Archive for January, 2014

Bug-Out Bag Gear Review: The Solo Stove

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

We all know that preppers have a passion for gear.

And in no other instance do you see this passion come out more often then when they purchase and talk about the contents of their bug-out bags.

However, while I think it’s fantastic that people are building and getting excited about BOBs, it becomes too excessive when they try to pack them with every imaginable piece of “required” gear they find. They soon end up with a pack they can hardly get on their backs let alone lug it for a few miles.

Well, I’m not one to talk. I fell into the same trap and ended up with a BOB that was over 60 lbs.

Believe me, if you ever had to carry a 65 pound backpack more than 2 miles you’d probably agree with me – it’s not fun.

And since my legs and conditioning ain’t what it used to be, lately I’ve been on a mission to reduce the bulk and weight of my own bug out bag. One of the areas where I’ve been able to strip-down a fair amount of weight is with my backpack stove.

The Heavy “Lightweight” Stove

For the longest time I used to carry around an MSR “lightweight” gas stove along with four 8 ounce bottles of fuel. Sure the stove was only a measly 3oz, but the fuel and stove were far from lightweight, weighing a total of 35 oz (over two lbs!).

As a side note: I carried four with me since MSR recommends 4 oz. (114 ml) of liquid fuel per person per day for cooking or 8 oz. (237 ml) of liquid fuel per person per day for melting snow and cooking.

Since I was lugging my family’s and my fuel supply (which would only last around 2 days according to MSR’s recommendations) I felt I had to at least carry 4 bottles. So despite the “lightweight” designation of these cooking stoves, it ended up being too much.

Enter the Solo Stove…

The Solo Stove

Well, over the last few months, I’ve been testing out an excellent little backpacking stove by the name of the Solo Stove.

This stove runs completely on wood and other biomass so not only is the fuel renewable but best of all, you don’t have to carry it with you since it’s all around you.

Since every pound counts when you’re carrying a backpack, I have been able to save over 2 pounds of weight just because of using the stove.

In this video, you can see my review of the Solo Stove and how it works:

How it Works

Here’s the explanation of how the Solo Stove works from the manufacturer:

The Solo Stove is a natural convection inverted downgas gasifer stove that incorporates a secondary combustion for a more efficient and cleaner burn.

The bottom vents allow air to enter and flow up the bottom of the grate to feed the primary combustion, a top down smolder.

In addition, air entering in from the bottom vents heats up within the inner wall and rises up and out the top firebox vents causing a secondary combustion at the top of the stove.

The Solo Stove actually cooks the smoke out of the wood and then burns the smoke not once, but twice! This technique makes for a cleaner burn which means less smoke and also allows the stove to burn more efficiently.

And here’s a visual of that process:

Having used it frequently for the last few months it’s definitely been proven to be a very efficient little stove requiring little wood to cook and boil water.

Solo Stove Specs

Packed size: Height 3.8 inches, Width 4.25 inches
Assembled size: Height 5.7 inches, Width 4.25 inches
Weight: 9 oz
Materials: 304 stainless steel, nichrome wire
Fuel: sticks, twigs, pine cones and other biomass
Boil time: 8-10 mins (32 fl oz of water)

Advantages and Disadvantages of the Solo Stove

The Good

The biggest advantage as I have mentioned is that you don’t have to carry around fuel with you. The fuel is all around you in the form of a small sticks twigs park matter and other biomass fuels.

And once you get a decent flame going, you can pretty much put any dry biomass into the hot stove and it will burn it efficiently.

The other advantage is that because of the gasification process, these little stoves are very efficient — it really doesn’t take that much fuel to cook your food or boil your water.

The Bad

The biggest disadvantage should be obvious: This stove doesn’t work well if all your fuel you find is wet.

However, with a little practice you can learn how to find dry fuel in wet conditions.

For example, even in rain you can still get dry, dead twigs and branches that are attached to standing dead or live trees (such as with most conifer trees like pines, spruces and hemlocks).

And even if these sticks you gather from the trees are a little wet on the outside, you can shave off the outer portion to get access to the dry inner core and use that for fuel.

Obviously, this isn’t the best option, but keep in mind you can also burn Sterno fuel cans or hexamine tablets inside of the Solo Stove — giving you a backup option for those days where it might be too wet or you don’t have time to go through the process of creating dry fuel.


All in all I think the Solo Stove is a fantastic addition to anyone’s bug out bag. Especially if you are familiar with making fires and making fires in inclement weather this is a definite must-have add-on to your bug out bag or even a replacement of your existing cooking stove option.

If you’re interested in purchasing one of these, Amazon always has the best prices: Get your Solo Stove here.

How to Make Stormproof Firestarters

Saturday, January 11th, 2014

I’ve posted a number of homemade fire starters since the start of this blog, and if there’s one that I find the most effective it’s got to be sawdust fire starters.

I used to make these sawdust fire starters as a kid after learning how to do it from of one of my dads Special Forces Manuals he had.

They are so effective they’ll stay lit in rain (not torrential downpours), on top of snow, and in high winds so they’re perfect if you need to start a fire in moist conditions with less-optimal wood…

…and they’re super easy to make:

How to Make Sawdust Fire Starters

You can check out how to make sawdust fire starters with my latest YouTube video or read the step-by-steps below:

What You’ll Need

  • sawdust
  • wax (old candles, paraffin, etc)
  • ice-cube tray

Making Sawdust Fire Starters Step-by-Step

Step 1: Melt some paraffin or other wax over the heat. If you’d feel more comfortable you can make a make-shift double boiler by placing a glass Pyrex bowl in simmering water.
Step 2: While melting, stuff sawdust into ice-cube trays. Make sure to that the sawdust doesn’t overflow into the adjacent cubes
Step 3: Pour melted wax over the sawdust. The sawdust will expand a bit as it absorbs the sawdust. Again, ensure that the wax is contained to the individual cubes and doesn’t overflow into adjacent cubes.

Pour off any excess wax…
Step 4: Place tray in freezer until cold and firm. These will pop out much like ice when cold.
Step 5: Light. These burn for a really long time and are great in high winds and moist conditions.

How to LEGALLY Avoid Gun Confiscation

Wednesday, January 1st, 2014

With the shootings in Aurora and Sandy Hook, gun control has been on the radar for much of 2012 and 2013 — and it’s not looking like it will stop anytime soon in 2014.

Feinstein has been busy pushing her S.150 bill (her “assault weapons ban of 2013”) and Obama is saying that gun-control will be the “central issue” of his final term in office.

There’s increasing pressure to shut down the “gun show loophole” as well as restrict private firearms sales, and there’s even talk of preventing the passing down of firearms to heirs (in other words, your firearms must be turned into the government upon your passing).

Let’s also not forget the UN Arms Trade Treaty that Obama is in favor of which is setting the stage for a national gun registry.

Before you brush it off as harmless, remember what happened in Hitler’s Germany – what started as an innocuous gun registry by the Weimar Republic prior to Hitler’s reign provided Hitler easy access to confiscate the firearms of those Jews who were in possession of them.

If the national gun registry were to take place here it would be no different. It would be easy pickings for those wanting complete gun confiscation — leaving you with no means of protecting yourself from a SHTF event or a tyrannical government.

The Second Amendment is there for a reason folks.

So is there anyway around this?

Getting Around Gun Registration

Many states (including mine) require all individuals who sell, transfer, inherit, or lose a firearm to report the sale, transfer, inheritance, or loss of the firearm with the state — gun registration is alive and well.

But there is a way around this…that is still completely legal (Note: please don’t take this as legal advice. Be sure to check your own state for laws and requirements)…and that is, through building your own.

Per provisions of the Gun Control Act (GCA) of 1968, 18 U.S.C. Chapter 44, an unlicensed individual may make a “firearm” as defined in the GCA for his own personal use, but not for sale or distribution.

And that’s the catch.

You can make one for your own personal use so long as you don’t sell it or distribute it.

This is good news for preppers.

This means no background checks and no serial numbers…again, completely legal.

If you’re thinking, “Yeah Erich, but I don’t have the skills to build my own gun.” Think again. Nowadays it’s a lot easier than people think.

Take an AR-15 for example – the dreaded “assault weapon”.

The only part on the AR-15 that is considered a “firearm” is the stripped lower receiver – the location where the serial number is normally engraved on:

All the other parts can be bought for cash from your local gun store or even online and they’ll ship it to your home without any need for an FFL or background check. Yes, that means the magazines, the barrel, the bolt-carrier group, the trigger assembly, the pistol grip, and so on.

On the other hand, if you try to purchase just the stripped lower receiver you will be required to get a background check. And they cannot be shipped to your house unless you have an FFL or you ship it to an FFL that does the transfer for you.

Well, what many preppers don’t know is they sell what’s called “80% lowers” for the AR-15 as well as other firearms. These are not considered firearms because they are not complete (they are 80% complete) and can be shipped to your home.

According to the ATF, they are nothing but a cool-looking paperweight:

They require you to use a milling machine to mill out the unfinished areas to make it a functioning lower receiver – – not something most people have the skill-set to do.

However, for the AR-15 especially, there are jigs that you can purchase that can be fitted with these 80% lowers that only require you to have some milling bits, a drillpress and the ability to follow directions and you can have yourself a functioning lower receiver completely off the books:

And even better yet, some companies are now producing 80% lowers made from polymer plastics. These only require you to have a Dremel tool or even just a normal electric drill and you can mill out your own lower receiver in about an hours time.

Here’s a video showing how this is done:

My Own Experience

I recently purchased two of these polymer lowers and plan on milling them out in the next month or so, so I’ll be sure to make a video of it for you guys to check out.

As always, I love to hear your comments so please chime in if you have some experience with 80% lowers.