you can find them, as they will almost surely lead to a water source. Generally speaking, trails that lead downhill and/or seem to converge with other trails will lead you to water.

Watch our feathered friends. They will often visit a water source in the morning and in the evening. Keep an eye out for them flying overhead and follow in that direction. Birds heading to a water source tend to fly in a straight line and rather fast. After visiting the water source, they may fly in a more meandering type of way.

2.  Keep in mind that water doesn’t run uphill very well. You’ll have much better luck looking in low spots like valleys than you will by going to the top of a ridge (unless it is just for a higher vantage point).

3.  Look for dry riverbeds and dig down in spots where the river takes a sharp bend, concentrating your efforts on the outside bank of the bend.

4.  You’ll get more bang for your buck, so to speak, by melting ice instead of snow if you have the choice. There is an awful lot of air space in snow and what seems like a lot in the pot ends up being not so much. Either way, avoid just popping the frozen water into your mouth and letting it melt. Doing so cools down your core temperature, which isn’t a good thing. Instead, put the ice or snow into a plastic bag or other container and keep it under your coat, letting your body heat melt it first.

5.  Collect dew in the early morning by tying bandanas or other cloths to your legs and walking through high grass. Pause regularly to wring out the water into a container. If you’re stuck near a vehicle or something along those lines, you can wipe the dew off with a cloth and wring it out, too. You might not get a ton of water with dew collection but every little bit adds up.

6.  If you have a garbage bag or other large plastic bag, tie it over the end of a leafy branch, tossing a small rock into the bag first. The rock will weigh down a corner of the bag. Over the course of several hours, water will condense out from the leaves and drip to the bottom of the bag. Either remove the bag, being careful to not spill any of the water, or cut off the corner and then tie a knot in the bag to keep it working for you.

7.  Despite what you may have read elsewhere, solar stills aren’t usually worth the effort. A solar still consists of a large hole dug in the ground with a plastic sheet stretched over the top. A rock is placed at the center of the plastic and a container placed in the hole directly underneath. Over time, water will condense on the bottom of the plastic and drip down into the container. It is a lot of work to dig that hole and the water you’ll get for your efforts is often minimal. But, it is something to consider if you’ve run out of all other options.

Water is a critical element of survival. While our bodies could last up to a few days without hydration, you really don’t want to be a test case. Any time you’re out in the wild, make note of water sources as you travel.

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How to Keep Emergency Water in Your Vehicle Unfrozen During Winter http://thesurvivalmom.com/keep-emergency-water-vehicle-unfrozen-winter/ http://thesurvivalmom.com/keep-emergency-water-vehicle-unfrozen-winter/#comments Tue, 20 Jan 2015 08:00:16 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=20849 One of the most important items in any winter survival kit for your vehicle is water. It will stave off thirst and help you stay hydrated if you become stranded during a winter storm or blizzard. Unfortunately, water is also one of the Read More

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Keep Your Emergency Water From Freezing in Your Car During Winter | via www.TheSurvivalMom.comOne of the most important items in any winter survival kit for your vehicle is water. It will stave off thirst and help you stay hydrated if you become stranded during a winter storm or blizzard. Unfortunately, water is also one of the things most quickly affected by sub-32 degrees temperatures – freezing cold.

So how do you protect your emergency water supply from turning into a block of ice encased in plastic with a screw top and keep it available for when you may need it most?

Keep Your Water Warm

There are three ways to help keep your emergency H2O  from freezing:

1.  Store your water in the passenger compartment of your vehicle with you, not in the trunk, because you will likely run your car’s heater during winter travels. This will help both you and your emergency water stay nice and warm, certainly much warmer than if you store your liquids in the trunk. I always store some extra water or drinks like Gatorade under the seats of my vehicle all year round, just in case.

2.  Keep your emergency water in a soft-sided insulated container, such as what Igloo, Coleman, and other manufactures make for keeping your food and drink cool in summer. This will provide initial and ongoing protection from the freezing cold regardless of where you store the H2O in your vehicle.

3.  Wrap your water containers in a Mylar survival blanket either in the trunk or main compartment of your vehicle if freezing temperatures are eminent. Don’t use your emergency wool blanket, sleeping bag or clothing, in case one of your water containers leaks!

If Hell Does Freeze Over…

In spite of your best efforts and precautions, if your emergency water is partially or fully frozen, do the following:

All of your water should be moved immediately from the trunk into the main part of the vehicle with you, if it not regularly stored there already.

1.  Use chemical hand and/or foot warmers placed around your bottles of water. If you have or are using an insulated container, place the activated warmers right in with the bottles. I keep a modest supply of these chemical warmers in my winterized emergency kit for this and other uses.

2.  In lieu of an insulated container, wrap a mylar emergency blanket around your water containers and activated chemical warmers -sort of like “pigs in a blanket”.

 3.  Lastly, place your water containers near the floor heating vent so that when you run your vehicle’s engine for 10 minutes every hour (read this article on How to Survive a Blizzard in Your Vehicle for more details), the heated air will help thaw your water.

When All Else Fails

As a last resort use a metal cup or can from your emergency kit (like a soup can or larger) along with a heat source like Sterno, to melt snow from outside your vehicle.

SURVIVAL TIP: You can use an emergency road flare as a heat source to melt snow into water. Just place snow in a metal cup or can. Ignite  the flare. Hold the cup of snow above or to the side of the flare until snow melts. Be careful if you use this method. Safety flares burn at about 1,400 degrees Fahrenheit and emit phosphorus gases when burning.

One BIG Caution!

Do not be tempted to place frozen water bottles next to you in an attempt to melt the fluids inside. You will only cool yourself down faster which will promote the onset of hypothermia more quickly.

QUICK TIP: Use no larger than pint to quart size containers to store your emergency H2O in. Although the liquid stored in larger containers will take longer to freeze than the smaller size bottles, the smaller bottles are easier to store in small places in your vehicle and are quicker to thaw if they become frozen.

If you have any favorite ways of keeping your emergency water supply from freezing in your vehicle during winter, please feel free to add it to the comments below.

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Try it Today! Build Your Own DIY Fire Kit http://thesurvivalmom.com/try-today-build-diy-fire-kit/ http://thesurvivalmom.com/try-today-build-diy-fire-kit/#comments Sun, 18 Jan 2015 08:00:44 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=20527 When you get right down to it, survival essentially means maintaining a safe core temperature for your body. Everything we do is geared toward that end goal. We eat food to provide calories to keep our bodies running. We hydrate Read More

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Build your own DIY Fire Kit with just a few supplies. | via www.TheSurvivalMom.comWhen you get right down to it, survival essentially means maintaining a safe core temperature for your body. Everything we do is geared toward that end goal. We eat food to provide calories to keep our bodies running. We hydrate so we don’t get overheated. We seek shelter from the elements so we don’t get too warm or too cold.

The ability to reliably start a fire is a critical survival skill. The job is made much easier if you have the foresight to assemble a small fire kit to keep in your pack. It doesn’t need to be huge and, in fact, the smaller the better. Remember, ounces lead to pounds and pounds lead to aching backs.

What I recommend you have in your fire kit is a minimum of three different forms of ignition and three different types of tinder. I often say that prepping is all about giving yourself options and that holds true with a fire kit as well as any other aspect of survival.

Ignition Tools

Let’s start with ignition tools. Your primary source of ignition will likely be a butane lighter. Why? Because they are incredibly cheap and very reliable. I would caution you, though, to spend the extra dollar or two and pick up brand name lighters, such as Bic. The ultra cheap ones you’ll find sold three for a buck at gas stations tend to leak and won’t last very long.

Next on my own preference list is a ferrocerium rod and striker. A ferro rod will light thousands of fires and is very simple to use. Hold the ferro rod in one hand and the scraper in the other. Draw the scraper down the rod firmly and direct the resultant sparks to your tinder. Alternatively, you can hold the scraper steady and pull the rod back towards you. A ferro rod will work in all weather conditions, which is a nice bonus.

Old fashioned flint and steel work very well, but the sparks aren’t usually nearly as large and hot as you’ll get from a ferro rod. Mankind has been using flint and steel for hundreds of years, though, for a reason – it works.

Strike anywhere matches, in my opinion, should only be considered as a back up to a butane lighter and a ferro rod. You can only carry a finite number of matches and, at best, you can light one fire with each match. Plus, while there are water-resistant types, even ones that will light in a monsoon, it can still be rather difficult to get a fire going with a single match when the weather isn’t cooperating with you. Once you get the match lit, you can’t reuse it.

In my own fire kits, I carry one or more butane lighters, a ferro rod with striker, and a waterproof container of strike anywhere matches.

Tinder

Now, on to tinder. It is important to include a supply of ready-to-use tinder in your fire kits as you never know what the conditions might be should the time come you need to get a fire going NOW. If it has been raining all day long, it could prove difficult to find dry plant fluff and such. So, carry a few different packages of tinder in your kit.

Cotton balls soaked with petroleum jelly is an old standby. They are popular because they work very well. Dryer lint is another common tinder, whether soaked with petroleum jelly or left dry. Some people have noted a bad or acrid smell when using dryer lint, due to the presence of human or animal hair and different types of clothing fibers. Personally, if my life is at stake, I’ll put up with a bad smell for a couple of minutes if it means I can get a fire going.

Charcloth is very easy to make, you can find an endless list of videos and articles detailing the process online. Just about everyone has a few old cotton T-shirts they could cut up to use as charcloth.

Jute twine is a dual purpose item. Any good cordage is always welcome in any survival kit. Plus, if you unravel a piece of jute twine and fluff it up, it makes for excellent tinder. It burns rather quickly, though.

Magnesium shavings burn very hot. A very common piece of kit is a block of magnesium with a small ferro rod attached to the side. The idea is you scrape off some magnesium, aiming for a pile about the size of a nickel or so, then light it with sparks from the ferro rod. What I’ve seen more and more people doing is scraping the magnesium ahead of time, filling small plastic pouches with the shavings. Not a bad idea, really.

My own preference is to use dryer lint and/or cotton balls, supplemented with jute twine and magnesium.

Creating a Fire Kit

What I also recommend is stashing a few small ziploc plastic bags in your kit. As you make your way through the bush, you’ll likely come across things like birch bark, dry moss, dry lichen, and other fluffy plant material. Gathering some of it and using it when you need a fire will help preserve your other tinder for times when such natural materials aren’t available.

The next time you are shopping at a thrift store, take a look at old camera cases. They make excellent pouches for storing your fire kit. At my local Goodwill store, these cases are typically priced at a dollar or less. The idea here is to put together a small kit containing what you’ll need to get a fire going when you need it the most, saving you time from searching through your pack for everything.

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Review: The Rule of Three by Eric Walter http://thesurvivalmom.com/review-rule-three-eric-walter/ http://thesurvivalmom.com/review-rule-three-eric-walter/#comments Sat, 17 Jan 2015 08:00:31 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=20522 Like many preppers, I’ve long been a fan of disaster (dystopian) novels. Any book detailing the end of the world gets my attention. Lately, there have been quite a number of great disaster novels coming out of the Young Adult Read More

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"Rule of Three" is a YA Novel by Eric Walters. Don't let the YA (Young Adult) designation fool you - it's not just for teenagers! - The Survival Mom

Like many preppers, I’ve long been a fan of disaster (dystopian) novels. Any book detailing the end of the world gets my attention. Lately, there have been quite a number of great disaster novels coming out of the Young Adult (YA) market, like The Hunger Games.

For those not familiar, YA books are typically geared for the teen crowd. As such, graphic violence is not usually present, nor explicit sex. That’s not to say, though, that today’s YA books are full of Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys wannabes. Often, in my experience at least, YA novels have just as much drama and realistic character portrayals as those novels marketed for older readers, they just have younger protagonists.

Another such book is The Rule of Three by Eric Walter. It is the first in a planned trilogy. The main character is 16 year old Adam Daley. As the story begins, he is at school, helping a friend with a project when all the lights go out. He, his fellow students, and the school staff quickly realize this is no ordinary power outage: All their cell phones and most of the vehicles in the parking lot are inoperable. Savvy readers will immediately recognize the nature of this crisis – electromagnetic pulse (EMP).

Adam’s car is old enough that it still works. He picks up his siblings from school and heads for home. Their mother is a captain in the local police department and their father is a commercial pilot who is out of town at the time of the crisis. Their next door neighbor, Herb, is a nice old gent who turns out to be quite a valuable asset.

It doesn’t take long before polite society begins to break down. There are riots at the grocery stores and such. Some of this behavior is quelled by Herb’s use of excellent conflict resolution skills. I found this approach to be quite refreshing as in many similar stories it would have been a case of violence meeting violence.

As time goes on, Adam’s neighborhood becomes his entire world, for all intents and purposes. Walls are built, patrols are set up, and the community comes together for their own protection. An interesting facet to this story is Adam’s ultralight: a small homemade plane Adam and his father built in their garage. Adam’s knowledge and skill with piloting the craft gives the community an edge over the competition.

Being a YA novel, there is naturally a bit of romance present. It comes in the form of Adam’s crush, Lori. While it doesn’t detract from the story at all, I did find this subplot a little too convenient compared to the rest of the story.

I will warn you that The Rule of Three ends with more than a couple of plot threads left unraveled. But I can assure you the next book picks up right where this one leaves off.

The Rule of Three is, hands down, one of my favorite fiction reads in the last year or two. Very well written, it is quite a page-turner.

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36 Lessons Learned From Testing a 72-Hour Kit http://thesurvivalmom.com/36-lessons-learned-from-testing-a-72-hour-kit/ http://thesurvivalmom.com/36-lessons-learned-from-testing-a-72-hour-kit/#comments Fri, 16 Jan 2015 18:00:29 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=5631 Over the last two months, on two separate occasions, I had the opportunity to test my 72-hour kit.  Yes, these tests were intentional… Testing a 72 Hour Kit…Why? My background is one of preparedness.  In the military, we made casualty Read More

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36 lessons learnedOver the last two months, on two separate occasions, I had the opportunity to test my 72-hour kit.  Yes, these tests were intentional…

Testing a 72 Hour Kit…Why?

My background is one of preparedness.  In the military, we made casualty response plans, then tested those plans.  We called them “drills.”  Now, in my post-military life, I’m CERT-trained, and FEMA IS-22 certified – both deal extensively with emergency response and preparation.

I’ve noticed many web sites that promote preparedness do not discuss testing preparedness plans.  What if you create a wonderful evacuation plan, but forget some critical component, like toilet paper? Or you include something, but not enough?  Testing your kits and noting what you missed will help you make a better kit.  The output from this evaluation process are your lessons learned.  It is impossible to conduct a test and have no lessons learned – at the minimum you will learn that you are well-prepared.

The lessons presented below come directly from these two exercises.  Some may be obvious, some may not.

30+ lessons learned from my test

1.  MRE’s are good.  Meals Ready to Eat have improved dramatically over the last few years.  Today’s MRE’s are actually good.  The Chili with Beans MRE is some of the best chili I’ve ever had.  I have to fight my kids for the Pulled Chicken in Buffalo Sauce.  Ignore the serving suggestions of “main course plus side dish plus desert”.  I found one main course filled me up completely.

2.  A rock works as a hammer – good thing! We have lots of rocks in the Sonoran Desert.  By using a natural hammer, I saved a pound in my backpack.  Make sure you find a smooth rock as the rough rocks have a tendency to scratch up aluminum tent pegs.  (Using aluminum tent pegs in the hard desert soil might be a lesson also.)

3.  Emergency fire starters are not fast fire starters.  I tried out the magnesium block with flint that is available from many stores.  You know the ones – use your knife to shave off some metal shavings, then use your knife on the flint to create sparks to ignite the shavings/dust.  This takes some time to get going. You may have better luck with firestarters with built-in ignition or this fire making system.

4.  A cell phone is a very poor clock.  If you are out of digital service range, your phone will switch to analog mode and drain the battery faster.  Since Murphy is with you (“What can go wrong, will”), when you are out of digital service range, the battery will deplete at 4:30am and your phone will start beeping to tell you that it’s low on battery.  4:30 is too early to get up.  Best bet is to turn it off and use it when necessary.  Use your Casio G-Shock watch for your alarm.

5.  Bring required medicines.  On my first trip, I forgot my allergy medicines.  Since I’m allergic to dust, this made the weekend of desert living rather miserable.  I brought the medicine on the second trip and life was good.

6.  A dead cactus makes a bad cooking fire.  It burns too fast, so the fire must be constantly fed.  I used up about 1/2 of the cactus to prepare 4 meals.

7.  Gloves are important.  Even the $2 gloves from Harbor Freight are useful, but they don’t last very long.  I use the gloves to sheath my scissors (see next lesson) and to protect my hands from wood splinters.

8.  Redundant cutting tools are important.  I lost my Leatherman, but had my skinning knife and scissors.  I later found the Leatherman, and on a subsequent desert hiking trip, lost the skinning knife.  Since I had the Leatherman, life was still good, but planning for these types of mishaps would be a good thing. They’re sure to occur.

9.  Solid fuel stoves will not heat a pint of water to a rolling boil in 8 minutes, despite the claims by the manufacturer.  It will get pretty hot, though, almost to the boiling point. Your altitude will definitely affect this.

10.  Powdered Gatorade is wonderful for quenching thirst and restoring energy.  So are the MRE powdered drinks.  1 oz Gatorade packets are pretty expensive – a large container can be subdivided for a lot less then a buck an ounce.

11.  Rolled up clothes do not make a comfortable pillow. They are very hard. Nice idea but it doesn’t work well in reality. At least not in my reality!

12.  A shemagh is a great pillow case (for my new inflatable pillow).

13.  Shemaghs help keep you warm at night and cool in the day.

14.  A folded shemagh can be used to protect your dromedary pack from any sharp items (scissors) in your pack.

15.  Two person tents aren’t – unless both people are small.  My two person tent is barely big enough for me and my backpack. However, it is light and works well in the desert to keep the crawling, stinging critters out. Speaking of crawling, stinging things, you do keep your pack inside the tent, right?  Last thing you want is to find a grumpy scorpion when you put on your pack.

16.  Water consumption will approach 2 gallons per day in the desert in the sun, but can be as low as 3 liters per day in the winter, even with the same activity level.

17.  A 16 oz wide-mouth plastic bottle is very useful for mixing Gatorade.  It also accommodates the SteriPEN FitsALL Filter.

18.  Transpiration bags need to be large and secured with paracord.  Tape will release in the sun and you will lose your collected water.

19.  MRE‘s heat quickly (10-15 minutes) in full sunlight but not on cloudy days.  They heat well in the coals of a small fire, but not very fast on the rocks surrounding the fire.  Warning: MRE’s are packaged in propylene bags and care must be exercised not to let them melt or burn.  Spring-loaded document clips (those black paper clips made from spring steel that have handles can be used to clip an MRE on your backpack so it can absorb sunlight and heat up.

20.  Wrapping a full day of MRE’s in two sheets of newspaper gives you fire starter and segregates your food into thoughtful daily selections.  (Hint: You need to prepare all your MRE’s this way ahead of time.)  Wrap the newspaper with a rubber band.  I used duct tape the first time, but this creates waste that cannot be burned.

21.  Ensure your scissors and knives are sharp before you leave.  Dull knives are irritating and dangerous.

22.  Setting up camp takes longer than you think unless you’ve done it several times.  Add an hour or two if this is your first time.  Allow ample time to find a suitable place to pitch your tent.  Pitching your tent in a wash is double stupid – they are cooler and attract animals, and are subject to flash floods.

23.  Instant coffee and hot chocolate can be pre-mixed and vacuum sealed using a FoodSaver.  Heat a bowl of water and add in your coffee/chocolate mix for your morning mocha. A Food Saver can be used to seal and waterproof multiple items for your pack, including ibuprofen tablets and other small items.

24.  Pack a change of underwear and an extra long-sleeve shirt.  The first is obvious.  The shirt can be used for extra warmth on cold days.

25.  Casio makes a watch that has a built in digital compass.  It’s not one of those cheap little compasses on the watchband either – it provides a reading accurate to one-degree on the face of the watch.  Not bad for a $42 watch.

26.  Bring small tubes of sunblock and Lansinoh.  Sunblock prevents burns and the Lansinoh is used to treat rashes and blisters.  The Lansinoh company promotes HPA Lanolin as a breast-feeding aid, but it works well on chafed skin.  A floppy hat protects the scalp and ears.

image by mrbill

27.  MOLLE packs may be slightly less comfortable than a $200-300 backpack, but it is infinitely more configurable and can be put together from parts on Ebay for 1/4 to 1/3 the price.  MOLLE M-16 ammo pouches can hold small items, such as sunblock, Lansinoh, MRE snacks, portable lights, toilet paper, etc.  Grenade pouches can hold your backup compass and paracord.  9mm clip pouches can hold flashlights.  When shopping on Ebay, don’t get in a rush – the prices for this stuff vary from ludicrous to unbelievably cheap.

28.  Pack an army surplus poncho.  360 days of sunshine, and I was out in the rain on one of the 5 days it rains in Arizona.  Glad I had my poncho.  The poncho will keep you mostly dry but is like a windbreaker for warmth.

29.  After much reading and deliberating, I purchased a 10 liter (2.5 gal) Dromedary It weighs 21 pounds when filled.  I also tied it up as high as it would go in the pack.  Two lessons here – put the heavy stuff as high in the pack as it can go, and you can never have too much water.

30.  There is a trick to storing paracord and rope.  Most people roll it up, and when it is deployed, it usually tangles.  Electricians tie their electric cords using a series of slip-knots – this uses up lots of material and keeps the cords from tangling.  The trick with paracord is to fold it in half, then tie the folded end into a loop.  Pull the cord through the loop into a slip-knot, repeat until all cord is consumed in a series of slip-knots.  A hiking supply store should be able to help you with this.

31.  Speaking of rope, don’t carry 50 feet of rope like many sites suggest.  Use nylon strap – it’s much smaller and has the same load capacity.  I have 25′ of strap knotted up (see above) and stored in my mess kit bowl.

32.  Minimize your cooking utensils.  I have a pair of chopsticks, a spoon, and my Leatherman/skinning knife.  I also have my bowl and the handle for it when it’s hot.  REI sells lots of neat mess kits. Most of them are superfluous and just add weight to your pack.  Ditch the extras and keep it simple.

33.  Test your medical kit.  I recently had to remove my son’s toenail after it broke and ripped half off.  I found I was missing hydrogen peroxide.  The Leatherman (yeah – I found it again) worked pretty good for pulling off the nail.  This also illustrates the need to carry alcohol swabs, Neosporin, gauze, tape and pain relievers.  My medical kit is my 4th heaviest item in my pack after the tent, sleeping bag and air mattress.  The contents of my medical kit are covered in another article.

34.  You need to build your stamina and cardiac condition on a daily basis to survive an evacuation.  Walk/hike with a fully loaded pack. This form of preparation ensures you can carry your pack and survive.  In case of a disaster, FEMA will not even make a decision to assist for several days and once they decide to move, it will take a few more days before you will see their personnel. CERT/FEMA advertise that delay is likely to be 7 days. Count on being on your own for at least 3 days, hence the name “72-hour kit.”

The medical benefits of daily exercise are measurable. I lowered my blood pressure and heart rate dramatically after just three months of hiking and strength training.

Most people think I’m whacked hiking the desert with a 50+ pound pack, but the results are irrefutable.  I’m whacked and in great physical shape.

35.  Periodically check your BOB (Bug Out Bag) and your GOOD (Get Out Of Dodge) kits.  This is a good way to rotate your food and water.  MRE’s have a shelf-life that drops quickly as their storage temperature rises. Clearly a disadvantage for those of us in the desert.  Some MRE’s have a 5 year shelf-life under best-case storage conditions.

36.  Pack your kit for the most probable mission/scenario.  Evaluate the most likely scenarios that would require the BOB and GOOD kits.  For example, I live 27 miles from work and spend about 25% of my time away from home.  Most likely events (based on historical occurrence) happen in the daytime, so if there was an event, chances are close to 75% that I will be away from home and my 72-hour kit.  This means I need to have a kit in my car, much like The Survival Mom who travels with her vehicle emergency kit.  So my car kit has everything I need to get me from work to home with the worst-case assumption I may have to walk.

I learned quite a bit during the first test of my 72 Hour Kit, so my second test went pretty smoothly.  The key here is to actually test your kits.  You can read government preparedness literature, other preparedness websites (like this one), and watch preparedness You Tube videos.  However, without actually getting out there and testing your kits, you won’t know what you’re forgetting and you won’t know how to use your equipment.  Testing builds self-confidence, which will inspire confidence in those around you, and that is pretty important.

Guest post by Varian Wrynn

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Coming in 2015: Tools to help you tackle 3 important survival elements http://thesurvivalmom.com/important-survival-tools/ http://thesurvivalmom.com/important-survival-tools/#comments Thu, 01 Jan 2015 08:01:00 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=20698 The moment fear grips your heart and you realize just how unprepared you are, the first impulse of most people is to go out and BUY. Buy wheat. Buy beans. Buy freeze-dried food. Buy ammo. Buy a Berkey. And so Read More

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The moment fear grips your heart and you realize just how unprepared you are, the first impulse of most people is to go out and BUY. Buy wheat. Buy beans. Buy freeze-dried food. Buy ammo. Buy a Berkey. And so on.

To compound this impulse, one that will almost surely damage your financial status, are countless “survival” websites that exist for the sole purpose of selling fear, because fear is big business. They rake in massive amounts of money each day from people just like you.

Buy all the stuff meme

But food, water purifiers, firearms, and ammo aren’t all that when it comes to being prepared.

In fact, there are 3 elements of preparedness that are overlooked by these websites. Likely because there’s no much money to be made in promoting them.

Those are saving moneygetting your home organized, and learning new skills.

Why these 3 elements are so important

Without having a stable financial foundation and a space that is cleared out of clutter with essentials organized, buying more stuff on top of the stuff you already have will only complicate your preparedness plans.

Pouring money into a problem never really solves the basic problem, and that is true for preparedness. Yes, rich people can stock up on food, gear, and supplies a whole lot faster than someone with a lot less money in the bank. But unless they know how to best utilize the food, have the skills to use the gear and supplies, they are really no better off.

However, there’s no way I can ignore the fact that preparedness does cost money. You can find amazing bargains, and high quality items, at thrift stores and yard sales. By shopping seasonal sales, using coupons, searching for discounts everywhere possible, you can pocket that money in savings and use some of it to buy what is absolutely necessary. But at a discount, naturally!

One close friend has plenty of money and the messiest, most unorganized home I’ve ever seen. Her expansive living room, larger than many people’s homes is so cluttered with toys, animal cages, furniture, and more STUFF than I can even remember. If she ever had to evacuate her home, there’s no way she could quickly find the most essential supplies her family would need. Her time, space, and belongings are completely chaotic, leaving her unprepared for life’s emergencies.

When your time, space, and belongings are all organized and you’ve reduced what you own down to what is most necessary and loved, not only could you be ready for an emergency in a crisis, you are also afforded the time to do other things, like learn new skills and network with people who have the same interests. Organizing and reducing what you own will help create margins, giving you extra time for your top priorities.

Finally, stable finances and tidy surroundings will free you up to learn new skills. You likely won’t need much money to learn many new skills, although there are exceptions, and if your new skill sets require supplies and maybe even a separate work area, your efforts at organizing and reducing will pay off.

We are tackling all 3 of these in 2015 and want you to join with us!

Join our 52 Weeks Savings  Challenge. Print out this chart and begin saving dollars each week. You can learn more about it and even join a Facebook group dedicated to encouraging each other and providing tips for saving even more. Here on The Survival Mom blog, you’ll find a post each  money with information about sales and other discounts available for that particular month. If you love forums, sign on to my forum at American Preppers Network and  join in the discussion there.

To help you make some gains this year in learning new skills, we are super excited about the launch of something brand new here on the blog. It will be an intense Skill of the Month series of articles and other helpful tools, including tutorials, webinars, podcasts, ebooks, and a lot more.

I am dedicated to helping everyone with the task of getting organized and getting rid of stuff that you’ve held on to for too many years, so our first Skill of the Month, “Get Organized and Reduce What You Own“. We have an upcoming webinar with an organizing pro and articles throughout the month. Use our resources to get your own time and space organized and I promise that you will feel more prepared for whatever emergency, big or small, that comes your way.

Hello, 2015!

Incredibly, The Survival Mom blog is nearly 6 years old, and so much has changed since it was first launched. What hasn’t changed, though, is my commitment to help moms worry less and enjoy their families more by providing information, inspiration, tools and strategies.

My team and I wish you the happiest and most blessed of New Years.

Updated on 2/2/15, to reflect postponement of membership site.

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