Archive for January, 2013

How to Develop Mental Toughness

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

“The more you sweat in times of peace, the less you’ll bleed in times of war.”

There are a lot of things that we as preppers need to prepare for.

We focus on building our food and water storage, having multiple backups of our energy and heating needs, look to learn skills that were common in the “old days” and focus on building our security measures to protect what we’ve worked so hard to build up.

If there’s one thing though that we rarely hear about in the prepper circles that I feel is equally as important, it’s building up our mental toughness.

The unfortunate thing is that most of our nation (and many preppers I know of) greatly disregard this aspect of preparation. They become soft, live lifestyles with no discipline and prefer to take the path of least resistance.

Believe me, I get it, it’s part of our nature to do so.

However, if we want to have the mental fortitude to be able to survive when times get tough, we need break those patterns and take a different road — in many cases a harder road.

After all, we may not be able to hide behind our preps, hoping that we’ll be living on easy street when things go south.

In a survival situation, or a long-term SHTF type situation, mental toughness is what will bring you across to the other side, and although it may be an overlooked attribute to develop, it may just be one of the most important.

How to Develop Mental Toughness

First off, it helps to know exactly what mental toughness is.

The definition that I like is that it’s the ability to will oneself through less-than-ideal situations and conditions. This could be battling cancer, going through military training or simply waking up early to go workout.

Mental toughness is typically not something you’re born with (I don’t know of too many babies who just “tough it out” when it comes to not getting fed)…

…mental toughness is something that is developed.

So how do we develop it?

Well, it all comes down to regularly operating outside of your comfort zone.

Take this illustration for example…

The center circle represents you, and the inner area is your present level of comfort. No extra amount of effort is required to stay there. This is your safe haven, your bad habits, those day-to-day ruts, your place of predictability and familiarity…your level of comfort.

Beyond this circle lies your area of discomfort. This is the area in which you know you COULD operate if required to, but, it’s uncomfortable and most people choose not to.

However, when you purposely choose to step just outside of your comfort zone something interesting happens…

With time, this larger area will become your new comfort zone and what was previously difficult now becomes easier — giving you a broader and new perspective on what your limitations are. Then, the whole cycle repeats itself.

When this is done on a regular basis, not only does your capability increase but so does your mental toughness.

So what are some things that you can do to build mental toughness?

Well, the key is to seek out daily opportunities to get into the zone of discomfort. One of the easiest ways to do this is to take a look at the various activities you do on a daily basis and start by tweaking some of them such that they take you just out of your comfort zone.

Here are some examples that should spur some ideas of your own:

  • If you have a flight of stairs in your home, any time you walk down them, go on all fours (great shoulder and chest workout). Or when going up, hop up each step.
  • Do a number of pushups or pullups (install a pull-up bar in the doorway) before entering or leaving certain rooms of the house.
  • Go without food or water for 24 hours
  • When on errands, park your car further out so you have to walk farther.
  • When showering, finish the last portion of it with a blast of cold water.
  • When watching TV, do pushups/situps during the commercial breaks.
  • Try to do as many activities as possible with your non-dominant hand.
  • If your on the shy side, go out of your way to talk to 3 new people a day and learn something about each of them, or…
  • …try singing at the top of your lungs when someone is pulled up next to you at a stop light.
  • Wake up an hour earlier than you’re used to.
  • When getting your mail in the middle of winter, go out in some shorts and a t-shirt.
  • On those nights when you’re exhausted and just want to go to bed, force yourself to clean or do the dishes for 10 minutes.

While they may seem inconsequential, these little out-of-your-comfort-zone activities (when done often) are a great tonic and will build up your mental toughness.

As you may have noticed in some of the examples, building your mental toughness goes hand in hand with building your physical toughness. Both of these are crucial when it comes to survival.

Conclusion

You may have heard the saying, “The more you sweat in times of peace, the less you bleed in times of war” (or any of the other variants of this saying). What this means is that now’s the time to prepare (to sweat) for tough times ahead.

Those times are coming…will you be prepared?

It doesn’t matter where you are in terms of your level of fitness, how tough or weak or how old you think you are, you can make the choice to go beyond your present level of comfort — ideally on a day-to-day basis.

As a side note, I would recommend keeping a mental toughness journal. Basically, record on a daily basis those things you did to take yourself out of your comfort zone. As you do so, you’ll be able to look back and see the progress you’ve made and what used to be uncomfortable and difficult become comfortable and easy.

Each time you make a choice to go beyond your comfort zone, you build up a reserve of mental toughness. Each time you choose the easier path you diminish that capacity. As you build mental toughness, you will be able to call upon that reserve during tough times — and overcome.

Resources

If you’d like to learn more about this topic, there’s a fantastic book written by SEAL veteran Cade Courtley called, SEAL Survival Guide: A Navy SEAL’s Secrets to Surviving Any Disaster that served as the inspiration for this article.

The Ribz Front Pack Review (and how it applies to preppers)

Saturday, January 19th, 2013

A few weeks ago (at the suggestion of one of my readers) I picked up a fairly new product being marketed to outdoorsmen called a “Ribz Front Pack”. For those new to front packs, they are basically the opposite of a backpack in that you wear it up front.

After playing around with it for a little while now I thought I’d share with you guys some of my thoughts and opinions and most of all, how it’s beneficial to you as a prepper.

Review of the Ribz Front Pack

On first impression, the Ribz front pack reminds me of a cross between some of the old military “H-Harnesses” and the newer Load-Bearing Vests (LBVs) and chest harnesses — albeit much more lightweight and less heavy-duty.

It’s designed to be carried in front of your body when out on the trail to give you easy access to crucial gear when you need it at a moments notice.

The two ways to wear it are by itself (as displayed in the following picture) or with a backpack.

When wearing in tandem with a backpack, the theory is that because the Ribz front pack puts weight forward of your body, it will counterbalance a heavy load on your back.

It’s hard to see in the next picture but I have to say I did feel significantly more balanced with it on while hiking than with it off. Here I’m wearing a 45 lb. bug-out bag with only around 6 lbs of gear in the Ribz pack. Despite the weight difference, it still felt a lot more balanced.

There’s quite a lot of space in these packs. The smaller version can pack a little over 500 cubic inches (250 in each pouch) of gear and the larger one — pictured in this article — over 700 cubic inches (350 in each pouch).

Each of the pouches has an outside pocket that is accessed through a zipper. The pouches themselves also contain a main area that makes up most of the space and two elastic nets sewn into the inner wall of that area. These nets can stretch to accommodate some good-sized gear.

Just to give you an indication at how much 700 cubic inches is, here’s a picture of just one the pouches with a standard 14oz can of food being held in one of the elastic nets. Plenty of room to spare.

Overall, I really like the Ribz front pack — especially when worn in conjunction with a backpack. Also, the fact that it sits over the ribs (probably why it’s named “Ribz”) makes lack of maneuverability not an issue.

So how would this piece of gear apply to us preppers? Here are my thoughts…

Personal Application of the Ribz Wear Product

If you’ve read my survival kit article then you’d know that I am a big fan of having my survival kits segmented into 3 distinct tiers.

In a nutshell, the three-tiered kit approach is as follows:

  • Tier 1: Commonly referred to as your EDC (Every-Day-Carry) kit, this kit includes all those items that you would need to survive that can fit directly on your person (ie. in your pockets, on your belt, in your wallet, on your keychain etc).

    Basically if you had to ditch everything, and run with only the clothes on your back, what would remain would be your “Tier-1” kit. This is what I have with me all the time and carry every day.

  • Tier 2: Your Tier-2 kit is what is commonly called The Get-Home Bag. This kit is a compact and easy-to-carry kit that would fit in a small backpack, fanny-pack, purse or similar “bag” containing core survival items that could sustain you for around 24 hours or more — the theory being that it gives you just enough time to get home, hence the name “Get-Home Bag”.

    I try to carry this with me at all times as well, but there are times when this is not possible.

  • Tier 3: Finally, the Tier-3 kit is what we all know as our Bug-Out Bag, Go-Bag, 72-Hour Kit and so on. It’s a larger pack or bag that contains enough gear and supplies to sustain you for 3 days or more with the intent of taking you from a ground zero location to a safer spot.

    My Tier-3 kit sits at home, waiting for a time I hope never comes.

In a bug-out or extreme-survival scenario, my ideal is to have all three kits. Not just with me, but on me.

You might ask, wouldn’t the Tier-3 Kit be enough?

Well, packing everything in a Bug-Out Bag can still be a liability if you ever needed to ditch that big bag for whatever reason.

Since all your gear — essentially your lifeline — is tied to that bag, ditching it while bugging out would be a huge problem if that’s all you had. Having redundancy across multiple “tiers” will give you insurance should you need to leave your main bag behind.

All my kits (Tier 1, 2 and 3) are built upon the same foundation. The gear may be different, due to size and weight constraints, but in the end they all have the same six categories:

Personal Health and Security

Included in this category are all those things I would need to provide healing, health, safety and protection to myself and others. It includes items like first-aid and trauma kits, medicine, firearms, pepper spray and so on.

Shelter

These are items that provide protection from the elements. This could be a tent, blankets, sleeping bag, emergency Mylar blankets, extra clothing and so on

Water

All those things that I would need to procure, carry, purify and filter water. Things like portable water filters, purification tablets, water containers, water bladders and other related items would be part of this group.

Heat and Energy

Items in this category help provide heat, light and energy as well as assist in making fires. Here you could find matches, lighters, firesteel, tinder, flashlights and lanterns, extra batteries, portable solar chargers and more.

Food

This category includes actual food as well as items to procure and get food. MREs, snares/traps, dehydrated foods, canned goods and other things would be what you’d find here.

Tools

This final category includes all those other things that make survival easier. It could be a GPS or compass for navigation, an emergency radio, an axe, a knife, a saw and more.

With the three-tiered approach to your kits, I like to have as much redundancy as possible. In other words, I try to include (as best as possible) items from each of these categories across all three tiers. Sometimes, this will lead to duplication, but I’d prefer that to the alternative.

An example of this in my set up is, I have a Katadyn water filter in my Tier-3 kit (my Bug-Out Bag), a Seychelle water-filter straw in my Tier-2 kit and I always carry a couple of water-purification tablets with me as part of my Tier-1 or EDC kit.

So where does the Ribz front pack fit into all of this?

Well, up to this point, I really didn’t have a good solution for a Tier-2 kit. I thought of a fanny pack but that was uncomfortable when hiking and I can’t stand having a lot of weight at the belt line.

This front pack really helps to make carrying my second tier a whole lot easier. Best of all, the Ribz front pack allows you to have essential gear up front so that if you had to access some key items while on the go, you wouldn’t have to stop, take off your backpack and dig through it to get your needed gear. In addition, you now have an insurance policy if you had to (heaven forbid) drop your main pack and jet out of there.

As an added bonus, I really like the non-tactical look of it. If you were to wear it by itself when on the trail, it doesn’t draw too much attention.

If you’re interested in purchasing a RIBZ or learning more (I don’t receive any commissions for sales of these) go to www.ribzwear.com