Archive for August, 2009

How to Put Together the Ultimate Survival Kit

Saturday, August 29th, 2009


This post is sponsored by Prepper Academy, the only preparedness program that shows you step-by-step how to rapidly prepare for the coming hard times — no matter what your income or where you live.



Would you be willing to stake your life on your survival kit? I would.

There are so many debates when it comes to the perfect survival kit. In my opinion, the items you choose to be in a survival kit can be very different based on the situation you see yourself in (maritime vs. desert survival) as well as your level of skill. For that reason there are a number of factors that determine what items you ultimately put in it. For this article, I will explain to you how I organize my kit, the elements that make it up, and hopefully provide some inspiration for your own. As always, I’d love to hear your opinions, so feel free to comment!

My entire kit is based off of three tiers — one that I carry with me, one that I keep in my car (and sometimes on me), and one that is in my home ready to go in a moments notice if I had to bug out. Here is the three-tiered survival kit:

The Three-Tiered Survival Kit

First Tier:

This ‘kit’ includes those items that you have with you at all times. This is your fallback kit. If you were stranded somewhere with nothing else except for what you have on you, than this is what you’d be left with. They should be with you at work, while you’re running errands, church, basically everywhere possible. Obviously when you’re showering you can make an exception, just have it close by to grab on your way to wherever you’re going. The following gear (which I call the Essential 3) is recommended for your first tier:

  • Folding Knife: If you’ve ever been in a survival situation (planned or not) you know how essential a knife is. This I consider to be your most important survival tool. Purchase a good quality folding knife. My knife of choice is the Doug Ritter RSK MK1 – good quality, good price, and thoroughly field-tested (by me) for my needs.
  • Fire Starter: This comes in second in order of importance for first-tier gear. For all you smokers out there thinking, “I’m all set, I’ve got my Bic” you might want to reconsider. A Bic Lighter is ok, but the fuel can run out quickly (especially if you’re not skilled at fire making) and they are a bear to start when they get wet. Instead of a fuel-based fire starter or worse (matches) I would recommend a ‘firesteel’. I recommend the ones from FireSteel.com or any of the Swedish FireSteel versions. These ‘strike-style’ firestarters are far superior to fuel based ones because they last forever and produce a hotter heat output compared to a Bic and an added benefit is I’ve never had issues taking them on a plane. The only downside is if you have no fire-making skills you’ll need to practice with it a bit. In the meantime you can carry with you a simple tinder made by mixing a little vaseline into a cotton ball which will easily light with this firestarter.
  • Cordage: Cordage is a fundamental part of survival. It’s used for bowstrings, lashings, fishing line, snares, trap triggers, nets, tying down shelters and more. While making cordage from natural materials is always an option, and is not too difficult to learn, it’s always a good idea to have some with you at all times. I would recommend at least 10 feet of good strong cord – my favorite being 550 Paracord. I carry around 10 feet of it on my wrist at all times in the form of a bracelet I made. The benefit of Paracord is that not only is it strong (it has a 550 lb rating – hence the name), but it is made up of a strong outer sheath and seven inner strands that can be used for multiple purposes. Just carrying 10 feet of Paracord is like carrying 80 feet of cordage!

While I would at the least recommend the Essential 3, there are a few other items you may want to consider carrying as part of your EDC (Every Day Carry) Gear or first Tier. Here are some other items I’ll have on me:

  • Coin Sized Compass: These are those small, coin-sized compasses you see in many mini survival kits. Try to get one of the liquid-filled ones since it doesn’t have to be completely horizontal to work.
  • Pinch Light: These little ‘pinch lights’ are perfect in a pinch (pun intended :)). They provide enough light for travel, for nightime camp activities (building a fire, setting up camp), and the LED versions last forever.
  • Lockpicks: We live in an unpredictable world. Since I’m all about preparedness, there may come a time when you are held captive by terrorists, kidnapped for ransom (visit Mexico), or your simply locked out of your house. Lockpicks – and knowing how to use them – are a great addition to any EDC list.
  • Hand-Cuff Keys: It’s not unknown for kidnappers and terrorists to use handcuffs to hold you captive. Since many cuffs use a universal key, carry a spare in a location on your person that is accessible with handcuffs on.
  • Personal Protection Device: This could be a concealed carry pistol, mace, tactical flashlight etc. Just be sure you have the proper license if required.

The key to the first-tier kit is to incorporate it as much as possible with what you wear. While the above items could probably all fit on a keychain, keychains sometimes get lost. If your knife has a clip, clip it to the top of your pants. Wear a cordage bracelet, or use strong cordage as lacing for your footwear. Attach a small firestarter to your belt. Find creative ways to ‘wear’ your first tier gear. That way it will always be available.

Second Tier:

The second-tier survival kit includes items that you can fit in a small carry bag (like a fanny pack) or if you’re in the military or field, this would be what you attach to your H-Harness. If it’s in a pack, have it somewhere close by like in your car or in some cases feel free to carry it with you (in a purse or “man purse”). And for insurance purposes, duplicate and upgrade the items you have in the first tier. Here’s a list of what I have:

  • Fixed Knife: In other words, non-folding. You’ll want a heavy duty, full-tanged knife that can take a beating and hold an edge. My favorite is the Bark River Bravo-1. If you want more details into what makes up a good knife checkout my article on how to choose a survival knife.
  • Full-Size Compass: Even if you already have a small one in your first tier, then this should be upgraded to a full-size compass for ease of reading an azimuth. I prefer a lensatic compass due to the accuracy I can get in the reading.
  • Water Container: Any collapsible, light, and easily carried container will do.
  • Firestarter: Again, for insurance purposes you’ll want to duplicate what is in the first tier. I just include another firesteel that is a bit bigger than the one I carry on me. I also have a film canister filled with cotton balls mixed with vaseline.
  • Water Purification Kit: In a small kit like this, iodine crystals are a perfect fit. They come in a small bottle (you’ll want to buy the Polar Pure brand) and it can purify up to 500 gallons!
  • Flashlight: The ‘tactical’ flashlights out there are an excellent choice. Check out the SureFire brand. You won’t be dissatisfied.
  • First-Aid Kit: This would be smaller than what you carry in your third-tier survival kit, but should include at least tweezers, a hemostatic agent (like QuickClot dressings), antihistamine, aspirin, antiseptic wipes, bandages, butterfly closures, moleskin, tape, and gauze.
  • Simple Shelter: This could be a shelter half, bivy, tarp etc. This simple shelter should fit in your small kit and is mostly used to protect against the elements. I have a simple bivy and space blanket combo — both small and extremely light.
  • Cordage: Again, I would recommend 550 paracord. Try to have around 50 feet.
  • Energy Bars: Any high-calorie, nutrient dense bar will do.
  • Signal Mirror: While any mirror will do, it’s best to buy the signal mirrors that have the hole in the center to accurately aim the reflected light.
  • Lock Picks & Cuff Key: I have a more extensive kit in this tier.
  • Multi-Tool: My Leatherman Wave has been a lifesaver for many tasks out on the road. This tool is so handy, it fluctuates between the first tier and second tier.

Third Tier:

Your third-tier survival kit is equivalent to what others commonly refer to as a go-bag, bug-out bag (BOB), or 72-hour kit. This kit should include all those items that could fit into a good-sized backpack that will sustain you for at least 72-hours. It should be easily accessible and ready to go at a moments notice. I keep mine at my house. The most important thing is that you pack your bag for scenarios that you may encounter. Individuals living in the city will have many needs different than those in the boonies, so be sure to prioritize around your needs.

I also like to separate my bug-out bag into multiple tiers — each tier enclosed within its own bag — with the most important items being on top. This allows for easy access at night when visibility is low. They are based on the following priorities (in order of importance):

  1. Personal Safety: This tier is in two separate bags: one is for personal security items and the second is for first aid. The first-aid kit is a bit beefier than what is in the second tier above.
  2. Shelter: Personal shelter and sleeping bag. I keep these on the outside of the pack. I love the Henessy Hammock. It’s lightweight and super comfortable. If you are with a family and personal hammocks aren’t an option, you’ll want to consider a tent.
  3. Water: My pack has an integrated water bladder that I combine with the Katadyn Hiker Pro Water Microfilter. I also include another bottle of Polar Pure (duplicated from the second tier kit).

    Since I live in an area where water abounds, finding water to filter is less of a worry. If you live in a more arid environment you may want to consider packing as much as you can carry.

  4. Fire: This tier includes the same items listed above, as well as an efficient camp stove and fuel.
  5. Food: I have some canned goods, but mostly freeze dried foods and MREs. Have enough for three days.
  6. Besides what’s listed in the priorities above, I also include several tools and miscellaneous items such as an entrenching tool, 100-ft length of paracord, fish hooks and line, headlamp, small hatchet, playing cards, and something to read.

Conclusion

In summary, while the list above is what I use, it may not be suitable for you. It’s important that you organize and supply your kits with items specific to your environment, needs, and skill level.

The best advice I can give you is to put your three tiers together and put them to use. Practice using the various items in darkness and light, different types of weather and different seasons. Take your go-pack on a hike with you to see if you can even carry it for an extensive time period. Drop those things that aren’t working for you and add others you think you’ll need.

With time you’ll find a kit that is highly customized to you (and your families) needs. Best of luck!

Resources

I owe the multi-tiered survival kit idea to Kevin Reeve, owner of OnPointTactical. I’ve known him for a number of years now and he’s a good friend and an incredible teacher. I highly recommend his school.

How Learning Primitive Skills Could One Day Save Your Tail

Thursday, August 20th, 2009

When it comes to preparing yourself and your family for potential disaster, all that gear that you’re storing away (tents, camping stoves, fuel, food storage etc) may not be enough. While food storage, fuel and all the other gear that goes along with survival and preparedness is crucial, the best insurance you can give your family is learning primitive skills.

I know it’s hard to believe, but there were not always shopping malls and corner markets available to our ancestors. If you go far enough back in your own family tree (ancient Europe included), you will eventually find those who were hunter/gatherers. This was before flint and steel, before farming and agriculture, back when they lived directly off the land. With the onset of agriculture and specifically the industrial revolution, your ancestors had slowly lost their place in the natural world, and lost their understanding of how to live off the land.

It’s these skills that provide the ultimate back-up plan. It’s these skills that it’s time to relearn.

Benefits

Here are just some of the benefits in learning primitive skills:

  • There’s a feeling of well being knowing your skill and knowledge can save you and others. Being proficient at primitive skills provides peace of mind. I know that if I or my family were to be forced into a situation where we were stuck out in the wilderness for an extended period of time, there’s a good chance we would at least be able to come out alive. That knowledge is comforting.
  • You gain a greater connection to nature and understanding of the rhythm and flow of life. Nothing brings you closer to nature than having to live by her rules. If you ever want to survive primitively then you’re forced to surrender to the will of nature. You learn what, where, and when plants grow that you can eat and use. You learn about the animals, their habits, and how the animals relate to the plants and each other. You learn how weather and seasons relate to everything else and how all this knowledge applies to your survival and well being.
  • Ease of mobility. Knowing even a few primitive skills allows you to be less dependent upon extra gear which can weigh you down and slow you up.
  • Your ‘gear’ is all around you. The better you get at primitive skills and knowledge the more you realize that everything you need is all around you. Nature provides you with tools, shelter, food, clothing and so on.
  • Primitive skills provide a permanent solution. Your lifeline is not tethered to the gear you have or the food you carry with you. With enough skill you could stay alive indefinitely. It’s the ultimate bug-out insurance!
  • It forces you to understand the principle behind the practice. When building shelters, making fire, finding food and purifying water, many of these skills are perfected and fine-tuned with experience. And nature provides the ultimate feedback: If your fire isn’t built just right, then there’s no fire; If your shelter isn’t in the right location then you’ll be cold/wet/uncomfortable. Primitive skills do not grant as much leeway in your ability as does modern-day gear. So it forces you to understand the principles. Once these principles are understood then they can easily translate to urban areas and using modern gear can be even more effective.

Unfortunately, becoming proficient with primitive skills requires a bit of practice. They are difficult to master. In a survival situation it also can be difficult to support others who have no skill since you are the sole provider. But despite these shortcomings, primitive skills provide the ultimate insurance and backup in an emergency situation. And in combination with modern-day gear you have the ultimate complimentary pair.

Must Have Primitive Skills

Here’s my list of must-have primitive skills:

  1. Fire Making: This includes not only how to set up and build a correct fire but also how to make fire without matches.
  2. Water Purification and Collection: This involves where to find it, how to collect it and once you have it, how to purify it.
  3. Shelter Making: Understand and know how to build at least one shelter appropriate to your biosphere that provides warmth and protection from the elements.
  4. Food Procurement: One could spend a lifetime learning all the skills surrounding obtaining food primitively, but for the basics, I would learn the following:
    • The Big Four:While you should learn as many edible plants of your area as you can, if you had to learn just four I would choose these: Broad-leaf Cattail, Oak (acorns), Pine, and Grass. Most of the northern hemisphere contains these four plants and learning how to identify and use them for food can make all the difference.
    • Throwing Stick Hunting: “Rabbit sticks” (short wooden clubs) used to throw at small game such as rabbits and waterfowl have been used by our early ancestors the world over. Take some time to gather some short, hard sticks about the thickness of your wrist and as long as the tip of your elbow to your fingertips. Set up some targets in a field or in your yard and start throwing. You’ll be amazed at how quickly your skill will improve with time. When hunting, I would suggest carrying two (the first stick does not always kill them outright) you’ll need the second one to deliver the final killing blow so they don’t suffer needlessly or worse yet, turn on you (we’ve all seen what rabbits are capable of in Monty Python and the Holy Grail).

Resources

Recommended Online Resources

  • Survival Topics This is one of my favorite sites. Ron Fontaine does an excellent job at presenting survival skills in an easy to learn way.
  • Wildwood Survival A huge resource for learning primitive skills with some video
  • Primitive Ways Great collection of various primitive skills
  • Nature Skills Good resource with some great articles

Recommended Schools

Water Procurement and Purification Methods

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

Here in New England, we just recently had a severe ice-storm that brought the power down for over a week in some places. Those who were dependent upon electricity for water (such as a well pump) lost the ability to get water from their faucets and were forced to find other sources. Fortunately, many stores were still open so they were able to purchase water for drinking.

But what happens in the case of a major disruption in the utilities? Katrina is a perfect example. Because the utilities were out and some of the water companies reported contaminated supplies, people made a mad rush to the stores causing a buying panic. As a result, this led to supply shortages on bottled water and food. It’s for reasons such as these that it’s absolutely essential that you have some store of water on hand. But what if your store runs out? What then?

In this article, I deal with some of the most effective ways — primitive and modern — of procuring and filtering water.

Water Procurement Methods

Natural and Man-Made Caches

This includes ponds, lakes, water holes, reservoirs, outdoor buckets and barrels (not used for fuels or chemicals), your local water fountain and so on. Even a large plastic tarp shaped in such a way to catch rain water is an excellent cache.

Your Neighborhood

With a little creative thinking and some discretion there are lots of places in the neighborhood which provide good sources of water.

Your Home

In a pinch, your home can be a good source of water. The drinking water that remains in the plumbing will still be available if the water source is turned off. Just find the main drain in the lowest portion of your home and empty it into a container. If you have a hot-water tank, this will be your largest source of water available (around 40-50 gallons).

Although it’s considered ‘grey’ water, if you were desperate, you can take the water from the dehumidifier or from a forced hot-water heating system. Other sources are the toilet tank (stay away from the bowl). Just be sure to purify it first (boiling at the least). Oh and by the way, make sure it’s not contaminated with natural gas: 🙂

Morning Dew

One of the most effective (and one of my favorite) primitive ways of collecting water is from the early morning dew. The process is simple: Take a large cotton cloth (like your t-shirt) or a handful of long grass if you happen to be naked out in the bush 🙂 and begin to wick up the dew that has condensed on grass, large stones, the fresh leaves on trees, and other areas. After you’ve soaked the shirt or grass, just wring it out into a container or your mouth.

You’d be surprised how much you can gather. I tested this one morning and was able to collect a gallon in about a half-hour’s time frame! Not only can you get quite a bit of water, but the best part is that it’s already distilled so you don’t have to purify it.

As a caution, be sure you don’t gather the dew from poisonous or contaminated surfaces (poison ivy, recently fertilized/sprayed grass etc).

Solar Still
The solar still was invented by two physicians working for the U.S. Dept of Agriculture and is a powerful way to collect water, even in some of the most arid of areas. It’s basically a primitive distillery. This technique extracts moisture from the surrounding ground through the principle of the ‘greenhouse effect’. Using solar energy, this moisture evaporates, rises and condenses on the underside of a plastic barrier above.

Materials needed:

To build a solar still, you’ll need at least two primary components: a container to catch the water (this could be a plastic cup, bowl etc) and a 6-foot by 6-foot (~ 2 meters by 2 meters) sheet of clear plastic. It helps to also have a shovel and a length of plastic tubing (similar to the kind found in fish tanks).

Building the solar still:

  1. Dig a round pit 4 feet in diameter and 3 feet deep
  2. Dig a small hole in the center of the pit to hold the container
  3. If available, run the length of the plastic tubing from the center container to the outside of the pit. This makes it easy to drink from the container without having to disassemble the pit to drink
  4. Lay the plastic sheet over the pit, and secure the sheet with four rocks.
  5. Find a small smooth rock and push gently down on the center of the sheet until the sides of the sheet slope with about a 45 degree angle. If the pit was dug in the right dimensions, this should place the center of the sheet with the rock on top just a few inches above the container.
  6. Finally, secure the sheet by covering the edges outside of the pit with rocks and dirt.

After about 2 hours, the air inside the pit will saturate with moisture and begin to condense on the plastic sheet. As the condensation builds it will begin to trickle down the sloped sides inside the pit and drip into the container. As the water collects, simply drink from the tube.

To increase the output of the pit, you can also pour brackish water, gray water, salt-water or even urine around the edges of the pit. The solar still will distill the water (or urine) making it pure and clean for drinking. As a warning, do not pour antifreeze in or around the still since the poisons will evaporate with the water.

Water Purification Methods

Unless you’ve procured your water from a clean source (your plumbing pipes, a solar still etc) you’ll need to purify it before drinking it. This next section deals with some of the most effective modern and primitive ways of doing this:

Modern Water Filters

While water filters come in all shapes and sizes, if you had to choose one I would recommend the microfilter. These are those compact, easily transported filters commonly used by hikers and outdoor-types. They are recommended just for the fact that if you had to take off quickly it would be easy to grab (better yet keep in a bug-out bag for that purpose).

Do your due diligence in finding a good filter. If you have the money, I would spend it on a higher-priced one (my favorite being the Katadyn Hiker Pro Filter which easily integrates with my Camelbak) since they are quality filters that can typically filter much more water before needing replacement:

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2p4aNRCNTJg]

Keep in mind that although good microfilters filter out most bacteria, they never filter out all of it. The best insurance is to use them in combination with a prophylaxis such as bleach, iodine, or boiling (see below).

Bleach
As a general rule, you’ll want to use 8 drops (1/8th of a teaspoon) of non-scented liquid household chlorine bleach per gallon of water (2 drops per quart). Just put the bleach in your container of water, briefly stir, then let it sit for 30 minutes.

If the water is still cloudy add 8 more drops, stir and wait and repeat un
til clear.

Iodine
My favorite source of iodine treatment available goes by the Polar Pure name. It’s a pretty easy method and can be taken on the road since the iodine is in such a small bottle.

What you do is fill up the small Polar Pure glass bottle containing the iodine crystals, wait 30 minutes, and then pour off only the amount of liquid solution needed into a larger source of untreated water such as a canteen. After waiting a short time (following the instructions on the bottle), potable water is then available from the treated water.

An advantage of using iodine crystals is that only a small amount of iodine is dissolved from the iodine crystals at each use. This gives you the capability of treating a very large amount of water, typically over 2,000 liters, with only a small bottle of crystals. You’ll want to be careful not to ingest the crystals using this method.

Boiling
Just because boiling is the most primitive form of water purification, makes it by no means ineffective. When done correctly, it will kill all water-born viruses that will cause you issues.

To purify water by boiling, simply bring your water to a rolling boil and keep it there for a minute (add an additional minute for each 1,000 feet above sea level). That’s it!

The obvious benefit to boiling is that it only requires a heat source and a container. However the down-side is that it requires quite a bit of fuel (wood, liquid, or electric fuel) to constantly boil water. This is not so much of a problem if you are home and have access to a stove and a large pot. However, out in the bush it’s a royal pain. I discovered this pretty quick on one of my early survival trips. I spent quite a bit of time boiling water and got so sick of it that I began to carelessly drink untreated water. Lucky for me I did not get Giardia.

Solar Water Disinfection
If you live in a fairly temperate zone, a great method is to use the power of the sun to purify your water. Even if you don’t live in the most sunny of places, you can still use this method although it will take a bit longer.

What you do is take some small plastic water bottles (one liter bottles are perfect) or transparent zip-lock bags (like freezer storage bags) and place them in the full sun for six hours. If you don’t have full sun for that long, put them out for two days in partial sunlight. You’ll need full sun since a cloudy day will be ineffective.

Similar to boiling, the sun will kill the bacteria and viruses that can make you sick. The obvious benefit to this method is that the sun’s rays are free to use and require no special set up. The downside is that it is not always available.

Solar Distillation

While the solar still is primarily used for water procurement, it can also be used as an excellent purifier of contaminated water, gray water and salt water. Just pour the water in and around the still and let the sun do its work!

With all the available methods to treat water, which is best? I would recommend using what is most readily available to you. You’ll also want to use some in tandem with others. For example, modern filters will remove many of the chemicals in the water but can leave behind the smallest biological contaminants. Iodine, bleach, and boiling kill off the biological contaminants but leave the chemical behind. If you have the time and availability to use multiple methods, by all means do it. However, in an emergency, don’t be so overly cautious to the point that you suffer dehydration. If you use just one of the above methods you’ll be in pretty good shape.

Yard Sale Survival

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

With Spring now in full swing here in the Northeast, it’s the beginning of the yard-sale season again. Each weekend throughout the nation, you can go into most suburban neighborhoods and find several homeowners offering up their old “junk” for sale at fire-sale prices. But don’t let the “junk” in the word junk fool you. You can often find brand-new items for sale that people don’t have a use for, but for the budding “preparation/self-reliance specialist” (that would be you), it’s a gold mine.

So what do yard sales have to do with emergency preparedness and self-reliance? Well, if your budget is small and you’re looking to build your supply of emergency essentials, then yard sales are one of the best resources for building your supply at the cheapest costs available.

The first thing you’ll need to do is a make a list of the items you need. This way, as you purchase those things on your list, you can check them off keeping you from duplicating items and wasting money. Here’s a simple list of items that can be found at yard sales that should get you started:

  • Chainsaws
  • Generators
  • Gas Cans
  • Wood Stoves
  • Emergency Radios
  • Flashlights
  • Campstoves
  • Sewing Materials and Supplies
  • Clothes
  • Sleeping Bags
  • Tents
  • Tools
  • Pellet Rifles
  • Kerosene Lamps
  • Batteries
  • Walkie Talkies
  • Knives etc…

In no way is this list all-inclusive. Most of the items in the above list are general to all locations, however you’ll also want to find what would be necessary for your area. From a survivalist’s standpoint, I also like to keep an eye out for antique items. If there were ever a major disruption in the utilities for an extended period of time, you’ll eventually run out of batteries or stored fuel. Most antique tools (clothes washing board and dryer, sewing machine, apple cider press etc) don’t require electricity to function and are a great addition to your stored items. Just don’t forget to practice using them!

For me, I keep a running list on my iPhone. This way as I’m out and about and see a yard sale, I’ll always have the list ready. Having the list always on hand also allows me to add to it when an item pops in my mind.

While this article is dedicated to yard sales, don’t forget the classifieds — both online (Craigslist etc.) and offline (in your local newspapers). The key is to get the items before disaster hits. Even if they are in stock during a disaster, you’ll be most likely paying top-dollar. For example, during a recent ice-storm that knocked the power out for a week where I live, generators were marked up on average of 50%.

Preparedness can cost lots of money, but if you plan right, taking advantage of yard sales and other sources — before the pain hits — you can find great deals.

Food Storage Basics: The Basics and Beyond

Sunday, August 16th, 2009

If you’ve been able to accomplish all the steps before this one, let me congratulate you! Your household should now be able to survive a year long without any need for grocery stores, mini-marts, food stamps, or government handouts. Feels good doesn’t it?

  • Realize that food storage will only sustain you in direct proportion to how much you have stored away
  • To thrive during the tough times, learn the skills to become more self-reliant
  • Self-reliance and independent living allows you to become helpful to those in need

If you’re only reading this though, I hope by now you have a better understanding of where you need to begin. The most important thing to get out of all of this is to (lest you get weary with me repeating myself) start small. Begin with Step 1. Once you gain confidence in storing bottles of water, take on Step 2 which is only a matter of buying a little extra of what you already eat and use each time you go shopping.

Even if you are only able to accomplish the first two steps, you’ll gain a huge amount of confidence and peace of mind. This should carry you over to Step 3 and 4 which is building your year’s supply food and essential non-food items. While the last two steps are more involved, you need not feel overwhelmed. Again, just begin small and build up from there (are you beginning to see a pattern here?). Soon you’ll be well on your way to a year’s supply.

So what’s next? Once you’ve completed the four steps, where do you go from there? Well there’s still plenty to do and learn. Since I consider food storage in the realm of survival, if you really want to go beyond just surviving and instead thrive during those hard times ahead, there happens to be a plethora of skills and knowledge to gain on the subject of self-reliance and preparedness — many of which are covered in this site. Here’s a list of just some of the subjects that you can learn about:

  • Clothes Making and Household Crafts
  • Financial Security
  • Gardening
  • Homesteading
  • Raising Livestock (chickens, goats, rabbits etc)
  • Solar, Wind, and Other Forms of Alternate Energy
  • Primitive, Urban, and Wilderness Survival Skills
  • Self-Defense (Unarmed and Armed)
  • Local Plant Identification and Use
  • Herbal Medicine
  • Hunting
  • and More…!

What’s important is that you continue to grow and develop. The more self-reliant you can become the more helpful you will be to those who are less fortunate during the hard times ahead.

Food Storage Basics: Step 4 – Non-Food Items

Friday, August 14th, 2009

Once you’ve secured enough food for one year, you are well on your way to becoming a master squirrel, he he. All jokes aside, if you’ve followed each of the previous steps you should now have 2-weeks worth of water, a three-month supply of food and other necessities that is continually rotated, and you should be working towards a years supply of long-term food items.

  • Ensure that you’re concentrating on food items as the priority before you focus on the non-food items
  • Gradually build up a year’s supply of essential non-food items
  • Purchase in bulk when items go on sale
  • Store what your family uses on a regular basis
  • Don’t be concerned about exact storage parameters. Use available space.

The next step — Step 4 — is really just an extension of Step 3. You can do this step in tandem with procuring your year’s supply of food or you can finish Step 3 first before moving on to this step. The only thing I’d recommend is that you focus on the food items first and foremost. Buy the non-food items when you see good sales, otherwise purchase your long-term food first. Remember, you can eat wheat not toilet paper.

It’s important that you build up a supply of items that are commonly used by your family. Here’s a recommended list that should get you started:

Paper Supplies

  • Toilet Paper
  • Paper Towels
  • Diapers/Wipes
  • Tissue Paper
  • Feminine Products
  • Cotton Balls

Personal Hygiene

  • Soap
  • Deodorant
  • Shampoo
  • Shaving Cream
  • Diaper Rash Cream
  • Toothpaste/Toothbrushes

Cleaning Supplies

  • All-Purpose Cleaner
  • Bleach
  • Laundry/Dish Soap
  • Trashbags

Miscellaneous

  • Dog/Cat Food (Hey…Fido needs to live too, unless of course you’re planning on eating Fido as part of your food storage :))
  • Batteries
  • Candles
  • Light Bulbs
  • Fuel

By no means is this list exhaustive. On the other hand, don’t get so caught up that you feel you need everything right away either. Build up slowly and as you have the means and resources available stock up on these items. What’s great about most of the items on this list is that particular storage parameters (heat, light, etc) aren’t that big of an issue. Any free space will do: your barn, shed, attic, basement, under the bed and so on.

Food Storage Basics: Step 3 – Long Term Storage

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

At this point, you should have 2-weeks worth of water stored away (or more if you live in areas where natural sources of water are hard to find). You should also have a three-month supply of food and other necessities that you are continually using and replacing. Once those are all set, the next step is to now start thinking about your longer-term needs.

  • Prepare your storage area
  • Determine how much you need by using my simple calculator below
  • Gradually build up a year’s supply by starting with 3 months then expand it to a 6 month supply, then a year’s supply
  • Become aquainted with the basic long-term foods and how to store them
  • Practice using your stored food now before the hard times hit

When I refer to ‘longer-term needs’ I’m talking about storing a years worth of food or more. While the food that typically goes into a 3-months rotating supply generally needs to be eaten within a few months to a year, your ‘long-term’ storage will contain those items that will last much much longer — typically 10 – 30 years or more. These are foods that you will use to stay alive, such as wheat, white rice, and beans.

Before you throw your hands up in despair, don’t feel you need to go out and buy a whole years worth in one setting. Just as with the three-month supply, you’ll want to gradually build up this supply of food. Let’s go through the process of how it’s done…

  • Step 1: Prepare Your Storage Area: The first step is to determine where you want to store your long-term supply. In the three-month supply, simple shelves are all you need. But with a years worth, you need a space that is large enough and preferably away from heat and light. If you have a basement this is the ideal place. If not then an available closet, room, or storage area will also work in a pinch. My house, for example, was made in the early 1940s and has an old wine cellar area that shoots off from the main foundation. This room is ideal because it doesn’t fluctuate too much in temperature and is always dark.

    Don’t get caught up in thinking that you can’t do long-term food storage because you need to have the ‘ideal’ spot, or that because you live in a small apartment it wouldn’t work for you. Part of self-reliance is making due with what you have. Think a little bit and you’ll come up with a solution.

  • Step 2: Determine How Much You Need: Trying to figure out just how much long-term food storage you need for your family can be a bit of a chore. To make this step easy for you, I’ve included a food storage calculator that figures out the suggested needs based on the amount of weeks and number of people that you want to store away for:
Input Data
  Enter the number of weeks’ of food you wish to store: 
  Family Members, Ages 7+: 
  Family Members, Ages 0-6: 
 
Recommended Food Storage Amounts
Each category below gives you a basic list of food categories with their total weight.
You should store the items you like to eat and would use on a regular basis.


  Grain (includes wheat, white rice, oats, corn, barley, pasta, etc.): 

lbs.

  Legumes (dried beans, split peas, lentils, nuts, etc.):  lbs.
  Dairy Products (powdered milk, cheese powder, canned cheese, etc.):  lbs.
  Sugars (white sugar, brown sugar, syrup, molasses, honey, etc.):  lbs.
  Leavening Agents (Yeast, baking powder, powdered eggs, etc.): 

lbs.

  Salt (Table salt, sea salt, soy sauce, bouillon, etc.):  lbs.
  Fats (Vegetable oils, shortening, peanut butter, etc.):  lbs.
  Water:  gallons*

  *NOTE: The amount of water shown is for the recommended 2-week supply. If you live in an arid area where natural water sources are difficult to come by, you should store more if possible. I would also highly recommended that you supplement your water storage with a quality water filter or filtration kit.


  • Step 3: Gradually Build up a Years Supply: For most peoples budgets, buying a years worth of food storage in one fell swoop is not possible. Although it is very important to have a years supply, I wouldn’t recommend going into debt to get it. Instead, start small. Just like with your 3-months supply of food you want to gradually build it up over time. You’ll be suprised at how quickly this store of food builds up.

    My wife and I, for example, began building our year’s supply by buying $50 worth of bulk items per month (rice, wheat, beans etc). As we had a little extra money to play with, we would buy more and within a year’s time we were able to build up a one-year supply of food.

    As with any goal, break it up into manageable chunks. Start with a 3 month supply of long-term food items, then move onto 6 months and then finally a year. Again, it’s important that you start now.

  • Step 4: Become Acquainted with the Basic Long-Term Foods and How to Use and Store Them: There are a ton of resources online (this site included :)) which can teach you what foods are best for long-term storage, how you should store them, and what types of meals you can make out of them. Some of my favorite sites are:
    • Food Storage Made Easy Don’t be dissuaded by all the pink. Julie and Jodie have a great talent for making food storage understandable and available for the masses. Lots of good resources and ideas.
    • Every Day Food Storage – Crystal’s blog is a great resource for how to use food storage in day-to-day life.
    • Simply Living Smart – A ton of info and videos related to everything food storage.
    • Provident Living – A great resource for self-reliance put together by the LDS church.
  • Step 5: Practice Using Your Food Storage Now: Get accustomed to cooking and using your long-term food storage in your everyday life. Now is the time to find out what you like and dislike, or what you’re allergic to — not in the middle of a crisis situation. The more you get used to eating and preparing your food storage now, the easier the transition will be when you have no choice.

    It’s best to include as part of your 3-month supply a portion of your long-term storage. For example, we use as part of our 3-month storage a portion of our long-term supply such as wheat (that we grind into flour), rice, oil, salt, yeast, sugar etc. This saves a ton of money in the long term and it keeps our stock well rotated.

  • Remember with all of this, take it one step at a time. By starting small you will quickly get into a rhythm and build some nice momentum. Soon you’ll be as obsessed with it as me and your friends will be calling you the human squirrel.

    Stay tuned for the next article in the Food Storage Basics series: Adding non-food items to your year’s supply…

Food Storage Basics: Step 2 – Building a Three-Month Supply

Monday, August 10th, 2009

Now that you have at least 2 weeks worth of water stored away, you are ready to move on to the next step…building a three-month supply of food.

When people first find the need for food storage, immediately they get overwhelmed. They hear advice of getting a years’ supply and don’t know where to start. It need not be so difficult. As with most things, start off small and build from there. That’s where the three-month supply comes into play.

  • Put together a list of foods that you use regularly and figure out how much you need for three months
  • Begin by purchasing a few extra items to add to your storage each week
  • Gradually build it to a one-week supply, then expand it to a one-month supply, then a three-month supply
  • Rotate regularly, replacing what’s been used on a weekly basis

The three-month food supply primarily consists of non-perishable items that are part of your normal daily consumption such as pasta, canned goods, jarred sauces, frozen meats, juices and so on. Included in this list are other non-food essentials such as medicine, hygiene products (don’t forget the toilet paper), diapers and other kid-related needs, cleaning supplies, etc. Unfortunately fruits and vegetables (except dehydrated) are not included in this list (that’s where the garden comes in to play which is covered in a future article).

What’s great about the three-month supply is that you don’t have to change your daily or weekly routine in order to build it up. The best way to begin is to buy just a little-bit extra each time you go shopping. Start with building a week’s supply, then work towards a months supply and then finally three months.

Once you reach an amount sufficient for a three-months supply it’s important that you then rotate it — replacing/purchasing those items that you use as you need them. Since our food storage is in our basement, I find it easiest to just keep a little white board with a marker down where our three-months supply is to quickly jot down whatever we take up to use. At the end of the week, this list then gets copied to my wife’s iphone where she goes out and purchases whatever is on the list. What your left with is a rotating supply of food that will never get older than three months…and let’s not forget the added bonus of peace of mind.

Food Storage Basics: Step 1 – Water

Sunday, August 9th, 2009

Water Storage Basics What does water have to do with food storage? Well, you can have all the food in the world but if you don’t have water you won’t be living long enough to enjoy that food. In most cases, you’ll be around for only three days. One easy way to remember this is with the 3-3-3 rule. Generally speaking you cannot live longer than 3 minutes without air, 3 days without water, and 3 weeks without food.

In an ideal world, we would all have a years supply of water stored away. However for most people, storing a years supply of water is not practical and in many cases not necessary (I’ll be covering water filtration methods later). At a minimum you should store at least 2 weeks (14 days) worth of water.

  • You should have at least one gallon per person, per day, for 14 days
  • Store the water in a cool, dry, dark place
  • Ideally PETE or food-grade plastic containers should be used
  • Thoroughly wash your containers before filling them up
  • Treat non-chlorinated water with bleach
  • Rotate the water regularly

Here’s some helpful pointers:

  • You should have at least one gallon per person, per day, for 14 days: 14 days acts as a buffer zone that gives you time until the infrastructure problem is fixed or at least until you can figure out other water-procurement methods.

    If you live in an arid area where water is hard to come by then it’s absolutely important that you store as much as is practical. If you have the space, look into purchasing some 55 Gallon Water Barrels.

  • Store the water in a cool, dark place: Light and heat break down plastics and can contribute to bacterial growth. Limit exposure to both. Preferably avoid moist areas where mold easily forms.
  • Ideally PETE or food-grade plastic containers should be used: Used soda bottles work great in a pinch. Just be sure to clean it out well. I wouldn’t recommend used plastic milk jugs though. Milk contains a protein that doesn’t easily wash out and may contribute to bacterial growth. Plastic ‘water’ jugs with screw-on tops can be used although they need to be rotated yearly due to becoming brittle with time.
  • Thoroughly wash your containers before filling them up: Wash the containers with warm, soapy water and sanitize them by putting a teaspoon of household bleach (non-scented) in a gallon of water. Pour this solution into the container and let it sit for about two minutes. Then rinse out with potable (suitable for drinking) water.
  • Treat non-chlorinated water with bleach: Most municipal water sources are chlorinated so bottles can be filled up right from the tap. If you get your water from a well or other water source than adding bleach will prepare the water for storage. The general rule is 8 drops of non-scented liquid household chlorine bleach per gallon of water (2 drops per quart).
  • Rotate the water regularly: If you are not storing commercially bottled water then it’s a good idea to rotate the water every six months. I find it easiest to just use the water, then when finished I’ll follow the steps above putting the newly-filled water container in the back of the storage queue FIFO style (first-in first-out).

Storing water is an easy step. Instead of throwing out your used water jugs or soda bottles, clean them out and fill them up with water. With time the process becomes a regular habit and you’ll have your minimum 2 weeks of stored water in no time. Just be sure to start now!

In the upcoming article, I’ll be covering the next step in food storage: the 3-month supply…

Here are the links to all the articles in this series:

Getting Started with Food Storage

Saturday, August 8th, 2009

Food Storage Basics Although this site covers various topics such as wilderness survival, personal protection, and getting your financial house in order — if there were just one topic that I would want you to work on, it would be this: Food Storage.

If possible, every family should have some amount of food storage on hand — three months being the minimum but ideally one years’ worth. Now before you criticize me and think that I’m crazy, first of all, you came to this site so you must be interested in these topics and secondly, it’s just common sense.

Think about it. Having a supply of food on hand is not just for the fear-mongering survivalist, it’s beneficial for many reasons among which are:

  1. Food Storage Can Save You Money: When you buy food for storage — especially long-term food storage — you tend to buy in bulk. This amounts to big-time savings and you can take advantage of sales and low prices. With longer-term food items, it’s even more apparent because you are buying primarily food staples, which is the cheapest form of purchased food (I say ‘purchased’ because gardening is in-fact the cheapest food. But that’s covered elsewhere in the site).
  2. Food Storage Prepares You for Financial Hardship: So what happens if you lose your job or some other financial hardship hits you? This seems a lot more relevant given the condition of the economy right now. Having a years-supply of food available when financial hardship hits gives you one less thing to worry about allowing you to fall back on your stored food to save money.
  3. Food Storage Prepares You for Natural Disasters: If there’s one thing that Katrina taught us, it’s that we can’t count on the government to be there when the infrastructure collapses. However, it doesn’t necessarily take a Katrina to open our eyes to the importance of food storage. Blizzards, ice-storms, power outages, (*cough…pending economic collapses…*cough) can all make it difficult to get to a store to buy food. And even if you can get there, the shelves might be bare by the time you arrive — all the more reason to store food.
  4. Food Storage Gives you Peace of Mind: I feel the greatest benefit of food storage is knowing you’re prepared. In a survival situation, mindset is key and when you are prepared, fear and worry subside. Confidence comes in knowing you’re prepared.

So now that you’re convinced 🙂 where to you begin? Over the next few articles I will be breaking up the seemingly daunting task of storing food into bite-size chunks (pun intended) so stick around…

(UPDATE): I’ve included the list of articles for easy access below: