The following is a guest post by Javier C. who spent over a year living successfully out of his car. He shares his insights in this article. Keep in mind many of these tactics Javier details here would easily apply if you were ever forced to bug out with your vehicle.
From August 25th 2012 until over a year later, I slept and lived in my car in Los Angeles, California. I moved to Los Angeles for a dream and did not realize how expensive it was to live there.
So I began planning in my head and thinking how I might save money and how I might get out of the frustrating living situation I was in at the time. I decided living and sleeping in my car would be an idea that would satisfy both of those things I wanted for my life in Los Angeles.
It was truly a survival experience…
Throughout my time sleeping and living in my car, I learned a tremendous amount. Although it was very tough, it did in fact help me achieve my goals of saving money and being
able to live on my “own” in my car.
It didn’t come easy getting used to that life though. There were many learning experiences. I began writing a book while I was sleeping in my car. About how to survive living in one’s car.
There are many different aspects when it comes to sleeping and living in your car successfully — many of which require a plethora of survival skills. In all truthfulness, it really is a “survival” experience.
I was doing this so I could save money and get ahead in life. After all, it takes sacrifice if you want to get ahead in life. That’s what I have learned. Especially in this economy today, you never know when hardship may hit and having these survival skills in your pocket may just save your life one day when you really experience hardship.
All in all, I saved a great deal of money and had extra money I wouldn’t have had if I was paying rent somewhere.
In this article I’m going to go over a few key aspects it takes to successfully live in your car. Even if you never have to live in your car in your life, it’s good to be prepared. You never know what life may throw your way one day.
How to Successfully Live in Your Car
What to do for Food
When it comes to food, there are many options when living in your car. My purpose living in my car was to save as much money as I could so my food choices were dictated by that purpose:
- Canned Foods: There are canned foods such as beans, pastas, and tuna. Have a can opener ready or preferably have an easy to open top. That makes things much easier. Canned fruits or fruits in plastic cups work as well. They store well too.
- Peanut butter and Jelly sandwiches: These are easy to make in a car and only require a knife to spread it.
- Homeless shelters: Homeless shelters are a good source of free food. Just find one in your local area.
- Protein Bars: These are pre-packaged, somewhat healthy and easy to eat on the go.
- Fast Food: This is a somewhat cheap and accessible option but I generally went for the foods that were in a grocery store as they were cheaper. In grocery stores, they usually have a bakery or already-cooked foods section and these are somewhat affordable as well. I used to get 2 pieces of fried chicken and some potatoes and it was decently priced and nice to have some “real” food for a changes sometimes.
Where to Sleep
Finding the right parking place is probably one of the most key elements of sleeping in your car. A good sleeping area can make or break you living in your car. You have to find a place that is safe but also a place where you can stay on the down-low enough to not be noticed.
I personally parked in the lot of a 24-hour grocery store I used to work at. I lucked out. But I’d say if you can manage to sleep at a 24-hour store somewhere that would be good. Or in a neighborhood that is safe where you can stay under the radar.
Once you do find that place, you have to ensure you do everything you can not to be noticed. Part of that is making sure your car is properly “prepared”.
For example, I had dark tint on my windows. If you don’t, another option is to put dark towels up in front of the windows. You have to be inconspicuous though and make sure no one is around when you put them up. Just go to your spot, park, shut the car off and set the towels up. That is what I did.
Make sure you choose the same place for sleeping every night. It makes things a lot easier. Don’t tell anyone where you sleep.
Have the radio off long before you get to your spot so you don’t draw any attention to yourself.
Additional tip: do not open your doors once you get to your spot or get out of your car at all. It only draws more attention to yourself.
Where to take Showers:
Keeping good hygiene is absolutely key to living out of your car without being noticed. The more attention your draw, the easier it will be for you to be noticed and ultimately kicked out. It’s key that you don’t appear to be homeless and get identified as a squatter. For that reason hygiene is very important.
I took showers at a gym. I got a monthly gym membership. It was only $40 a month. So it was not much. I got to both work out and get clean. I recommend having a backpack with everything you need for the shower and a combination lock to lock up your stuff while you are in the shower.
Here are a few options of where to hang out on your day off work or when you have free time:
- Fast food chains: They usually have free WiFi for laptops. If you keep a low profile, it’s likely you will go generally unnoticed. Just make sure to keep to yourself for the most part. I didn’t even buy anything much of the time and no one cared to be honest.
- Public libraries are great places to hang out in your spare time especially if you have a laptop. There is free WiFi that does not expire like many food places. There are usually a good amount of seats. It is nice and cool inside or warm depending on the climate where you live.
- Malls are a decent area to hang out at as well. To find a seat and read a book or walk around. Just as long as you don’t have to pay for parking to be at a mall then it’s great.
- The gym is a great place as well. You can work out for a while to kill time and be inside.
- Friends: Having social connections are obviously a great way to pass the time.
Key items to Keep in your Car
- Gallon of drinking water: It’s important to always stay hydrated when living in your car. You are always going, always on the move much of the time. There were many times it was after work and I hadn’t had any water. It was always nice to have my gallon of water in the backseat under a towel. It costs about $.25 to fill it up at a grocery store.
- Pain medicine: Very useful when you have any kind of pain. There were many times while I was living in my car, it was late at night and my head was throbbing. It was nice to reach in my little soccer bag and take some pain medicine and be able to sleep peacefully after that.
- Car Fan: At night time I find it tough to sleep without some background noise, so this came in handy. It costs about $20 at an automotive store. It is enough wattage to be on all night and not kill the battery. Many nights it is too hot to sleep in a car without a fan.
In the summer time, if I didn’t have a fan I would have suffered greatly.
- Power Inverter: This is a device you can plug into your cigarette lighter and charge your laptop, cell phone, or any other electronic device as long it is a small enough wattage. It costs about $20 at many stores. Be careful what you charge. Some things will kill the battery if you charge it too long. Try to charge things while driving when possible because it doesn’t use the battery. The one I had had was 100 watts, which means anything you charge has to generally generate less electricity than that.
- Sleeping Bag: A good sleeping bag is key in any environment. Even in Los Angeles, in the winter and many times other seasons of the year as well I needed it. If I hadn’t had a good sleeping bag, I would have frozen and been very uncomfortable the entire night.
- Snacks/Food: It is important to always have some sort of food in your car. Preferably on the floor on the passenger seat side as I did. I used that section for my food. It was easy when I got hungry, I could just reach over and grab a banana to eat when I needed it. It’s crucial to always have at least some stuff ready to eat anytime you may need it. Not eating can cause many problems. There were many times after work I was extremely hungry and was leaving work and had a piece of fruit I reached for and ate right from my car.
- Jumper Cables: Sometimes for a couple different reasons, I found that my car battery died and I needed a jump. Most likely because I left the lights on or I charged my electronics too long without driving. It was a pain standing in front of a store asking people if they had jumper cables. I eventually got some jumper cables so when my car battery died, all I had to do was ask anyone who had a car around me if they could give me a jump rather than also having to ask them if they had jumper cables too.
- Vitamin C: Living in your car is not a normal thing obviously. There is more wear and tear and hardship than if you had a place to live. So it’s important to keep your immune system up. Vitamin C boosts the immune system. Anything you can consume with a lot of Vitamin C is great. Oranges or any drinks that have vitamin C in them are great. You cannot afford to get sick in your car when you already have enough other things to worry about.
- Spare Keys Container: Having spare keys around are very important while sleeping in your car. You never know when you may need them. I kept a spare key for my car always in my wallet. Also, I went to an automotive store and got 2 containers for about $10 that store keys and have a magnetic cylinder on the back so you can connect it to any metal at the bottom of your car for when you lose or lock your keys in your car.
Make sure to put it where no one can see it. Make sure no one knows it is there. Only you.
There are many important aspects to surviving living in one’s car. These are a few of the key ones. The important thing is keeping a low profile in all you do. That way, you can have the longevity to stay in your car as long as you need to.
You have to stay mentally strong and continually aware and focused of everyone and everything around you. Keep your head up. Always know it is not forever and is only a temporary situation.
The following article is a guest post by Bill from upstate NY.
In this article, I will be demonstrating how you can build a cold frame, which is like a mini greenhouse for the garden. It will allow me to plant my vegetables a couple of weeks early and keep them growing a couple of weeks later in the fall. All of this is depending on where you live and what you are growing, of course. There are also many types of coverings you can use. Some plastic sheeting is thinner, some thicker and better for insulating. Some allow more light through and some are used to give cool growing plants shade so they can do better in warmer weather than they normally would. Each has a trade off.
Most people I know would rather scrounge around for used and about-to-be-discarded materials. Like a contractor who has just built a house and now has to pay to dump the scrap lumber and other materials he used. Many times, if you ask, he will gladly give you all the scrap lumber you want, as long as he doesn’t think you might steal anything. You can usually find old windows and frames in good shape, which are great for a do it yourself cold frame.
What I chose to do is use lightweight PVC for this project. Schedule 40, furniture grade in 3/4 inch (inside diameter). I used white to save money but you can buy them in all kinds of colors or even paint or stain your own. For the most part, hardware stores and places like Home Depot will stock all the PVC you need, but the connectors are more tricky to find.
The cold frame I built measured about 26” side to side , 20” tall at the highest point and about 14” wide. That should be ok for a couple of plants with enough height to allow them to grow and not be too crowded. What I like about using PVC is that you can make things of any size quickly and as long as you don’t cement the pieces together, you can reuse the connectors and pipe in almost limitless variations.
I used a portable table saw to cut the PVC. The dust mask and safety goggles were used to keep the plastic out of my lungs and eyes. Even though this was a small project ,the amount of plastic “ dust “ generated was quite a lot . I cut it all inside for convenience but next time I’ll set up the saw horses and do it outside.
Here is an overview of all the pieces and tools to make this cold frame. There are several more types of PVC fittings available, but I wanted to make the cold frame inexpensive, so I used only 2 types of the fittings.
What You’ll Need to Build a PVC Cold Frame
Here’s a list of the parts I used:
- 3/4 inch (inside diameter) furniture grade PVC pipe (they came in 5′ pieces and I needed 17′, so I got 4 pieces which cost $16.00 and had 4 feet left over)
a) 3 pieces 24” long
b) 6 pieces 12” long
c) 4 pieces 10” long
- 6 of the 3 way fittings ( $1.04 ea. = $6.24)
- 4 of the 45 degree angle fittings ( $1.31 ea. = $5.24)
- 10 snap clamps cut to 4” long. (I bought a 5 foot long piece and cut it myself, $5.00)
( note : I used snap clamps made for 1 “ PVC because the 3/4 inch size was too hard to work with)
- 2.4 mil “grow tunnel” plastic ( A roll 6 1/2 feet wide by 25 feet long cost me $17.85
Total cost ( not including tax and shipping ) was $32.48 To make one bigger would cost very little extra.
These are the snap clamps. I bought them in 1 five foot long section and cut them into 4 inch pieces myself to save a little money. You can buy them pre-cut though. Note, I tried using the snap clamps made for the 3/4 inch pipe , but they were a very tight fit over the plastic. So I went up a size to 1 inch clamps , which were much easier to work with since I assembled the cold frame a few times to try various configurations. But , if you want a tighter fit use the 3/4 inch size. Just don’t plan on taking them off too many times.
How to Make PVC Cold Frames
Step 1: Assemble the bottom:
Step 2: Add the 45 degree fittings on top:
Step 3: Add the 4 pieces ( 10 “ long ) and the 3 way fittings that will allow you to attach the ridge piece.
Step 4: Add the ridge piece and drape plastic over structure
Step 5: Secure plastic covering
To make it a little faster and easier, I cut the plastic a little larger and just folded the excess under the snap clamp. Doing this saved a little time and if I wanted to re use the plastic on some other project later, the larger piece would come in handy.
I used a piece of paracord in between the ends to keep the plastic from pushing against the plants. I could not seem to find a PVC fitting that would allow me to have a section of pipe to be used for this, so when in doubt, use paracord.
Step 6: Finish by Securing the Lower Portions
To wrap the ends of the cold frame I just cut the plastic and folded it around the pipe and held it all in place with the snap clamps. If I had used the smaller 3/4 “ snap clamps this would have been difficult indeed to do.
Shown above is one side of the frame.
That’s it. This will keep you seedlings and plants quite a bit warmer and will prevent wind damage to young plants. It might be necessary to anchor it to the ground with a couple of tent stakes in windy locations.
In the summer, for cool loving plants, replace the plastic with a product called shade cloth. Basically a woven fabric that allows some light and water through it. It comes in various types , depending how much shade your plant needs.
Still, I would not keep the plant covered 24 / 7 . The whole frame weighs only 2 pounds or so, so I would lift it up so the plant can get some sun. For some types and sizes of plants, you might only need the cold frame over night.
In the spring, this will help the soil warm up a little faster and keep any light frost from hurting the seedlings, as well as discourage animals from eating you plants, up to a point. It will do a good job also, of holding humidity in.
As I said earlier, you can make almost anything using these materials. The whole thing can be disassembled and easily stored when not in use, as long as you do not cement the pieces together.
Look at the links I included to see many more ideas on how to use PVC.
This is a guest contribution by Lee Flynn. Lee Flynn is from the Greater Salt Lake area and grew up in a family where everything they did was outdoors. Lee was raised with survival and preparedness as a way of life. After graduating from college, he began a survival course teaching basic survival knowledge and preparedness advice and has been doing this now for 10 years.
Now that you’ve made the decision to create a food storage system based on your family’s needs, the first step is to determine where you’ll put it. You may only have enough space to store a few weeks’ worth of surplus food if you’re short on space. This is the time to get creative when it comes to building your emergency food storage. Whether you live in a house, condo, or apartment, every bit of available space has the potential to serve as a place to store extra food.
Food Storage Tips
Store your emergency food in a space that gets a limited amount of light and generally stays anywhere between 50 – 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Pantries, cupboards, or basements work great. Some families store surplus food in their crawl space under their home, provided the food is properly sealed and contained.
As long as food isn’t stored in extra warm temperatures or kept near hot pipes or furnaces, it probably won’t spoil. However, be sure to always check the expiration date on your storage food prior to eating it since it could possibly be bad. Many people also like to store food in a basement freezer chest with a variety of frozen foods as well.
What Kinds of Foods Should Families Store?
While you’re trying to figure out what kinds of foods to store, stop and consider what types of foods both you and your family actually like to eat. Don’t buy things you know your kids won’t touch. In order to build an effective food storage supply, stockpile the foods you’ll actually eat since you’ll be rotating your food supply anyway. Also, if you’re not accustomed to eating a particular food, you may find yourself with some unpleasant digestive issues in the end.
Here are some ideas for food staples that many people choose to stockpile in their emergency food supply. Again, consider the tastes of your family along with any special diets anyone may need to follow and adjust your supply accordingly.
Canned Vegetables and Fruits
Several canned vegetables and fruits are not only full of healthy vitamins and minerals, but they have a shelf life of at least three years.
Beans and Legumes
Dried navy beans, kidney beans, great northern beans, and a number of legumes can last up to 20 years if properly stored and they’re an excellent source of protein as well. Cook them and simply eat them plain, or put them in tasty homemade soups or other recipes.
Most people don’t realize the importance of salt. Your body needs the iodine found in salt in order to survive. Therefore, if you want to create a long-term food supply, put iodized salt on your list.
In many cases, dehydrated fruits and vegetables last longer on the shelf than several bottled or canned versions. A few produce items aren’t good for drying, but foods like peas, apricots, carrots, bananas, apples, and onions work especially well for dehydration.
It’s obvious you need water in your food storage. Ideally, your water should be stored in large polycarbonate barrels and kept in a cool, dark area. Figure one gallon per day per person; one-half gallon to drink, and the other half for hygiene and cooking. Also, the water inside your hot water heater can be put to use as well. Just be sure you have a quality water kit or purification tablets to ensure it’s usable enough for cooking and/or drinking if necessary.
If you want to use powdered milk in your back-up food supply, make sure it’s never exposed to any moisture and keep it cool and dry. Stored properly, powdered milk can last on the shelf as long as 18 – 24 months.
Not only is rice an excellent of source of energy for your body, it’s fairly inexpensive and makes an excellent staple to have on hand for various recipes or just plain. Rice can last 8 – 10 years on the shelf if it’s properly stored.
Your emergency home food storage supply can provide both you and your family with great peace of mind and satisfaction knowing your food requirements are met in case you ever need them in the face of an emergency. It also helps financially as well. With a solid plan, you can start building your food storage as soon as today, which will enable you to be fully prepared in those unfortunate times of economic or personal instability.
If there were one fire-making skill I’d recommend all preppers get good at it would probably be making fire from char cloth.
It’s a great skill for truly learning and understanding how to build a fire since it prevents fire-making “laziness” — something we can easily develop in the days of lighters and matches — since it forces you to collect and use only good materials and have your skills down pat.
In addition, these skills will also help you easily translate to getting a fire going from a primitive bow-drill, hand-drill or any other friction-fire method.
And finally, if the time ever came where you really needed to get a fire going, and you had an easier fire-starting tool like a lighter (which you should carry with you anyways), it will be that much simpler.
With that long winded intro, how do you go about making charcloth anyways?
Well, that’s the focus of this post and video.
The process is super simple but first let’s start with getting some ingredients:
What You’ll Need:
- Some metal or tin container: This could be an Altoids tin, a chew tin, or like I use an old pellet tin from my pellet gun.
- Some plant-based material: Cotton balls, cotton makeup remover pads, even cut up pieces from an old cotton t-shirt will work great. Other materials like flax, hemp, and burlap are also great.
- A heat source: This heat source is typically an open fire but it can also be your outdoor grill or even your indoor stove top if you need to (for which I”ll explain how to minimize the smoke so your significant other doesn’t kill you)
How to Make Charcloth
Making charcloth is a very simple process. If you’d prefer a visual demonstration, be sure to check out my video on making char cloth here:
Here’s the written description of the process:
Step 1: Step one is just to prepare your heat source if necessary. If this is an open flame than make sure it has burned down to a decent amount of coals for a coal bed. Other wise you can just use your grill or stove.
Step 2: Punch a hole in the top cover of the tin with a small nail
Step 3: Fill your tin with your cotton (or other) material and cover it up.
Step 4: Place your tin on top of the heat source
Step 5: After placing your tin on the heat source you’ll notice smoke starting to come out of the top hole. This smoke will continue until it stops at which time you’ll know the charcloth is complete.
How to Make Charcloth Indoors (without getting in trouble)
Making it indoors is the same process as above but instead of letting the smoke just bellow out of the hole and filling your kitchen and home, you can light the smoke with a flame. It will stay lit much like a candle. When that flame goes out, your charcoal is complete.
This video is a follow up to the previous blog post on 18 Bug-Out Uses for a Trash Bag.
How to Make Rope from a Trash Bag
When it comes to your bug-out bag — given the limits you have in terms of space and weight — the best survival items you can pack are those that are lightweight, have multiple uses, and don’t take up much space.
I’m sure you know the importance of duct-tape and paracord (and likely have those in your bag right now) however, there is one item that many of us overlook that should also be in there…
A trash bag.
Yes, trash bags — especially heavy-duty contract bags — are one of those excellent cost-effective, space-saving, multi-use items that should be in every bug out bag. They have a plethora of uses, 18 of which I’ll be listing in this article.
18 Uncommon Bug-Out Uses for a Trash Bag
- Warm Shower: Fill your trash bag with water, tie it up above your head and let it sit in the warm sun. The black color of the bag will absorb the sun’s rays heating up the water. Once the water has reached your desired temperature, poke some tiny holes to enjoy a nice warm shower.
- Food Transporter: Whether you just took some game while bugging out or if you’ve opened your packaged food and need a clean place to put it in, a trash bag makes for a great container for transporting and protecting game meats, opened food, etc.
- Water Container: Besides a one-time use shower, a trash bag can make a decent way of transporting a fair amount of water if you’ve lost or don’t have a water container. Here’s where having a contractor bag would be idea given their strength.
*Note: Some trash bags (not so much contractor bags) are lined with chemicals on the inside to prevent odors and mold. It’s not a bad idea to turn the bags inside out if using them for the above purpose>
- Water Collector: Dig a hole around 2 feet in diameter and 2 feet deep, tear open your bag so it’s one large piece and lay it over the hole to set up a makeshift rain water collector or container.
*Note: Some trash bags (not so much with contractor bags) are lined with chemicals on the inside to prevent odors and mold. Given that, it’s not a bad idea to turn the bags inside out if using them for the above purpose>
- Poncho: Trash bags make for excellent ponchos. Just rip a hole in the bottom of the bag for your head and two on the side for your arms and it will do a fine job at keeping the wet weather at bay.
- Waterproof Leggings: Take two trash bags and place one foot with your shoes on inside each. Tie up the bags around your ankles and calves with some duct tape or cordage (both of which aren’t bad ideas to have in your BOB). Now you have some decent waterproof leggings to temporarily cross through shallow brooks or streams or traversing over deep, wet snow.
- Gear Protector (Dry Bag): You can use the bags to keep your gear stored in your BOB dry while traveling in wet conditions. In addition, you can enclose your entire bug-out bag with the trash bag (cutting slits for your backpack straps to get through) for a makeshift poncho for your bag.
- Makeshift Toilets: If you happen to have bugged out to an urban area and there aren’t many places to dig a latrine, trash bags make for excellent makeshift toilet liners (like in a 5-gallon bucket or in a non-functioning toilet if the grid’s down).
- Comforter and Pillow: Large trash bags filled with leaves or other light debris make for great expedient comforters that can be placed on top of you when it’s cold out. In addition, a smaller bag (or a large one only partly filled with leaves) will work pretty decent as a pillow (it would be best to place a piece of cloth on it (like a Shemagh or bandana) for your face to lie on for more comfort.
Although less than ideal, you could also partially inflate the bag for a pillow (but it will be less comfortable than leaves or other soft debris).
- Strong Rope: Yes, trash bags can actually make surprisingly strong cordage and rope when braided correctly. I plan on doing a video of this pretty soon so I’ll update this article with that when I do.
- Ground Cloth: One thing that’s very important when setting up a tent or other makeshift shelter is laying down a groundcloth to keep the moisture from coming up from the ground into your shelter at night. A trash bag cut open and laid out will help in this way.
- Makeshift Shelter/Lean-To: While obviously not ideal, a trash bag can work as a fair shelter against wind, rain and the sun’s rays. Just stretch it out and tie it off as you would with a standard lean-to shelter.
- Life Preserver/Flotation Device: While certainly not Coast Guard approved, trash bags can be blown up with air like a balloon, tied off, and be used to provide flotation while crossing bodies of water. A few of these can also be tied to a makeshift raft to aid in buoyancy. Again, the stronger the bag (like a contractor bag) the better to prevent tearing and puncturing.
- Arm Sling: Similar to how the boy scouts use their neckerchiefs for slings, you can follow the same approach to sling someone’s arm if recently injured.
- Bandage Protector: If you’ve just finished bandaging up someone’s wound, you can use a strip of a trash bag to wrap over the bandage and tie it off to further protect the bandage and wound from getting dirty.
- Bug Out Washing Machine: For extended bug-out travels you can place your dirty clothes in a bag, some soap scrapings (or if you packed small amounts of detergent) and some water, twist or tie off the bag and vigorously shake the bag for a few minutes. Drain the dirty water, replace with clean water and repeat for the rinse cycle.
- Window Black Outs: While at your bug-out location or when bugging in, you can use trash bags to cover your windows at night — preventing a “light signal” to those less-than-friendly people looking for occupied residences. Again, it’s best to use contractor bags here since some thinner bags will require multiple layers.
- Cold Compress: Trash bags can be filled with snow or ice (if available) to provide for a makeshift compress for treating inflammation caused by injury.
*Note: Some trash bags (not so much with contractor bags) are lined with chemicals on the inside to prevent odors and mold. It’s not a bad idea to turn the bags inside out if using them for the next three uses.
In addition, let me just stress again that while normal trash bags can work in the above examples in a pinch, again, ideally you want to pack contractor bags which you can find at most any hardware stores.
Also, as a side note, others have mentioned using trash bags as “thermal underwear”. While it will hold in heat, it’s not a good idea since it also traps in moisture, which when cold outside can easily lead to hypothermia. True thermal underwear “breathes” to allow the moisture to escape.
If I were to guess, activated charcoal is probably not one of the items found in your med kit right now.
Well, it’s time you change that…
The thing is, in a long-term disaster or a post-collapse situation, you’ll likely not have access to professional medical help. And if you or your loved one accidentally ingests something poisonous, it could end up being a very bad day for you or yours.
That’s where having activated charcoal could be a very real life saver.
In this article you’ll discover just what activated charcoal is and how it can be used to ward off potential disaster when things go very bad. In addition, you’ll learn about many of the other potential uses that this long-standing “medicine” has.
Activated Charcoal Throughout History
The first recorded use of charcoal for medicinal purposes comes from Egyptian papyri around 1500 B.C. as a method of staving off infection of open wounds. Since then, activated charcoal has continued to be an effective form of treatment for a variety of ailments down to the present time.
In fact, it’s common to find activated charcoal in modern emergency rooms for treatment of drug overdose and poisoning.
How does it work you ask? Well, read on…
How Activated Charcoal Performs its “Magic”
It may at first seem a bit unbelievable as to how a simple black powder can be so effective at removing poisons from the body. But there’s real scientific reasons as to why.
Activated charcoal works mainly by adsorption (no I didn’t spell that incorrectly). Since activated charcoal is 100% alkaline (i.e. negatively charged), this negative ionic charge attracts postive ionic charges like toxins and poisons, causing them to bind to the charcoal which then gets escorted out of your body through the eliminative process of your intestines.
Even when made as a poultice (a moist paste of charcoal and water that you spread over a wound or sting) this adsorption process will work to draw out poisons caused by stings and bites of animals.
Basically the process that creates activated charcoal (steam heating and oxidation) ends up creating an internal lattice of very fine pores. This structure allow s charcoal to adsorb over 100 times its weight in bacteria, toxins and other positively charged chemicals (like drugs and unwanted medicine).
For that reason, it’s important that you don’t ingest charcoal if you’ve recently (within the last 2 – 4 hours) taken perscription medicine for medical reasons since it can also adsorb certain medicines as it does poisons.
Here are just some of the examples of charcoal remedies (both internal external) that you’ll find used in modern as well as folk medicine:
- food poisoning / drug overdose: This is really the only remedy I’ve found where charcoal is used in modern medicine. My ER doctor friend has used charcoal a number of times in the Emergency Room for drug-overdose patients.
- elimination of toxins that contribute to anemia in cancer patients
- stomach bug/flu: This has worked very well in my family. Anytime we feel a stomach bug coming on we take a teaspoon of charcoal in a cup of water which stops it in its tracks.
- filter toxins from blood
- minor arthritic symptoms
- sore throat irritation
- tooth abscesses
- disinfect wounds
- teeth whitening: Charcoal surprisingly does an excellent job at removing tartar and plaque buildup on teeth (no the black will not stain your teeth) and even removes stains (especially those caused by coffee).
- cold sores
- insect bites: Very effective against bee and wasp stings. I’ve personally seen this work wonders for my 4-year old daughter with a wasp sting. The pain subsided very quickly after making a poultice and covering her sting.
- snake bites
Is Activated Charcoal Something I Can Make?
As a quick warning, this is not the charcoal that comes as briquettes that you use in your charcoal grill. Since many of them are laden with dangerous fillers and petrochemicals (firestarter) to help them ignite, ingesting or using these for medical purposes could certainly lead to a very bad day for you or your loved ones.
True activated charcoal is made industrially through a process of exposing pure charcoal to hot steam in order to oxidize it. So while you can certainly make normal charcoal from a woodfire and grind it up fine enough to be somewhat effective (if that’s all you had available to you), it’s not the same.
Given the purity that you can buy as well as it’s practically limitless shelf life I would still highly recommend you purchase it.
Where Can I Purchase Activated Charcoal and How Can I Learn To Use It?
It’s important that you purchase a high-quality charcoal. Here’s the one that I recommend and buy for my own family:
In addition, if you want to learn all of the fantastic ways to use this as well as dosing information be sure to check out some of these resources:
As preppers we all know the importance of keeping our firearms and electronics free from moisture when they are put away for storage. For this reason, before caching or storing items such as these for the long term its crucial you include some type of desiccant (or water absorber) in with your stored items.
Most preppers use silica gel, but what if you don’t have any on hand?
Well, here in the US, there is a huge supply of desiccant that you can readily use in a pinch if you can’t get a hold of silica gel.
What is it you ask? Well, it’s none other than drywall. Yup, common gypsum wallboard found in most homes throughout the US.
How to Make Homemade Desiccant
Similar to silica gel, if you want to activate drywall to become a anahydrate or desiccant you need to heat it up long enough to remove the moisture. Here’s the process:
|Step 1: Preheat your oven to 450F
|Step 2: Grab a 1/2 foot x 1/2 foot piece of drywall.
|Step 3: Remove the paper (it helps by wetting the paper first) and break it up in 1″ square pieces, then place those pieces on a cookie sheet and into the oven.
|Step 4: Let it heat for about an hour which will remove all the moisture.|
|Step 5: Remove from oven and while hot, immediately place in an air-tight container that won’t melt from heat (a mason jar is a perfect container for this).
How to Use your DIY Desiccant
To use your desiccant place a handful of it inside a sock and stash it in the storage container that is housing your electronics, firearms or other items you’re interested in keeping away from moisture.
Here are just a few examples of where to use your homemade desiccant:
- In the bottom of your gun safe
- In your survival cache tube (like a PVC pipe where you cache your firearms)
- Inside a sealed Mylar bag that contains your electronics
- In your gym bag to prevent mold, mildew, and odors
- With silver jewelry or silverware to slow tarnishing
- In your toolbox to prevent rusting
- Inside containers holding stored clothes and blankets to prevent mildew
- Inside of anything you store in the basement
- In a safe with important documents
- Inside of cases with seed packets to keep them from molding
- and much more..!
The following pictures give an example of how effective this is as a desiccant. I threw a handful of these desiccants in a mason jar that just came out of the dishwasher. After a few minutes the homemade desiccant had absorbed all the water in the jar.
A Quick Related Tip
As a quick side note (in case you missed the reference above), be sure to hang onto any silica gel packets you come across that are packaged in various products you’ve purchased. They can also be reused by heating them up in the oven and storing them as described above.
Hey guys, just wanted to quickly let you know about a document I found buried in the CDC website. It’s an older document (written in 1998) that provides an excellent resource for Ebola prevention in a time when modern medical facilities might not be available.
Originally written for healthcare workers fighting Viral Haemorrhagic Fevers (like Ebola) in austere conditions like West Africa, it deals with prevention, early diagnosis and response within a limited infrastructure (again, something we might face during an outbreak and associated civil collapse).
This would obviously be important knowledge to have and I wanted to make sure you guys have it.
Here’s some of the points it covers:
- How to set up isolation precautions in rural areas.
- How to use common, low-cost supplies to prevent transmission of Ebola
- Necessary safety precautions
- How to properly isolate (ie quarantine) potential and actual carriers of Ebola
- Proper procedures for putting on and taking off protective clothing
- Disinfection methods
- Proper Ebola-contaminated waste disposal
- Safe burial practices of deceased Ebola victims
- How to make protective clothing with low-cost items
- and much more…
This is a must have document that should be part of everyone’s Survival Library so be sure to download it here:
Most preppers get the idea that communication is an important capability to have during an emergency.
Despite this understanding though, few preppers have a solid communication plan in place beyond a few two-way walkie-talkie devices and the false hope that their cellphone will still function.
If that describes you (like it did me a few years ago), this article should hopefully open your eyes and inspire you to change that.
The Dangers of a Communication Blackout are Very Real
We take our ability to instantly communicate with others around the nation and the globe for granted. In reality though, the methods we depend on to communicate — internet and cellphone primarily — are extremely fragile.
One common theme you see in any widespread disaster (or even overcrowded sporting events) is that people are unable to make use of their cell phones for outgoing or incoming calls. We saw this with 9/11, Hurricane Katrina and Sandy, as well as the Boston terrorist bombings.
This is just a small glimpse into what might happen if there was a more widespread natural disaster or terrorist event – it would wreak havoc on our telecommunications
History has proven that when cell towers go down during an emergency, the whole network is at risk of being overloaded (or may fail entirely).
Can you imagine what a major emergency would cause?
What about Landlines?
Landlines aren’t much better. If things got so bad that our basic utilities were to shut down, landlines wouldn’t be far behind even though they run on their own power source.
GMRS/FRS radios (ie walkie-talkies), while great for certain scenarios, just don’t have the range if we plan on talking with anyone outside of a couple miles…let alone out of the state or in another country.
Satellite phones, while they can be very effective in an emergency, still have their drawbacks in that they’re very expensive to purchase and operate (~$30/mo for only 10 min of talking time) and they are still dependent on a 3rd party maintaining their satellites as well as keeping your account active (which may not be possible in an extended post-collapse scenario).
Also, they don’t work indoors or where there’s thick canopy (like in the jungle or thick woods). You need clear access to the sky where the satellites either pass over or are situated (depending on if the sat network has roving or stationary satellites).
What’s the Answer Then…?
That leads us to the only reliable emergency communication method that we have available to us when the SHTF. It’s a method that’s not dependent upon the grid and can be used for local, regional, and even global communication.
What is it?…
Amateur radio, or more commonly referred to as “ham radio”, is used by city, county, and federal emergency communications teams; by private relief organizations throughout the world; and by a large number of dedicated citizens who are active, knowledgeable, and have the skills and ability to respond and assist in emergencies.
And if you haven’t yet, it’s something that you definitely need to learn if you want to have an effective emergency communications plan in pace.
Now don’t misunderstand the word “amateur”. It has nothing to do with it requiring less skill or having less capabilites than a “professional” (if that exists) might use. Amateur in this case only means that it is not broadcast for purposes of making money (like much of FM radio is).
Pros and Cons of Amateur (Ham) Radio
The ultimate benefit of Ham radio is that there really isn’t any restriction to how far you can communicate. It can be used to communicate locally, regionally and worldwide.
In addition, it’s not dependent upon any public or private communications’ infrastructure and can be used on top of a mountain or in a crowded city, powered on the grid, or completely off by using a generator, a battery backup, or a solar setup.
The biggest downside (which can be a plus for us fellow hams) is that you need to be licensed and in addition, there is some ramp up time to get comfortable with communicating and using the equipment (it’s actually a skill that you will develop over a lifetime since there’s so much you can do with Amateur radio).
Why Should I Bother With A License Since It Won’t Matter When The SHTF Anyways?
This is a common question I get, and my answer is always the same: Since amateur radio isn’t something you can simply pick up and use without prior experience, you need to practice NOW before things go south; and you can’t properly practice without getting a license first.
There are a lot of things you need to learn such as antenna theory, skywave and NVIS propagation, which bands to use at what times and how solar activity and other environmental phenomenon can affect your transmissions.
And besides, there are still a lot of other emergencies (local and regional) that don’t involve the end of the world to be here to still warrant having EMCOMM abilities.
The Secret to Getting Your Ham License
I’m happy to tell you that it is much easier to get a Ham license than ever before.
Back in my Father’s Day, he needed to learn Morse code in order to get his ham operator license. I, on the other hand, was able to to not only get the entry-level “Technician” license but the “General” license (to operate on the HF frequencies that allow for regional and global communication) all in one day without needing to know a bit of Morse code.
Note: I’m not saying that Morse code is not a bad thing to learn (in fact it’s something that I am hoping to pick up soon) however the good news is since 2006 it’s not required anymore when getting your ham operator license.
Since most of the real learning you’ll do with ham-radio operating is through doing it, to get going with the “doing” part, all you need to do is pass the test. And passing the test for licensing only requires you to know what the right answers are.
Luckily, the entire pool of questions for each license type and their answers is available for study. Since the tests are multiple choice, you don’t even need to understand the theory behind the questions, just the right answers (this is more true for Technician than the others).
For example, when I first got my license, I studied for a total of 8 hours and was able to pass both the Technician and General tests in one sitting with over 90% each — just because I memorized the answers for the most part.
If you’d prefer to learn all the theory behind the questions before testing, that’s certainly your prerogative.
Here are a number of resources you can use to study the question pools and answers for each of the license exams:
- HamStudy.org – This was the resource I used to help me study and pass the Technician and General exams. For the Extra, I had to study a bit more in depth which I used the next resource for…
- hamRadioLicenseExam.com – This is my friend PI’s site (K1RV). He’s got a great resource that will actually tutor you so you really understand the theory and not just the answers.
Where Can I Take My Ham Radio Exam?
Most license exams are offered out of the many Amateur Radio clubs found throughout the US. Depending on where you live, you should be able to find one nearby at any week of the year.
Here are some resources to find and exam site near you:
- The ARRL: The ARRL has a nice search functionality that you just need to enter your zip code and it will spit out a number of tests given nearby along with their date and location.
- HamDepot.comhas a listing of most of the clubs throughout the US. Since most clubs are the ones giving the tests, you can contact a nearby one and find out when the next test is.
Is The Testing Expensive?
The test is only around $15 dollars to cover filing with the FCC and other handling fees.
Another great bonus is you can take all of the tests in one sitting if you so wish for the same price. You just need to be sure you pass each in order before going on to the next one.
Final Thoughts and Resources
Hopefully by now you see the benefits in adding Amateur Radio to your preps.
After all, when the grid goes down and cell phones and land lines no longer function, while everyone else is in the dark, all you’ll need is a wire, a battery, and a radio and you’ll be communicating with your loved ones and others around the world. That’s the ultimate benefit of ham radio.
For more info on getting started, here are a couple more links:
- Ham Radio For DummiesIf Ham Radio is brand new to you you’d have to be a dummy not to read this. It provides a great overview to get you started. You can even just go to the bookstore and sit down with a nice hot drink and get through it that way.
- Stealth Amateur Radio: Operate From Anywhere A great resource for communication OPSEC. For preppers looking to hide their radio station from nosy neighbors and other prying eyes, this book will teach you how.