Archive for September, 2009

How to Make a Survival Stove (Car Heater)

Tuesday, September 8th, 2009

With winter coming soon for many of us who live in the colder climates, getting stranded in your car can become a dangerous possibility. As a result, everyone’s emergency car kit should contain the ability to heat your car if you were stranded or holed up waiting the passage of a winter storm.

Even if running your engine is an option, you may need to conserve fuel for the return trip. Also, carbon monoxide can build up inside a standing vehicle while the engine is running, even if the exhaust pipe is clear. In this article, I will be demonstrating how you can make your own survival heater for your car that is cheap, safe to use, and easy to construct.

What You’ll Need

survival stove parts

  • A small empty metal can: You want this to be slightly taller but thinner than a standard roll of toilet paper. My can of choice is an unused 1 quart aluminum paint can found in most hardware stores. You can also use an empty food can that fits this description.
  • A larger metal can that can easily accommodate the first one: I use a 1 gallon unused paint can (again found in most hardware stores). Another option is a coffee can, metal bucket and so on.
  • Some type of lid that can be placed over the larger can: I also like to get a lid for the smaller can for which I will explain later.
  • Toilet paper (unscented)
  • Six bottles of 70 to 91% isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol)
  • Matches or some other fire starter

How to Put it All Together

  1. toilet_paperPrepare the toilet paper: The first step is to take out the central cardboard tube from the toilet paper roll, leaving only the paper behind.
  2. Squeeze the paper into the smaller can: Next you’ll want to squeeze and roll the paper into the smaller can. If the can is so small that a full-size paper roll has no chance of fitting inside it, then you can remove some of the external sheets (just like you would if you were going to the bathroom) until it does squeeze into the can. It’s important that it fills up the entire volume of the can.
  3. Add the fuel: If you are now ready to use it, simply add the alcohol until the toilet roll inside the can is completely saturated. One of the benefits of using a 1 quart unused paint can is that you can store the stove with the fuel already added by placing the air-tight lid over the can. This saves space and allows you to have more fuel available. The lid can also be used to control the output of the flame which I will explain below.
  4. Survival Stove in a CanPlace the smaller can into the larger one and position it in your car: The larger can provides an insulating barrier and some protection for passengers and your car. You’ll also want to position it in a place that’s far enough from anything combustible. Use the palm check. Put the back of your hand against the surface you’re worried about and if you can’t keep your hand there without burning it then it’s either to close or you’ll need to adjust the flame.
  5. Light the stove: First, open the window just a crack to provide some airflow and then carefully place a match (or throw some sparks using a firesteel) onto the saturated toilet paper and viola! you’ve got yourself a burning stove. Use caution in lighting as it will combust very quickly. It’s best to partially cover the smaller can with a lid to decrease the size of combustion (you can always increase it later (see next section).

Controlling the Burn Rate

You may notice if you follow the steps above, that a pretty sizable flame results from having the smaller can’s opening completely exposed. While this is fine if you want to warm up faster, it does tend to go through the fuel fairly quickly and is not so efficient. A better way is to partially cover the smaller can with a lid. Or if you used a 1 quart paint can, you can make a small hole (about the size of a quarter) in the lid it comes with and place that on top of the can. Both of these methods control the burn rate and allow the stove to provide a constant heat.

Another option is instead of completely saturating the toilet roll (as indicated in step 3 above) you can pour just a few ounces of alcohol on the paper and regularly add more as it burns out. This will also control the size of the flame and conserve fuel. I prefer to use the lid method over this one since you don’t have to regularly add alcohol (it’s nice to sleep for a stretch of time and not have to regularly add fuel).

A Word on Carbon Monoxide

I’m sure by now many of you are thinking, “What about the dangers of carbon monoxide?”

Carbon monoxide is produced from the partial oxidation of carbon-containing compounds. “Partial oxidation” is just a big word for what happens when combustion (fire) takes place in an area where there isn’t much oxygen. This is most apparent when one operates a generator inside a home or if their wood stove is improperly vented.

In the case of this alcohol stove, while there is risk of carbon monoxide emissions (rubbing alcohol contains carbon: C3H7OH) the risk is very minimal. Opening your window slightly should provide sufficient oxygen for a clean burn.

If you still are concerned about it, I would recommend purchasing a battery-operated carbon monoxide alarm and turning it on (putting in the batteries) when running the stove. This will provide you ample warning should there be an issue.

Video Instructions

You can also watch the full instructions via Youtube:


How to Gain Security in an Uncertain World

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

We live in a time where our basic needs are met through a complex network of communications, supply lines, and relationships. The obvious benefit of this system is the ability to deliver goods and services to specific locations in an extremely efficient manner. For example, water is clean and readily available through a simple twist of a faucet; when we run out of milk, it only takes a quick drive to the grocery store to pick more up; electricity and fuel to power our appliances and run our vehicles requires one only to plug-in or fill up.

We are Dependent

It’s easy to take all of these conveniences for granted since they are an integral part of our lives and the workings of this system are often hidden from our immediate view. But the truth of the matter is that most of us are completely dependent on this highly integrated web to function and run without a hitch. But bulletproof it is not.

We are Vulnerable

All of these interdependent systems we depend on form a fragile web. Even small disturbances can send shock waves throughout the whole system interrupting the flow of food, energy, and other essential goods and services. Hurricane Katrina, the 9/11 attacks, and even small localized storms have proven this to be the case. However, the future may well prove to be worse.

Here in the U.S. our economy is teetering on the edge of collapse right now. Our government continues to live way beyond its means and as a result there is a great possibility for massive inflation and economic upheaval similar to Argentina or Wiemar Republic Germany. And all the while, terrorism continues to cause uncertainty and threatens our fragile system.

The Majority are Unprepared

Despite all of the recent events (9/11, Katrina, the economy), the majority of people are still unprepared for minor disruptions – let alone major disasters. I understand that we, by nature, want to avoid the unpleasant. However, blindly assuming that things will go on working tomorrow just like they did in the past is a recipe for disaster.

Kevin Reeve, owner of OnPoint Tactical Tracking and Survival School said it perfectly, “People are nine meals from civil unrest.” This is so true. The majority of people are so unprepared that even an interruption in their food and water supply of just three days would cause social unrest (again see Katrina).

What are You Doing to Prepare?

Now comes the ultimate question. Where do you and your family stand? If something were to happen tomorrow where you were out of power, fuel, water, and access to food from the grocery stores, how would you survive? Do you have enough food and water set aside to ride it out? Or are you hoping to be bailed out by a government that may never come?

The Time to Prepare is Now

Disaster will not wait for you. The sooner you make your preparations the more likely you’ll be ready should disaster strike. The time is now.

So where do you begin? The answer is to start small and build up from there. In addition to the standard articles I write for this blog, in the coming months I will be sharing with you a step by step plan for getting you and your family prepared. Here’s what will be covered:

  • Emergency Preparedness Plans that fit your family’s needs
  • Food Storage Basics that anyone with any budget can meet
  • How to Put Together a Bug-Out Bag (72-hour kit) that will give you peace of mind
  • Alternative Cooking and Heating Options that you can use for extended blackout periods
  • How to Prepare your Car for Evacuation
  • Tips on Organizing and Safeguarding Important Documents and Data including backup plans, what to bring if you need to evacuate and so on.
  • and Much More!!!

To ensure that you don’t miss out on any upcoming articles, be sure to subscribe to this blog via RSS (click here) or Email by filling out the form at the top right of the sidebar.

Alone in the Wild

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009

Alone in the Wild For those interested in wilderness survival, National Geographic will be airing a new show sometime this month (September) called ‘Alone in the Wild’. It will cover the exploits of Ed Wardle, a self-shooting documentary producer/director who is dropped off alone for 50 days in the Canadian Yukon.

What I found really interesting is that according to National Geographic, Ed does not bring years of wilderness survival expertise to the show but instead is only an experienced outdoorsman seeking to test himself in the wilds. This will be very interesting to see how he fares compared to Discovery Channel’s Les Stroud (Survivorman) who has some obvious skill in survival.

One thing that I did notice right away in watching some of the online video clips is the amount of gear that he brought with him — it looks like he’s got a 65 pound pack full of gear, another large duffel with food, some guns, and a canoe among other things. So for you disappointed purists out there, give the guy a break, he is after all doing a show on being alone in the wild, not showcasing his survival prowess.

In any event it will be interesting to watch and I look forward to seeing it when it airs. Despite the gear, 50 days in a ‘survival’ setting is still a difficult task and I have great respect for him. After all, the longest I’ve been out in the wild in a survival situation (I only had a knife, a wool blanket, and a firestarter) was for a week and even that was pretty difficult.