Archive for September, 2009

The Myth of Entitlement

Monday, September 28th, 2009

entitlement There is a pervasive sore that has slowly spread in American culture within the past few decades which I believe is leading to the downfall of this once great nation. What I’m referring to is an undeserved sense of entitlement.

Many of us think we are entitled to a job, a bail out, health care, or a home that we can’t afford — not because of anything that we’ve done but because we feel it is our “right” to have it. And when problems come our way and we achieve less than this, we immediately begin to blame our parents, teachers, bosses, government, or God for this apparent injustice. We never want to fully face the real source of our problems – which is ourselves.

It’s not until we drop this sense of entitlement and take upon ourselves 100% responsibility for the outcome of our lives, that we will ever see the success we want as individuals and as a nation.

Two Choices

Jack Canfield, author of the best-selling Chicken Soup for the Soul series, taught a seemingly simple but very important formula that illustrates this idea of 100% responsibility. The formula goes like this:

E + R = O (Event plus Response equals Outcome)

Breaking this formula down, it basically means that your success or failure, your health or lack thereof, the measure of your relationships, how you handle a survival situation and basically every outcome of your life, is a direct result of how you have responded to the events that have happened to you.

Looking at this equation, you can see that you have two choices:

Choice #1: You can blame the events for your situation in life

When failure or disaster comes your way, you can blame the weather, blame your boss, blame your parents, blame society, blame the economy, blame your lack of resources, or blame the government for your failures, but it’s not your environment or any external factor for that matter that limits you – it is your response to that event!

Blaming the events takes the focus away from you (the Response) and sets it upon what’s not in your control (the Event). When you avoid taking 100% responsibility for your outcomes, you remove yourself from the equation and rewrite it as: Event = Outcome. You are thereby left with a convenient scapegoat for your problems. But with this faulty equation, you are only limiting yourself. These limiting thoughts and beliefs become roadblocks to your pathways to success, survival, or whatever outcome you desire.

It’s been said before that insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. If you continue to engage in unhealthy eating habits, smoke and drink, waste time in front of the television, fail to build your relationships, not become prepared with food storage and survival skills, spend more than you earn, and then wonder why your life has turned out the way it has, you are following this recipe to insanity.

Unfortunately, this is the recipe that most people end up embracing. They achieve less than optimal outcomes in their lives and then they begin to point the finger beyond themselves exclaiming that they should be entitled to all those benefits without putting a nickel of effort in themselves. This is the easy way out. If you want to be average, choose #1, otherwise here’s another option:

Choice #2: You can simply change your responses to the events until you get the outcome you desire

Looking again at that equation, we see that we have no control over the events of our lives. The one variable that we do have complete control over, is our response to those events or stimuli.

The animal kingdom is dictated by stimulus and response. When a certain event happens in their life, they respond in an instinctual way. There is no forethought as to how they will respond, they just respond. We are unique from other creatures in the ability that we have to choose our response to a stimulus. This is exclusively a human endowment. In other words, we have free agency.

The bottom-line is that you are the one who has created your outcomes. If you’re not satisfied with how your life has turned out, then take a look at your past and realize that all your thoughts, words, and actions have resulted in your current situation. You may not be responsible for the events that happen in your life, or the environment in which you’ve been placed, but realize this one powerful fact – you are responsible for how you react.

If you want to be more successful, then respond in ways that produce more success. If you want a better relationship, then respond in ways that create better relationships. If you fear economic or natural disaster, then pull up your bootstraps and start preparing. If it’s health and fitness that you want, then know that it is your response to what foods are available to you and what day-to-day choices you make regarding exercise that determine your ultimate health.

It may sound simple. Well, that’s because it is. But remember, simple isn’t always necessarily easy. But I promise you that once you make this mental shift, you will be amazed at what the gift of free agency can bring you. Self-reliance is not an entitlement, it is a choice.

The Weekly Tactical Touch-Point: Cheap Hennessy Hammock Edition

Saturday, September 26th, 2009

The main thing that stood out this week related to preparedness for me is the great deals one can find online. Two-days ago I just purchased a practically new Hennessy Hammock (Explorer Deluxe A-SYM) which normally goes for $200 for only $70. It belonged to this guy’s son who ended up only using it once on a boyscout campout. Sufficient to say, since he’s no longer into boyscouts and isn’t interested in camping, I got a killer deal.

As I wrote about in Yard Sale Survival, you can find great deals on preparedness items by looking through the classifieds (such as craigslist) and yard sales. So check them out!

Here are some interesting things I discovered and read on the web this week:

  • Emergency Exits: Getting to a Safe Place in an Emergency – Lisa (the survival mom) lays out a great summary of how to prepare for an emergency evacuation…and beat the crowds!
  • Man survives 300 days with knife, pig  – An interesting read about a swiss guy that spent 300 days in a planned survival expedition on a remote island — Tom Hanks eat your heart out! I look forward to the upcoming documentary.
  • Five days, then rescue – A news article about a 52-year old woman’s 5-day ordeal of survival in the Colorado wilderness. Man, this woman’s got heart!
  • Nuclear War Survival Skills (free online book) – A free online book on everything related to nuclear fallout survival. Interesting read and very thorough.
  • – For those interested in learning about the uses of wild plants, this site is a great resource. It has a huge database of plants (over 7000) tells where they grow, if they’re edible or medicinal as well as other uses.

Homemade Paracord Belt

Friday, September 25th, 2009

In my article on how to make a survival kit I point out the importance of having certain items with you at all times (your first tier gear) which are ideally directly on your person. One of those items that I recommend is some amount of cordage — the more the better.

For example, I always have around 10 feet of paracord in the form of a bracelet on me. Being that it’s 550 paracord, it is made up of seven separate inner fibers and one outer sheath which can be used for many survival purposes (simple lashings, snares, bowdrill string, Paiute deadfall etc).

While 10 feet is good, what if it were possible to carry around 100 feet of cordage with you at all times that is just as unassuming as a bracelet and is available to access at a moments notice? Well you can…with a paracord belt. One of our readers (Dan) provided me a link that teaches you how to make your own paracord belt — so I went off and made one. Here are some of the pictures of that process:

<b>Buckle from an old belt</b>

Buckle from an old belt

<b>The Weave</b>

The Weave

<b>Finished Belt</b>

Finished Belt

Now for you women out there that don’t necessarily wear large belts, you could easily substitute your purse strap with paracord (Prada should really come out with a paracord option :)).

Here are some other belts which have been made (images link to the source site).

So check it out. Since I like to push self-reliance, make one if you can. If you can’t then purchase one. Here are some resources I found on the web:

Paracord Belt Instructions

  • (Update: December 7, 2010)Slatt’s Rescue Belt – This is an upgraded Paracord Belt that I made using the Slatt’s Rescue stitch. It looks much nicer than the above weaved belt, is easier to unravel and it stores around 120 feet of cord!
  • M4040’s Blog – This is the instructions I followed to make the belt you see in the pictures above.
  • Flat Braid Method – You can use this method to create a paracord belt.
  • The Chubby Survivalist – Nice looking belt with some easy to follow instructions.

Where to Purchase a Paracord Belt

Other Resources

  • Stormdrane’s Blog – Amazing things that you can do with paracord and knots in general. Very inspirational work.
  • Animated Knotes – A great resource into many different kinds of knots (many of which can be used to make paracord gear).

How to Make Survival (Sumac) Lemonade

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

To skip to the video instructions go here.

This is the first in a series of posts/videos dedicated to wild edible and medicinal plants. Each season I will be covering some of the most easily identified and useful plants that you can use for food and medicine.

Disclaimer: Eating certain wild plants can be deadly!!

Be certain to consult a professional (or a really good field guide) in order to positively identify this plant before trying this for yourself. The owners of this site will not be held responsible for any lapses in judgment or stupidity when handling or consuming wild plants.

One of my all-time favorite drinks for the late summer and early fall is Sumac Lemonade. It is made from a plant that is widely distributed throughout most of North America and easily identified. This juice is made from either the staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina) or smooth sumac (Rhus glabra).

Here’s how you can make it:

Step 1: Positively Identify Staghorn or Smooth Sumac

For this step, it’s always best to consult a good field guide or someone who has experience identifying this plant. In general though, here are the four key items to look for in order to positively identify staghorn and smooth sumac:

  1. Compound Toothed Leaves: Both species have pinnately compound leaves with serrated edges.
  2. Unique Stems and Twigs: Staghorn sumac has velvet (hairy) twigs and smooth sumac has no hair but instead a fine white powder that is easily removed when touched.




  3. Red Fruit Clusters: Since poison sumac has white berries (green early in the season), if you see the red one’s you’re safe. See the following pictures of the two varieties.
    Staghorn Fruit

    Staghorn Fruit

    Smooth Sumac Fruit

    Smooth Sumac Fruit

  4. Milky Sap: Both varieties exude a milky sap when broken sumac_milk

Just to see the contrast, here’s a picture of poison sumac fruit cluster and leaves (notice they are smooth and not serrated). Stay away from this plant:

Step 2: Collect Fruit Clusters

The strength of the fruit clusters is highly dependent upon the season it’s collected. Ideally, you’ll want to collect them in the mid to late-summer / early-fall time. While you can collect them in the winter, you’ll just need to gather more. It’s best not to gather them right after a heavy rain, since most of the fruit’s tasty acids will have been leached out by then. I usually grab a few of the berries, put them in my mouth and taste them. If they are nice and sour, they’ll make an excellent juice.

For a half-gallon of juice, I typically gather enough fruit clusters to fit in a ¼ to ½ gallon container.

Step 3: Soak the Fruit Clusters in Water for 10 to 15 Minutes

For this step it’s very important you use cold water and not hot water. Hot water will leach out the tannins and you’ll be left with a bitter medicine and not a tasty refreshing drink. Just grab a big bowl of cold water, throw the berries in there, crush them with your hands and let them sit for a good 10 to 15 minutes.

After letting them soak for that time, what you can do is filter out a small amount in a glass cup. You should be left with a liquid that looks anywhere between pink lemonade and cranberry juice. Of course the best test is the taste test. Give it a quick taste, if it’s too mild let it soak a bit longer (or get more berries), if it’s too strong, you can always dilute it a bit with some more water.

Note: If you are making a small amount of the drink, another option is to place as many heads as possible in a clean tube sock, let it soak in the container until the desired strength is achieved, pull out the sock and then you’re done! (You can skip the next step)

Step 4: Filter out the Berries and Twigs

For the final step, I’ll first filter out as much of the twigs and berries as I can with my hands. After that just grab some cheesecloth, or an old t-shirt (make sure it’s clean), or even some sturdy paper towels (Bounty) and place it over the container you will end up storing it in and filter out the rest of the stuff. It’s as simple as that! If you’re out in the bush you can always make a improvised filter using a big handful of fresh long grass (not grass from someone’s lawn).

You can now optionally add sugar or honey to taste or drink it as is (I prefer it this way). What you’re left with is a delicious and healthy drink.

Nutritional and Medicinal Properties of Sumac

Not only is sumac juice loaded with Vitamin C but the rest of the plant has amazing medicinal properties. Here’s just some of them:

Leaf infusion (tea from the leaves) helps with:

  • asthma
  • diarrhea
  • dysentery

Inner-bark and root-bark decoction (boiling) helps with:

  • astringent (contracts tissue like hydrogen peroxide)
  • diarrhea
  • dysentery
  • fever

Video Instructions


Rite in the Rain Product Review

Monday, September 21st, 2009


Today I wanted to review a product that I really love. It goes by the name “Rite in the Rain” and is the perfect solution to those who frequently need to take notes in the outdoors.

rite_rain_bookAs an avid outdoorsman, one thing I love to do is sit in one area of nature nearby my home and just observe. Most of my understanding of the outdoors has been gained through this simple practice. Along with that, I tend to keep a journal about what I observe, noting any patterns, or recording any questions that require further study. I also use it to journal unknown plants and animals, as well as the sign (tracks, trails, scat etc) they leave. My biggest frustration in all of this is when the weather is wet. Even when very humid but not necessarily raining, my notebooks are always getting destroyed. In the rain it becomes even more frustrating when the pages moisten and the pen I’m trying to use rips the pages, smudges, or doesn’t write at all. I gave up writing in the rain until I recently found the Rite in the Rain notebooks.

riteThey are completely waterproof (you can completely immerse them without any ill-effects) and your pen will not rip or smudge the pages. Even during a downpour, you can write in them. They are also environmentally friendly since they do biodegrade and are recyclable. Another benefit is that they work well with pencil and the pencil doesn’t smudge (although it is difficult to erase but doable). What I usually do if I’m journaling a plant or animal track is to first draw it in pencil and then fill it over with pen when I get home. Another bonus is that the pages (from the field books) are more durable and do not get dirtly easily from sand, mud, or dirt.

The Rite in the Rain field books also come in various colors and sizes and have specific notebooks according to industry and activity (military, sports, public safety, hunting/fishing etc). My favorite is the green-colored military field book. Since it’s green, it blends well when out in nature (where I’m from) and doesn’t glare — perfect for when you need to be discreet when observing animals or avoiding man since their coloring and limited light reflection won’t give you away.

For more info check out their site at Rite in the Rain.

The Weekly Tactical Touch-Point: Reorganizing My Food Storage Edition

Saturday, September 19th, 2009

Each weekend (Saturdays) I’ll be posting up a collection of links that I’ve found during the week which have interested me, introduced by a short blurb about what I’ve been working on this week relating to the topics of this site.

This week I’ve been focusing on reorganizing my long-term food storage. While much of it is in food-grade plastic buckets, a good deal of it is also in Mylar bags packed within cardboard boxes that are stacked on top of each other and directly on the floor. Bad mistake. Unfortunately, the lower boxes had started to buckle under the strain due to the moisture they’re wicking up from the concrete/stone floor. This past summer we’ve had so much rain that the ‘wine-cellar’ portion of my basement — where I keep my food storage — has received a lot more moisture than typical. Luckily nothing had happened to the food — thanks to the air-tight and waterproof Mylar bags — but it definitely needed to be stored differently.

To fix this I got some new boxes but this time stacked them on the top of wooden pallets. We’ll see how this holds up…

  • Chris Martenson’s economic crash course – I’ll be doing a future post on this (since I’m almost through it) but wanted to put it up here for reference and give you something to do over the weekend.;)

    Basically it’s a free collection of videos that you can watch that’ll give you a baseline understanding of our current economy to better “appreciate the risks that we all face” in the near future.

  • – This site contains a wealth of information relating to how you can become less dependent upon the grid and ultimately self-reliant.
  • Peter Schiff interview – A good interview with Peter Schiff about deflation/inflation in the current economic times.
  • How to Build Your Own BBQ Barrel – A cheap way of making your own off-the-grid cooking source.
  • Paracord Survival Rescue Belt – A reader gave me this link (thanks Dan). This is a sweet way of getting a lot of cord, and fast. Great for any EDC first-tier survival kit. I plan on making this sometime soon and posting my results.

Preparing Your Home for Winter

Friday, September 18th, 2009

prepare_home_winter Is your house ready for the winter? Better think again.

With the fall equinox coming in a few days (September 22) I know it’s time to prepare my home for the coming winter. For those who aren’t aware of it, an equinox — which only occurs twice per year — is the time of the year when the day and night are split equally. The fall equinox lets us know that from now on the nights will be getting longer and the days shorter. It is a prelude to winter and the perfect time to start preparing your home for that coming season.

In this article, you will learn what steps you’ll need to take to prepare your home for winter. These steps are broken up into what I call the 5 priorities of survival: Personal Security, Shelter, Water, Fire, Food.


Personal Security

There are some unique dangers that one has to be aware of in the winter time. Here is a list of items that you should prepare for:

  • Carbon Monoxide Detectors: Since the temperature is beginning to drop, many households are beginning to use their heating stoves (pellet or wood) again. These stoves have the potential to release deadly carbon monoxide gas. Be sure to get a detector if you don’t already have one and double check the batteries if you do.
  • Smoke Detectors: Similar to carbon monoxide poisoning, house fires aren’t uncommon in the winter time. Be sure your detector is functioning and has new batteries.
  • Remove dead branches and trees away from your house: Anyone who has lived through an ice storm or a winter blizzard knows the danger that nearby dead (and sometimes living) trees and branches pose for your home and yourself. Take a look around your home and seek out any potential problem trees and branches. Remove these (or have them removed by a professional).
  • Prepare an emergency evacuation kit: If you house caught on fire and you had to bug-out quickly, you’ll want to make sure that you have an emergency evacuation kit ready to go in a moments notice. This is a bit different than the 72-hour kit in that it contains social security cards, medical records, birth certificates, and other important documents.
  • Some means of communication: This could include a battery-powered or hand-crank radio (for listening to local emergency instructions). Have extra batteries if needed.
  • First-Aid kit: This is pretty self explanatory



Included here is a list of specific steps related to your shelter (home) that should be taken care of before the winter hits.

  • Seal up your home: This includes caulking and shrink-wrapping the windows, installing storm windows, weather stripping the doors, closing the flue or chimney etc. To test whether your windows/doors need additional sealing, on a windy day light a candle and place it near the door or window. When the wind picks up, if the flame flickers then it needs to be sealed up.
  • Add insulation where needed: An uninsulated attic is one of the primary places that heat is lost through the home (in actuality it gets trapped there). You should add at least R-30 grade insulation. Other areas include the sill boxes, basement walls and ceiling joists, and other floors and walls where applicable.
  • Gather and prepare the needed tools and equipment: These are the tools and equipment needed to maintain your home during the winter. This includes snow shovels, rock salt and sand, as well as tuning up your snow blower and so on.



  • Insulate your pipes: You’ll want to insulate any pipes that are exposed to freezing cold. Be aware that pipes don’t necessarily have to be directly outside to freeze. If they are in an area of the home which is not heated (basement, spare room etc) they could potentially freeze on a really cold night. Insulating your pipes will prevent freezing which can lead to water not being available or the pipes bursting and flooding your home.
  • Drain and shut off outdoor water faucets: Similar to the previous step, frozen faucets can damage valves and burst connecting pipes. Draining them will prevent this.
  • Stored Water: Frozen pipes and power outages (stopping well-water pumps from working) are commonplace in the winter. Store up 2 weeks of water (1-gallon per person per day minimum). This is also part of the Food Storage Basics and should be done anyways.
  • Water purification kit: If you refuse to store water, at least have a purification kit to purify melted snow or ice. Just fill up a large pot with snow or ice and bring it inside to melt in a heated home (assuming you followed the ‘fire’ steps below) or over an emergency cooking stove and purify it with your kit. Check out my article on water procurement and purification methods.



The ‘fire’ in this case relates to cooking, heating, and lighting. Here’s a list of key ‘fire’ components of your home that should be included in your preparations:

  • Have your heating system checked and maintained: This includes furnace inspections, thoroughly cleaning out your pellet stove, chimney or flue inspections (if they are used in heating your home) and so on.
  • Have a backup heating plan: If you were to lose power or the gas shut off would you still be able to heat your home? Be sure to have some back-up option to heat your home in the event that does happen. The best option would be a wood-burning stove with a few cords of wood. In close second and often overlooked are kerosene heaters. They rival the output of a pellet stove and are tons cheaper. Be aware of the venting requirements before you run this in your home.

    Another backup option is a generator (don’t run it inside) with some stored fuel to provide electricity for pellet stoves, space heaters and other electric powered heat sources. A fireplace (with a proper reflector to improve the heat output) is also acceptable. In a pinch you could make an emergency alcohol stove and use it huddled up in a small room (just be sure a window is opened about an inch). Although the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning is minimal, as a precaution I would take a carbon monoxide detector in the room with you.

  • Have a backup cooking plan: This includes small Ezbet stoves, emergency stoves, camping stoves etc. With some of these stoves, it’s a good idea to cook outdoors.
  • Have a backup lighting plan: This includes making sure that your flashlights are located in an area that’s easy to access (with plenty of batteries) in the event of a blackout. Other more long-term means of lighting include candles and oil lanterns.



With winter storms, blackouts and road closures common in the winter time, getting to the store to buy food is not always possible. Here’s a list of preparations you can make to ensure that food is not an issue.

  • Food Storage: Having some extra food on hand is always beneficial. If you’ve followed my advice on building up a 3-month supply, then food shortages/availability during a severe storm will not be an issue. At the least you should have enough to last you 2-weeks.
  • Non-Cook items: Since long-term cooking could be an issue if you haven’t prepared right, be sure to have plenty of foods that do not require them being cooked (canned goods, dehydrated/freeze-dried foods etc). Don’t forget the non-electric can opener!
  • Perscription drugs and other medicine: Although not exactly food, if you are dependent upon certain medicines, you should have some extra on hand.

Back to Basics: Getting Your Financial House in Order

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

“Interest never sleeps nor sickens nor dies; it never goes to the hospital; it works on Sundays and holidays; it never takes a vacation; it never visits nor travels; it takes no pleasure; it is never laid off work nor discharged from employment; it never works on reduced hours. . . . Once in debt, interest is your companion every minute of the day and night; you cannot shun it or slip away from it; you cannot dismiss it; it yields neither to entreaties, demands, or orders; and whenever you get in its way or cross its course or fail to meet its demands, it crushes you.”

 — J. Reuben Clark

financial_houseThe average American household is living in a similar manner to our government — off of borrowed money. We are replacing our future needs for our present wants. With the average consumer debt reaching around $10,000 per household, it has become an epidemic in the United States.

There are many good sources on the internet and elsewhere for how to get out of debt. Such as performing “plastic surgery” on your credit cards by cutting them up; paying off the higher-interest credit cards first; or getting a second job and using that income only to pay off your debts. This is all good advice, but if we get out of debt what’s to say we won’t jump right back in?

There is a good friend of mine who at the young age of 18 got caught up in wanting to have the best things that life had to offer. This is not a bad thing in itself. However, he wanted these things now without making the required effort to work and save for them.

The idea that he at 18 could get credit cards to support his lifestyle was the perfect solution. He progressively charged more and more on his various cards until they were all maxed out. It got to the point where he had to seek help from his family in order to get out of his situation. It took him nearly 10 years to pay off his debts using many of the tips and techniques that are offered by financial advisers.

Not long after, he got married, bought a home and began to fall in the same trap again. He figured that since he was older, had a home, and made significantly more money than he did as a kid, that he was entitled now to some of the nicer things – again without saving up for them. After about two years, he was mired down in debt again – over $20,000 this time. This young couple was literally living paycheck-by-paycheck causing considerable strain on their relationship.

After consolidating most of his debts, as well as paying some off with a home-equity loan, he continued in the same pattern until they were $50,000 in debt. Stretched to the limit and nowhere to turn, they declared bankruptcy a few months ago. Occasionally I still hear him talk about the “latest” thing he’d seen that he wants. Will this pattern end?

Many share the same burdens that my friend shares. It is only after they are in a dire situation do they seek, out of desperation, to temporarily change their patterns. But these are only band-aid solutions. What they need is to live by principles – economic constants that are true no matter what the situation of the economy or their income may be.

Here is a list of them:

  • Live on less than you earn. There is no way that you can earn more than you could potentially spend. If you look around you’ll notice it’s not the amount of money that one earns that brings peace of mind, rather the ability to control it. It is said that “money can be an obedient servant but a harsh taskmaster”. The key to spending less than we earn is simple – it’s called self-discipline. Are you in control of your circumstances or do your circumstances control you? Those who structure their standard of living to allow for a little surplus are in control.
  • Learn to identify your needs from your wants. We live in a wonderful free-market society which allows us the opportunity to purchase so many different things. Part of the challenge is making the sacrifice to temporarily put off what we want now to what we need later. This means making decisions for the long term. Oftentimes, when we decide to hold-off on a particular purchase, we realize that it is not something that we want anyways.
  • Develop and live within a budget. Budgeting and financial management don’t have to be overly complicated. However be sure that the four bases are covered: First, allocate enough to cover the basic provisions (food, clothing, etc.); Second, for home equity (ie. the mortgage); Third, for savings and various health and life insurances (ideally you should have an emergency fund of at least 6-months worth of expenses). And finally fourth, for investments. Only after if there is money left over should you buy those wants.
  • Show integrity in all of your financial dealings. Financial integrity is a dying principle. Whether it’s “stuffing” your time sheets to make an extra buck to lying about one’s profits (in the case of the Enron scandal), ethical economics needs to become a priority. There are so many now seeking the easy way out by declaring bankruptcy and thereby placing their debts on someone else. There are others who are living off of the system when they’re entirely capable of working. These seemingly ‘small’ decisions multiplied over a number of people can impact the entire nation. It’s up to every individual to learn and teach others about the need for integrity.

Each of us has the power within us to make the decision to live these principles. I know that as we seek the courage to get our own financial house in order that our lives will be blessed with security and happiness.


How to Choose a Survival Knife

Monday, September 14th, 2009

bravo-1 Ever wonder how to choose the perfect survival knife? This article will show you how.

In my opinion, a survival knife is your most important tool when caught in a wilderness survival situation. While it’s true that you can improvise a knife out of stone or bone when out in the wilds, there’s nothing that compares with the steel blade for its strength, versatility, and usefulness. However, not every steel knife will do in a survival situation. Knowing what to look for when choosing a survival knife is just as important as having one. After reading this article, you will know what properties make up the perfect survival knife and you will be able to find one that is tailor made for your needs and situation.

Key Things to Avoid in a Survival Knife

narrow_tangWhile there are many attributes that are less than ideal in a survival blade, here’s a list the main things you should avoid when choosing a survival knife:

  • Narrow Tang: If you were to take off the handle of a knife, the tang would be the part that extends from the base of the blade onward. As you can see in the picture, this tang is relatively narrow. This is fine for the purposes of a kitchen knife, but when put it up to the rigors of survival/outdoor activities (chopping wood, pounding the blade for splitting small logs etc) it is susceptible to breakage.
  • Folding Knives (including multi-tools): While I always keep a folder on me at all times, which more than adequately covers most of the activities I do in a survival situation, it is still less than ideal. Remember, this article isn’t about how to choose just any knife that will do, but about how to choose the “perfect” survival knife.
  • Huge Knives: Hollywood is to blame for filling up our minds with pictures of survival knives being these huge monstrosities (Rambo, Crocodile Dundee etc). Although you could slay a crocodile with one mighty thrust, the larger the knife the more difficult it is to do the intricate work that a survival situation requires. And for that reason, I’d be more worried about getting fire going, making tools for hunting and trapping, and setting up camp than a crocodile attacking me — especially since I live in New England!
  • Hollow-Handled ‘Survival’ Knives: While there are exceptions to this (see some of Chris Reeve’s knives) most hollow-handled survival knives that house a small survival kit in the handle are two-pieced and more for gimmick than they are useful. Their two-piece design — like the narrow tang — can easily break when splitting wood or doing heavy work.

What to Look for in a Survival Knife

full_tangSimilar to the list of ‘dont’s’ above, here’s a list of core requirements that every survival knife should meet:

  • Full Tang: I consider this to be one of the most important attributes of a survival knife. A full-tang knife’s handle is the tang itself and is usually wrapped or covered with some material to make it more comfortable to carry and use. Since the handle and the blade is one integrated piece, the chances of it breaking are very minimal.
  • Fixed Blade: Although there are numerous folding knives which do an excellent job in a survival situation, if there were to be an ideal (and again, this article is about the ideal knife :)) you will want to have a fixed blade knife. That basically means that the entire knife is integrated with the handle and cannot be folded shut..
  • Reasonably Sized: I realize that ‘reasonably sized’ is a very relative term. What I mean here is that it should be small enough to do most intricate camp work (trap making, notches for fire boards etc) but large enough to do heavier tasks like splitting small logs. This ideal is obviously different for different people, but in general it falls between a blade that is 4-6 inches.

Now that the basics covered, if you want to go beyond them then you’ll want to be aware of the following:

Steel Type

For the rigors and requirements of survival knives, not all steel is equal. Steel quality determines the strength of the blade, its toughness (ability to take impact), how easy it is to sharpen, and how long it will hold that edge. While I could write pages and pages about the various differences of steel types, for the purposes of this article I’ll briefly cover the most important points.

Most knives are made from two broad classifications of steel: Carbon Steel and Stainless Steel. As a general rule stainless steel is more rust resistant than carbon steel but can be more brittle (less tough) and more difficult to sharpen compared to the average carbon steel. Carbon steel on the other hand can be made extremely sharp, is tougher when being used for splitting or chopping, is easier to sharpen, but if not maintained it will easily rust.

It’s important to know that most of these differences disappear as you go up in terms of price and quality of manufacture. Here is a list of steels that I recommend:

Recommended Stainless Steels

  • S60V
  • BG-42
  • S90V
  • CPM S30V
  • CPM 154 (this is my favorite stainless steel)

Recommended Carbon Steels

  • D2
  • A2 (this is my favorite carbon steel)
  • O1
  • Carbon V
  • CPM 154

Blade Geometry

blade_pointsThe way a knife blade is shaped determines its overall functionality. For example, a chef’s knife is shaped in such a way that it is perfect for slicing tomatoes or dicing garlic. That same knife however has no business out in the woods. The same holds true for the double-edged spear point and tanto-style knives. These knives are built for fighting and are perfect for thrusting and stabbing but do not hold out well in a survival situation.

Instead you’ll want to choose a clip point or a drop point style blade. These blades are suited well for the tasks required in a survival situation.

A clip-point blade’s tip is formed by a slight concave curve at the top. When slightly curved these tips are perfectly acceptable and strong. Clip points with exaggerated curves are susceptible to breakage if your pounding the spine while chopping wood.

The drop point blade is the best all-around blade style. It is formed when the back or dull side of the knife slopes downward at a slight angle beginning at around the half-way point and meets the blade edge slightly above center. This blade geometry is best suited for the various tasks required out in the field.

Blade Edge

The edge or the sharp side of the blade should be from base to tip one continuous edge. In most cases you’ll want to stay away from serrated edges. While they do have their uses, they are difficult to sharpen out in the field and there is little functionality that they add out in the bush.


In general you’ll want the spine or back of the blade (opposite the blade edge) to be flat (no saw or sharpened edge). This allows it to make a good hitting platform when pounding it with a hard stick to aid in splitting wood. One exception to this rule is Tom Brown Jr.’s “Tracker” knife. Although the knife is a bit cumbersome for my tastes, it’s unique design is suited well for splitting and chopping wood.


Although I go into a lot of detail explaining the ‘ideals’ to look for in a wilderness survival knife, it ultimately comes down to your individual preferences. The most important thing, as I mention in many other threads, is to find what works for you. If you have some friends who have different knives, try them out and see if you tend to prefer a smaller or larger version. Take those attributes that I’ve told you to look for and put them to the test.


Here are some excellent resources for learning more about knives and their make up:

  • Steel Guide – This chart gives you a great overview of the various types of steel and their make up.
  • Steel Type Description Great summary of the various steels as well as their positives and negatives.
  • This is a fantastic forum made up of many professional knife makers. They have great tips and a wealth of knowledge.
  • Equipped to Survive Knife Review In depth review into what makes up a good survival knife.

Homemade Sanitary Pads

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

homemade_sanitary_pads In the article Food Storage Basics: Step 4 — Non-Food Items I explained the importance of storing non-food items as part of your emergency essentials. However the ultimate long-term solution is learning the skills to be self-reliant. That way you’re not dependent upon your supplies.

For example, a very important part of many women’s monthly routine is the use sanitary pads. But what if there were no stores available to get them? Well, since I’m definitely no expert on this myself, I thought I’d pass the baton to some of the ladies out there that have some experience with this. Not only do they claim that they are more comfortable and perform better than the disposable ones available, they’re also tons cheaper and safer for the environment too. Here’s a list of resources that provide all the instruction and tips that you need (I would recommend making a supply of these or at least printing some of the instructions out in case the internet isn’t available to you):

Free Patterns: Homemade Menstrual Pads and Instructions

Keep in mind that the link descriptions are snippets taken from the webpage directly and are not mine 🙂

  • How To Make A Circle Pad: When the sides fold in they make a wing unlike any other pad out there. There is no way they can leak!
  • Cloth Pads: Winged snapped cover with folded liner insert.
  • Beveled Pad Tutorial: Several layers sewn together for inner liner, has wings.
  • Homemade Sanitary Pads: Making decisions between groceries or sanitary pads is not a pleasant place to be so I was tickled when another mom shared a link to homemade pads. I ran some simple ones up on my sewing machine that day and have pretty much been a convert ever since.
  • Cloth Pads For Dummies: They do take a bit of effort but the benefits far outweigh the negatives.
  • Cloth Menstrual Pads: Once you try a cloth menstrual pad, you will never go back to plastic again. Don’t you deserve to wear cloth too?
  • Make Your Own Cloth Pads: Cloth pads designed for custom absorbency and there is no need to have a serger machine to make them. These are turned and topstitched pads with custom absorbency sewn in, and you also have the ability to add in extra inserts for heavy days.
  • Pauline’s Free Cloth Menstrual Pads Sewing Pattern: These washable cloth menstrual pads are quick and easy to make, and very comfortable to use. Plus, they’re cute!
  • Many Moons Pad Pattern: This page is dedicated to providing instructions on how to sew your own washable pads. They have been redesigned several times over the past years to provide maximum effectiveness and ease of use. Give them a try, make as many as you want – use them!…give them as gifts!..most importantly, have fun!!! The more cloth pads out there the better for the health of women and our planet!
  • Instructions for Cloth Menstrual Pads: Design with snapped wings (or buttoned if you prefer), also details a pattern layout for getting the most pads from fabric that you can.
  • Washable Menstrual Towels (pdf): Includes instructions for how to wash and care for fabric menstrual pads. Patterns include a winged wrap and liner.
  • Menstrual Pad PatternsThese pad making patterns are provided here for use by the home sewer to make pads for themselves.