Friday, January 13, 2017

A tent for all seasons...

or maybe i should say "a tent for EACH season".  As I've continued to learn, train, and experience the outdoors, i have "collected" a lot of equipment.  Some of it integrates into my prepping plan as it serves a function in a survival situation, and some of it is a tool for training.  a wet stone for me to sharpen my personal skills on.   This is important because its not the gear that will save my family in a crisis, it me and the skills i've develop.   One of the areas that has exploded in terms of gear is my tent collection.


Being involved with the Boy Scouts, we camp one weekend a month while school is in, and almost two weeks in the summer for summer camp.  The joke in our troop is its like the Army reserves. Thats no disrespect to reservist, those folks do a tough job, and have my full respect, but the point is we campout A LOT.  We're talking 20 plus days a year of just scout camping. Multiply that by the years from Tenderfoot to first-class and thats a lot of time in a tent sleeping on the ground.  Well one of the things a senior scout leader told me when i first got involved was "spend the money and get good gear to make yourself comfortable. You're out here more then you realize, and being comfortable will make it much more enjoyable".

I've also come to the conclusion that there is no shame in "Glamping".  I have a full size pick up, and i fill that sucker with gear.  I take a cot, and heater, my goal zero solar gear, and whatever i need to be comfortable.  The tent i use the most is a Coleman instant 6 person, that weighs a ton, goes up in a snap, and i can stand up fully and walk around and get dressed in.  I'm part of the Quartermasters equipment team and we work hard the whole campout, and getting a good night sleep and not being hunched over putting on pants may seem like a small thing, but when its month after month it gets old.  Weight or size is not problem because we drive to our camp sites and i'm moving heavy gear all day anyway.


My family camping gear has an even bigger Coleman instant tent from the same line. That one has a divider making two rooms.  I also have a huge Coleman weather master that was such a deal i couldn't pass up, and a screen room for eating and other activities without the usual bugs that are part of camping.  This is also the gear that stays loaded in my trailer and would be base camp in an evac situation.  Weight is not a concern as much as comfort and stability, so carry whatever i want.  These are my shelters for my loved ones, and i have space for equipment and tasks inside because weather could be a factor.
Much like boat owners get 2 foot-itis and upgrade over time, the same happens with tents.  The only advantage is Coleman Tents are cheaper then Searays.   I will have to admit i miscalculated the value of standing and bought the 4 person instant tent first.  Its a great tent.  The foot print is just a few feet smaller then the 6, and they are almost identical at a distance, but the 4 is roughly 5'5" at the center.  I figured if i'm going to have to sit down to get dressed, i may as well be in my dome summer tent.   This is the tent my son and his buddies use on our personal outings, it fits them perfectly, and they get all the advantages of the instant tent design.   
Speaking of my Dome tent, a lot of other Scout Masters use them every outing.  Mine is nice for a couple people, and the ventilation is great for summer camping.  Its not my main stay, since we do most of our camping during the school year, but it has seen a few weekends.  The main reason i have it is it was one of the last 2 at Sam's club and they were almost giving it away at the end of season.  It practically leaped into my cart.  If i never sleep in it again, i got my money's worth.  I will say, when its a hot night, and the bugs are biting, sitting in that little screen porch is great.



When weight and size is an issue, i have 2 options.  The first my Vango Banshee 300.  I have another post about this tent, but is simply amazing.




The second is a Snugpak Scorpion 3.  Its self supportive structure makes it perfect for backpacking in the winter months.  It can support the weight of snow, and requires minimum ground stakes if the surface is frozen.

Both of my backpacking tents are 3 man for several reasons. Manufacturer's "tent math" not with standing, the chances are slim that i would go on an overnight hike alone. Its far more likely that my son and I will hit the trails together. A 3 man tent may not fit 3 grown men, but its perfect for 2 and a couple of back packs.  The weight difference is almost a zilch issue for me.  I'm not hiking the Appalachian trail or anything that adventures. so whats another 6 or 10 oz for a weekend. When he and I hike, I usually carry the tent, my sleeping bag, and a larger proportion of the gear.  He carries his sleeping bag and gear, and the food.  A 3 man means you share the load by splitting the gear.

At the end of the day, all these tents are just a way for me to be comfortable and get outside more so i can train and do more.  If you're uncomfortable, and not happy, you won't go do it.  Skills beats stuff, so don't let little things get in the way getting better skills.





Friday, January 6, 2017

I gotta stay off the internet...


Sometimes i get too much time, and I end up finding things that solve problems i didn't even know i had.  This is one such problem.   I was watching Canadian Prepper's Youtube channel, and he went through his torch survival box.  I was just amazed at his flameless cook system.  While i'm not in the middle of nowhere like he is, so i won't need to cook if i got stuck and had to hike home,  I thought what a great way to heat up a quick bed time snack in my tent.   

Now, any expreianced camper will tell you one of the tricks to sleeping comfortably on a cold night is to "feed the furnace".  That is to eat something just before tucking into your sleeping bag to give your body fuel to keep you warm. Well, a warm snack is much better then cold, but coking on a jetboil is way too much trouble just before lights out, and depending on what tent i'm in i don't always have the room either.


Well this little flameless cook system is the perfect solution.  It will work in confined space, gives off no gas or fumes, and won't set my tent on fie.  Don't laugh, we have had a tent 







I tried it out with mountain house's grilled vegetables. They are a great dehydrated side dish that works on the trail, and i know how they cook up with hot water rehydration the regular way.


Just a little bit of water in the base is enough to start the reaction and get the heater going.  Then you close it up with what you're heating in the pan that goes on top.


I tried to show the steam coming out of the side.  Trust me, this thing gets hot!  It also stays hot for about 30 min, so IF you were stuck out in the cold, it would keep your meal warm so you could enjoy it.


my test meal rehydrated perfectly.  A great solution, to a problem i didn't even know i had.



Slow and steady...

So its been really busy the last few months.  I barely have time for my Scouts, because work has got me so busy, but I always keep an eye on the clouds ever lurking.  I seems the ammo crisis has completely subsided, IF it ever really existed.  The conspiracy theorist in me says the company just used the media to rake some easy money off the table.  That being said, i have been picking up a few boxes of ammo and increasing my inventory.  One of the newest and interesting products I've come across is American Eagle's Syntech range ammunition.  Instead of a full copper jacket, the bullet is coated with a polymer.  Theoretically the typical fouling and deposits that occur from shooting will be reduced.  The manufacturer also says they are made with a special "cleaner burning" powder that will reduce the deposits.


I have only been to the range twice with them, but i will say that cleaning was easier.   Its not a full scientific comparison, because since i have switched to frog lube, any cleaning is far less of a chore.  In any event,  I have added "a few" 😉 boxes to my inventory, taking full advantage of Gander Mountain's introductory sale price.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Finding a home for my Eberlestock Halftrack



So the Eberlestock Halftrack has been haunting me in my dreams for months.  Like any good gear addicted prepper i tried to tell myself i didn't need it.  I drooled over the 1000 denier fabric construction, the pals webbing, all the little compartments and features that make it an outstanding pack.   Well, i could't hold out any longer.  

With only 35 liters of internal space in the main compartment, it surely would not carry the load out my Kelty  Coyote 80 liter pack would. With that in mind, I have set about creating a light weight minimalist load out designed around the Halftrack.  I know it was designed as a tactical pack or day pack, and not a multi-day hiking pack, so i have my work cut out for me.    

I know the Multicam screams tactical, but my revised load out will work equally well in my Kelty Redwing 50.  Its not totally practical, but its off the chart in the swag department.  Sometimes my ego just runs amok, I think this was one of those times.

  
I've done some work on "shrinking" my gear, picking up a micro-lite stove in place of my full jetboil, a new ultralight camp light, adding some other stuff that ultralight backpackers use in place of traditional equipment.  I've also added a matching compression sack to carry my hiking tent outside the main pack to squeeze some extra room out of it. I also have become strategic in how i fit gear into it to make the best use of the packs potential.  The two side pockets/pouches are the full height of bag.  I'm playing Tetris with my support gear like Klymit Sleeping pad, Sea to Summit bag liner, MSR water filter, and other stuff to see how i can maximize these compartment.

One thing I can say, is even if i can't fit my gear all in it, I LOVE THIS RUCK! 


Monday, November 16, 2015

Took my emergency binder to the next level

First, let me explain.  There is a lot of information that I rely on as part of my emergency preparedness.  I have a lot of gear and equipment. And all of it has service manuals and require maintenance, and have specifications that they should be maintained within.   Also there is a lot of research information that I have gathered over the years as part of my prepping on how to perform certain tasks, recipes and ingredients for meals, strategies and information, things I won't discus.    This is all for me, but it can be a reference for my family, or others in my group should they need the information.  A wise man once said, "the longest memory is shorter then the shortest pencil".    So while I do know most of it, I don't have to memorize it because I keep copies of all these documents in a binder in one of my totes, so i will have access to the information.


Well, I was going through some stuff in my office the other day, and came across my old Gen 1 IPad. I haven't even seen this thing in at least a year, and even then the software had done its final update, and it was slow and most of the newer apps wouldn't run on it.  But here it was in perfect, day one condition.  It was perfectly protected by an Otter box since the day I bought it.  Then it struck me.  Just like i have a folder of PDFs on my PC,  and my binder, I could have PDFs and critical documents on this iPad.

Yeah sure, if we get hit by an EMP it's useless.  But for any other situation its perfect.  Its light and portable, backlit for night reading.  Even though its too slow for the new app, I got the biggest drive available at the time when i bought it, so it will hold a truckload of books.

Well, I wiped its storage clean and restored it to the base software without Apps, and went to work.  I searched the web for copies of every doc, manual, and book. I pulled together all the info I already have in my files.   I went to the FEMA web site and downloaded the CERT class syllabus.  I was able to find a copy of  the military's SERE training manual. I located several other preparedness, survival, and crisis management manuals in PDF form.  By the way, the US government spends a LOT of money on FEMA and similar agencies.  Did you know the CIA has a lock picking manual? and its on the web to download for FREE!   Its amazing all of the reports and manuals are available for free if you just dig through their websites.

I downloaded the service manuals on all my Coleman and Goal Zero gear.  Schematic and exploded views of how things like my Dual Fuel lanterns and stove can be invaluable when field servicing them.   I revisited the sites for all my guns and installed their complete service manuals.  Information on my solar panels, and my crossbow.  I have complete schematics for all my electronics and  communications gear. I have high resolution road and waterway maps of my state and all the surrounding states, courtesy of the US Department of Interiors.

I was even able to find the manufacturers service manual for my Ford F150. Keeping it running could be critical during a crisis, since its my primary means of escape.  I have the manuals for generators and schematics of how businesses work like gas stations, that could be key salvage points in an extended survival situation.  There are even plans to make a alcohol still and how to make a biodiesel system.   And, the option in the apple print driver to make PDFs means i can make my own from any information source I choose.  If i can print it, I can PDF it and drop it on the iPad.

There is a complete medical and first aid library on the iPad.  There are reference books for hunting, fishing, gardening, dehydration smoking and food preservation methods that require little or no electricity.   There are books on edible plants and how to identify poison ones.

Its basically my own private internet with all the specific reference information I would need in an extended crisis.  Sites like the following give links to PDF versions of a wide variety of files on topics   http://www.themodernsurvivalist.com/archives/2471
Additionally, editions of  my favorite magazines like OffGrid, American Survival Guide, Recoil, Backpacker, and Survivors Edge are available in PDF format.  I put every Offgrid on there, 10 or so Recoils, the last 2 years on American Survival Guide, and a mixture of the others including Outdoor life and Camper just to round out my reading options.

Now whats it all worth of not a little fun too, so I put Max Brook's World War Z, and his Zombie Survival Guide on there.  I also added Bushcraft 101, a couple of camping and Dutch Oven cook books, and some other fun stuff.

Operationally, I can charge the IPad from my solar power system and the otter box has proven to be tough as nails and protected it through years of abuse on construction sites, where its been dropped countless times.  And all of the data is on a hard drive, accessed locally, with no need for the internet.  I could have given it to my son to play Angry birds on,  or sold it on Ebay and got next to nothing, but this was a great way to re-purpose an older tool that was basically discarded, to task thats right in the sweet spot of its design.

As with most of my gear, it doesn't have to just sit on the shelf waiting.  I plan to toss it in my gear for my BSA campouts to give me both reference material, and a boat load of entertainment reading options.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

My house is crap...


Thats not to say I don't like my nice, "open floor plan" suburban house.  And I love my woods and all the suburban amenities, but its the standard run of the mill Pulte type wood, drywall, partial brick, home you see all across America.   And its crap as far as crisis protection.

After 30 years in construction i see the exposure everywhere. You can almost kick your way through the siding to get in, and thats IF you didn't want to break one of the 15 windows that you could almost open with a butter knife. Its what i call security for honest people.   Honestly, when the face brick stops at your hip, an exterior wall is not much harder to break through then an interior wall.

With the protection afforded the Sheriff's office, the local police and all the other LEO agencies you become less focused on physical security.  If there is a need, police arrive almost instantly because everyone has an alarm thats monitored. Everyone knows police will show up and they depend on it.  You are safe, but only because of the blanket provided by "the system".

My previous house,  in the inner city, was built in the 50s.  It had a brick skin to the roof line, steel casement windows. It even had a completely brick skinned 2.5 car garage that i had converted to a workshop.  I had a generator inside the garage that only powered the basement and kitchen so we could keep a low profile in a blackout and the only light would be basement. It had steel pins drilled in the windows that basically made them iron bars when engaged and i made wood fill panels that would block the few windows that were of concern.  It was a  literally a fortress.

Since before Y2K i had been adapting that house for a sustained siege. Partly because the higher crime rate in the inner city, and partially because of my pepper nature, I had improved the security on the doors and windows.  But there were other things, like It had a huge 8 x 15 walk in pantry, that was on and outside basement wall, without a heat vent.  It stayed about 60 degrees year round and was lined with wood shelves that was amazing for food storage.  The house was built with the idea of pantries and home food storage were common, because we were in the baby boom and remembered WWII.   I knew "in the city" the police were somewhat less responsive, and i had "hardened" my residence and focused on being self reliant.

I contrast the two homes because, what happens when the police can't come?  I talk a lot about bugging out, but thats actually the last resort.  Shelter in place is a much more likely response to an event.  And as much as i enjoy the suburban life, this suburban home actually makes me less secure and more vulnerable in a prolonged shelter in place.  There is little difference in the population per square mile in the inner city and the suburbs when you think of crisis response.  Neither has the physical space to ensure security. And the timing may be slightly delayed, but an overwhelmed law enforcement system would eventually be the case in both locations.  The difference is, my previous residence gave me significant advantage in securing myself and family.

So anyway, as a self proclaimed prepper, I do the best I can to be ready.  I have enough plywood against the wall of my garage to secure the two sliding door walls, and the front glass door.  I have a quantity of 10 foot 2x4s bundled and standing in the awkward space beside the garage door. I keep enough carpenters nails and deck screws to put it all up.  I have a number of staged items to allow me to create a perimeter around us, but its a trade off I made with my eyes open.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Guns, Guns, Gun.... and more guns

Watching the news you would think the world was on fire, and the only answer was a large pile of semi automatic weapons.  When I look around at what takes center stage when you talk about prepping, its guns. Or at least thats is how it is in the U.S.  The media, seems to ignore most of the other stuff, because it isn't sexy.  Well, I kind of purposefully avoid the subject for that very reason.  I don't want people to think I'm the lonely nut with an basement full of guns and MREs.  But I did want to share my strategy and philosophy on guns for what its worth.

First, I approach my guns with the same view I do all my other prepper topics, thats practicality and efficient implementation.  I believe in practice, practice, practice and practice some more, and I believe in training.  And not just for me, thats me and my daughter at the gun range, and I regularly drag her and her 13 year old brother to both the archery and gun range with me.  I make them shoot, and as much as they hate it, I also make them come home and perform their own gun cleaning and maintenance. Lets be honest, NOBODY like gun cleaning, but they do it and they know fully how the guns function.   People "learn by doing", and they learn better by doing repetitively.

I take my wife on "shooting dates" where we go to the range, and then out to dinner.  I often wonder what the people at the next table in the little bistro would think if they knew were were running jam weapon clearing and administrative reload drills an hour before and we just blew through a couple hundred rounds of ammo. The key is guns and training integrates into our lives.  They aren't in a dusty box on the top shelf of the closet.

The second point is as far as prepping is concerned,  I look at the gun as a tool.  And just as with any other tool I considered maintenance and training in my selection.  I have friends who have a wide variety of sizes and calibers, and yes I have a few "fun guns", but these "Prepping guns" are simply for business.  I want reliability, I want familiarity, and I want to be able to maintain them deep into a crisis situation.

With that in mind, my tool of choice is the Glock 17.  But not just one, I have several identical guns.  They are not sexy, or exotic.  They are just a bunch of plain old Glocks.  Yes my buddies give me "the look" at the range, but it limits my spare parts inventory, all my holsters and mags are interchangeable, and we all can operate any one of the weapons we pick up.  There is no learning curve for anyone in the family, Its just automatic.  They know these just like they know their sleeping bags, or any of the other gear.

Having a bunch of the same gun simplifies a lot of things.  Its that same philosophy I use with cooking kits, or flash lights, walkie talkies, lanterns, and any number of items I have.  Find one that works well, train to get the absolute maximum out of it, and them stick with it.  Its boring, but efficient.

Now, i'm sure a few of you are thinking "seriously Ray, a 9mm?"...   Well, everybody can handle it effectively, and its light weight enough to carry a lot of rounds, its cheap enough to train with a lot.  And its common enough round, that there will be quantities even during a crisis.  Of course, I have an AR, and we all train with it too, but when you compare all the aspects the 9mm is the best bang for the buck IMHO.  In a crisis, there will be more then enough to worry about without thinking about what round you need, how many mags, did we get the right box of ammo for that.    Just like other prepping items, i'm planning now, so I don't get caught up in the confusion of the moment.