Backpacking and Emergency Stoves.

In the world of portable and emergency cooking solutions there are many many choices. Whether it’s gas, methylated spirits or wood burning they all excel at some things and are weak in others. It’s my firm opinion that you should probably have one or two at your disposal. I have a few myself all good for on thing or another. Lets start with Emergency at home cooking solutions.

The obvious choices for emergencies are Coleman camping stoves. They come in two types, the more expensive Naptha powered stoves and the cheaper Propane powered. They actually produce stoves now that can burn either Naptha or Gasoline. In a pinch Gasoline is much more available than Naptha. The propane option is good if you store plenty of propane in an appropriate container on your property, but keeping many cylinders of propane in your house is not a great idea. Sometimes they leak. I just happened to see the aftermath of what happens to a house when the tank on your barbecue leaks and then hits an ignition source. The house was a split level, fairly large and well built… or it was. When it blew up it was reduce to pieces of lumber and splinters. It was a fairly large explosion and it was just fortunate the family was away when it happened. I don’t recommend you store any kind of fuel within your main structure even if it’s an attached garage. This is problematic for Apartment dwellers, and in fact a lot of apartments have fuel bans written right into the lease. Anyway, a single fuel Coleman stove (Naptha) will set you back about $140.00 plus tax. A duel fuel will go a little over $200.00  and propane will set you back a mere $80.00. It’s a good idea to keep lots of matches or barbecue lighters around to light them in an emergency.  If you do go the propane route, I’d suggest buying a little propane powered grill as well. Keep in mind these are supposed to be used in well ventilated areas. If you are using them indoors keep a window open a crack. If you are in an older house with a porch, cook out there. In an apartment, cook on the balcony if you have one, or by a window if you need to.

A more budget conscious gas powered stove is Butane. A single burner butane powered stove will set you back a mere $30.00 at Walmart and a couple of days fuel for it is about $12.00. None of these will be a long term solution if the world goes crazy. before we hit some potential TEOTWAWKI  you need to take a look around your area and see what is abundant and how you can use it. Trees are abundant in most rural areas so I would suggest you invest in a wood heating and cooking system. The Ideal would be a wood cookstove. Something your grandma or great grandma might have used. Of course, once again, this will be pointless if you live in an apartment.

A Wood Cookstove.

Other choices for a wood burning stove would be either a Rocket Stove or a wood gas burning stove. You can build a wood gas burning stove out of a few metal cans following the abundant instructions available over the internet. I bought one from China off Ebay for about $15.00, but it’s more of a backpacking thing (ultralight and small, but good to boil a pot of tea or cook some soup. Wood gas stoves work by using the heat from the fire to convert the wood to gas and burn it. Instead of burning from the bottom up it burns from the top down heating the pace between the space between the burn chamber and the outer shell. this makes it draw in air from holes in the base and that mixes with wood gas released from the bottom of the combustion chamber. This mixture feeds up to the top where it combusts to provide a secondary burn. So you get two flames for the price of one.

Wood gas stove, left is homemade and right is commercially made.

Rocket stoves are easier to use and harder to make if you want it to be portable.. You can buy them online for anywhere from $50.00 to $250.00 but expect to pay a lot of money on shipping. They’re heavy. In the past I built one out of bricks, but that is useless to a camper as it isn’t portable at all. But as a solution at your Bug out/Hunker down location it would be second only to a proper wood stove. They work by using thermodynamics to force air through the burning chamber which acts like a fan on the fire. They burn fairly efficiently but they still are a strictly outdoor solution.

Rocket Stoves, left to right 1. Homemade Brick 2. Commercially made and 3. Home made from cans.

There are also some other commercially available stoves that burn wood as well. One which I happen to own myself is the Biolite stove. It’s a pretty cool piece of gear with one huge shortcoming. The stove is ingeniously designed with a to make electricity out of the heat from the fire. This charges a battery which powers an electric fan that feed air into the bottom of the fire. It burns fast and hot so it will boil a liter of water in less than ten minutes. Mine did it in about seven minutes. As a matter of fact I used it to take a small pot of snow from frozen to a boil in seven minutes. The really cool thing is once it starts generating more power then it requires, then you can use the USB port attached to charge your cell phone or run any number of USB devices. It came with a USB Flexlight that throw a lot of light for an LED device. It’s not a floodlight mind you, but it is bright enough to read by on a very very dark night. It took my smart phone from 12% to 100% in about four hours, so you need to pay attention to what you’re doing and keep it fed. The only real problem with it is you can’t feed fuel into it while a pot is on it. You need to take the pot off and put more wood on it. Once you’ve got it burning to the point where your putting in sticks bigger than your thumb it will burn for a good five or ten minutes on the high setting. It’ll run you about $130.00 USD to get one though.

Biolite Camp Stove.

Another good long term solution is charcoal. A charcoal grill is less polluting indoors than an open wood fire (but still produces lots of Carbon Monoxide so keep the ventilation good.) By charcoal I don’t mean the pressed pillow shaped stuff you buy at the grocery store. I’m talking about hardwood charcoal which is basically made by burning hardwood in the absence of oxygen. Heres a video of a guy doing it without so much as an axe. Knowing how to make this might one day help you with other things as well, such as homemade water filters. It’s not activated charcoal, but it will contain some of the naturally occurring C60 atom (Buckminsterfullerine). It gives a great flavor to food when you grill on it.

Some other backpacking/Bug out choices would be an alcohol burning stove of some kind or a solar stove. Solar stoves are great when the sun shines, not so much when it’s raining or snowing. But not many people plan a hike on a rainy day so it might work for you. Alcohol burning stoves are very portable and easy to use. If you build you own still you could probably power it forever in a TEOTWAWKI situation. It wouldn’t hurt to learn about still anyway because aside from the booze aspect you could use it to make antiseptic alcohol and even distill water if you need it. Still is a skill even if you don’t partake of the drink. You could use booze as a trade item as well.

Some alcohol stoves will fit in the palm of your hand. Others are a bit larger and will fit nicely on your counter. A few cans of sterno are all you need to get started. You could also make one cheaply (I’ve seen them made out of aluminium pop cans for about $0.00 or whatever the pop cost if you don’t find it on the street. These stoves use Methylated spirits (Ethanol that has had Methyl alcohol added to it to make it undrinkable) which are also known as Denatured Spirits.

Plain Ethyl Alcohol burns just as well.

So personally I have the following cooking systems available to me if the power goes out or I go out for a walkabout in the hills. Remember, two is one, One is none. Redundancy is your friend.
Biolite Campstove
Wood gas Hiking Stove
Alcohol Stove with Folding cover
Butane Single Burner Gas stove
Charcoal Grill

When we settle down and buy a place it will have wood heat and hopefully a wood cooking solution that I will hide out in my Garage as its “Heat”

Anyway, It’s time for me to be moving on, PrepperKid needs to go to bed.

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Staying sharp… Knives and Knife Sharpeners.

Knives are one of the basic tools everyone will need in an emergency, and one of the easier ones to get. For the sake of simplicity we won’t be discussing kitchen and eating knives in this. We will concentrate on the four types important to preparedness. Those are Tactical, Skinning, Folding and Bushcraft. Tactical are knives used for tactical purposes, i.e. for cutting through rope or brush or other obstacles. I wouldn’t recommend you try to fight with a knife until you get some kind of training in using a knife though. It’s much harder than you think. Skinning knives are designed to help remove the pelt of an animal in as easy a manner as possible. Bushcraft knives are good all around knives for skinning, carving, cutting and in a pinch defense. Lets go through the basics you need to know to pick a good knife.

The Basics: The basics apply to every knife you want to buy For folding knives you want a good smooth but not loose action on them. Folding knives should be short enough to fit in your pocket if need be and the blades should have no play in them whatsoever when they are extended. The handle should feel comfortable in your hand. Fixed blade knives should have a full tang in them. That means the blade of the knife extends down through the handle for a more secure and stiff blade. The scabbard for the knife should be snug and cover the entire blade. Stitched nylon scabbards are really bad if not done exactly right. Occasionally the knife will slice right through the stitches and then you are without a scabbard, or worse, your knife will fall out when your on a hike. Snaps on a scabbard need to stay shut on their own, but they also shouldn’t be too hard to unsnap. Sometimes a bit of light oil will help this, but mostly just sitting and snapping and unsnapping it will ease it up a bit.

Basic Blade Types


Tactical. Tactical knife choices are based on preference. Some prefer very short blades, others like very long ones. The shorter blades are very practical and easy to use. They are more useful all around than the larger longer bladed ones. They come in a variety of styles from the classic Marine core K-Bar style knife to the high tech looking tanto styles. Blades can be either Carbonized black or a nice shiny bright steel color. You can spend a lot of money on a good knife, and when it comes to knives my rule of thumb is buy the best knife you can afford.


The image above is the tactical knife I chose. It’s cheap-ish. But it’s quality is very good. It’s not up to snuff with say a Gerber or SOG top end knife, but it’s made with a decent steel (1055 carbon). The most popular carbon steel for tactical knives is 1095. The higher the carbon content, the better an edge it will keep, but the more brittle the steel becomes. Brittle steel will break the tip off the knife, usually at the worst possible time, so I wouldn’t recommend using anything higher that a 1095 unless you really know what your doing. 1055, like my knife, won’t hold an edge as well but makes for a very tough blade. It’s very common amongst high end machetes due to it’s toughness, but if you go with 1055 instead of 1095 just remember, you’ll be sharpening it much more often.

If you’re on a budget and must have a cool looking tactical knife I would recommend this. It cost me $32.85 from Camouflage. The good thing with them is if you save up for a few things you need you get free shipping over $99.00. I bundled up that knife, a machete, a sharpening system then threw in a couple of really cheap boot knives to get me over the $99.00 level.

Other types of knife you may consider are Bowie style tactical (which will do triple duty as a bushcraft or skinning knife) or dagger style (most boot and throwing knives are dagger style.) and the many many variations of them. Whatever knife you look at and feel interested in make sure you read the reviews on them.

One last note on tactical style knives. If you’re harboring some fantasy about using them to defend yourself or attack others and you haven’t had any specific training remember this. If the world falls so far apart that you can go around stabbing people then you’re probably bringing a knife to a gun fight. Even if you’re facing someone in a knife fight, if they know what they’re doing they’re going to end your life in short order. Here are a few ways you can recognize someone that may be trained. First of all look in their eyes, if they don’t look the least bit scared or intimidated that means they’re either confidant in their abilities, or they’re stupid.

Secondly, body language. It’s human nature to protect yourself from danger and untrained people will almost invariably take a very protective pose. They will face you side on so that their organs are protected from a thrust (think the classic fencing pose…) Mind you, if the person is very confidant looking and holds the knife in a proper fighting style he’s trying to suck you into attacking so he can counter attack. Be especially wary if they have reversed the grip on the knife so the flat of the blade runs up their wrist towards their elbow. This is a defensive knife fighting style where he will wait for you to attack block and stab you. Be wary of spinning moves that may come.

The last thing to look for is if he is squared away and hunched a bit with a low center of gravity (think wrestler circling his opponent) and looking not at your knife, but at your eyes. Be especially wary if he has two knives, then you can expect attacks to come at you from both sides. If he has one of the blades in a reversed grip, you’re in double trouble. Back away. Run if you can safely. Talk him out of it… Do whatever you have to do in order to extract yourself from this situation. If it’s your last resort, I only have one piece of advice for you. Stay low, look for an opening while protecting your torso and if you see his groin unprotected, charge forward low and try to aim an upward cut right at their crotch. I’m telling you right now this is a worst case scenario. Don’t get into this situation. If you do, and manage to get off this swing without being blocked, you will either hit them right in the groin, where a lot of major blood vessel are and they will die or bleed out (in a lot of pain) really fast, or most likely, you will miss… but carry the blow through, because what you are actually trying to do is hit them under the breastbone in the rib cage. Most people without specific knife training misjudge their knife length and at this point missing the groin while you are moving forward will place the knife right in their solar plexus, hopefully in their heart. If you miss altogether tackle them using your forward momentum. aim your shoulder just under their ribs and hopefully you can wind them. If you wind them either stab them wherever you can (leg would be great, heart better) and run away or just plain dirty boot it out of there leaving them behind sucking air. Hopefully you’ve intimidated this person into thinking you really know what your doing at this point and they won’t want anything else to do with you.

Best idea, however, is to not get in this kind of situation at all. Stay away from violent people with knives. Or bring a gun with you.

Bushcraft: These are the most all around useful styles of knives available to you. They are good for carving wood and gutting a deer as well. They are also abundantly available at sporting good stores and other such places so you can go. Tanto style knives generally make really bad skinning and bushcraft knives (but are useful in some situations) so if you are only going to own one knife, I would highly suggest a clip point bushcraft knife of some kind. Don’t go for your crocodile Dundee sized bowie knife. It’s nice and intimidating but essentially too awkward to do any of the fine work you may require your knife to do.

Clip point blades, in my humble opinion, are the most versatile blades out there. And this is a class of blade where you can spend a few hundred dollars for a nice shiny Gerber up to a few thousand for a hand made Damascus steel piece of art. The thing is, none of them will actually be better than a $22.00 Mora Classic. It might not look like much, but they are a tough little knife with a good piece of steel and nice scabbard. Read Thomas Xaviers Review of the Mora Classic and you’ll know all you need to about these wonderful Swedish blades. Once again, you don’t have to spend a lot of money for exceptional tools to be prepared. If you buy no other survival tool, buy a good bushcraft knife. Other excellent brands of bushcraft knife are BUCK, Gerber and Ka-Bar as well as many others. Find what makes you comfortable at a price point you are good with. Please try to get a good steel if possible and full Tang. Stay away from Collectors knives. First of all, they aren’t really collectable and secondly, they’re usually very cheaply made junk. Full tang is best, stay away from anything that looks like something John Rambo or Crocodile Dundee would use.

Skinning Knives:

Skinning knives tend to be shorter, wider and more rounded than any other kind of knife. They are purpose made to remove pelts and field dress game. It’s the most limited knife in scope, but best at what it’s used for. I would recommend this as your second knife buy.

My personal skinning knife has seen better days unfortunately so a new one will be in the works. I bought it when I was 17 and it was made out of a cheap Chinese 420 steel, but it did the trick and I used it for decades while I hunted. Unfortunately I lent it to a friend once who used it to dress a deer in the field, and he didn’t properly clean it before giving it back. I also didn’t check it (my bad) before storing it for about five years and when I went to get it out again the leather sheath was rotted and the blade was stained. I had to throw the sheath away. I’ll clean it and see if it holds an edge anymore so it can be a backup, but if it won’t, better to throw it away than have to rely on a broken tool.

My Old Skinning Knife:


There are a lot of really nice, really expensive skinning knives out there, but to be honest most of them are just nice art pieces.

I would suggest finding a nice short wide and rounded blade with a gut hook intrinsic to the blade. This gives you the most versatility when skinning game. But if you’re looking at the budget, then Ontario Knife makes the Old Hickory 71-6 or the Schrade  Old Timer can both be got for under $30.00.

If you plan to hunt large game you should also invest in a filleting knife and a bone saw. You’ll need them. Rabbits you can just gut skin and roast.

Folding Blades: They’re compact and they’re concealable and versatile for light duty use. They aren’t a replacement for a fixed bladed knife, but they are a compliment and you’re more likely to carry that with you than a fixed bladed weapon every day. There are many types of folding blade knives in the world from the automatic (Switch) bladed weapons to butterfly knives to Swiss army knives to your grandfathers old jack knife. When I was a kid every boy over the age of ten carried or owned a jack knife of some kind, but that was almost forty years ago. I was given my grandfathers knife when he died (I was 9 I think ) and I kept it for a couple of years before I lost it on an expedition to the woods with my friends. That being said, I still have the knife my parents gave me for Christmas that same year to this day and I carry it everywhere. It’s a two bladed Barlow knife and it’s seen a lot of use.IMG_20160215_112733368

I also own one of the ubiquitous clip point BUCK brand lock blades everyone has seen at some point in their lives. I have an ultralight buck lock blade in my little “Get Home” bag in the car (it’s basically my Every Day Carry pouch, I’ll do a blog about that sometime soon.)

Ubiquitous Buck Lock Blade.
download (1)

A well made Swiss army knife is also a useful addition to your pocket as it has many uses. Scout knives are useful too, but I don’t recommend them  as they usually happen to be the same color as the woods, and if you drop one you can spend a maddening amount of time trying to find it. I would also caution you against knives with so many attachments that it ends up making the knife really impractical to actually use. Sure, having your knife fork and spoon on one knife seems practical and saves space, but have you ever tried to cut a steak with one? You can’t operate the fork and the knife at the same time. It is, however, handy to have a screwdriver and maybe a small saw blade or something.

Not Really Practical.

Get yourself a good lock blade or a Jack Knife to carry with you every day, and carry it. Use your head though, don’t take it anywhere it would be illegal to carry (like a plane) and don’t take it out unless you want to use it. Also, don’t buy switchblades or butterfly blades. They’re illegal in Canada.

Sharpening knives. Compared to a lot of people I suck at sharpening knives, so I’m not going to tell you how to do it. There are plenty of people on the internet who will do a much better job of that then I will. Basically though you need a good stone and a steel to keep your blades at tip top sharpness. The rest just comes down to angles and force applied. Since I’m not very good at it I use a United Cutlery Sharpmaster sharpening system. It’s an inferior product, but it will put a serviceable edge on a knife on a budget. Spyderco also makes a really good sharpening system for under $100.00 called the Spyderco Tri-Angle Sharpmaker. If you have some more money to spend and are good at using a stone then the big boys recommend the chosera line of the Naniwa Super Stones or Shapton Glass stones. They’ll set you back up to $300.00 though and require some skill.

Anyway, knives. If you aren’t specifically trained in their use, they are a tool, not a weapon.

The chief weapon of any soldier is his well trained mind.

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The Way of Things


It wasn’t that long ago that the whole idea of being prepared to me seemed like a thing only nut jobs and wackos would be even remotely interested in. To me it just seemed like purposeful hoarding. So I stumbled through life always sure beyond belief that I didn’t have to be prepared for anything. And I didn’t, and I wasn’t. Up until recently I wasn’t really prepared to be without power for more than a few hours at best. I had some candles a friend had given me and a few flashlights that may or may not have had active batteries in them. Basically I wasn’t prepared for anything. The thing is, I live in Nova Scotia and there are certain times of the year where if you don’t have power for an extended period of time it can get fatal fast. And further, if transportation gets interrupted in the winter for a couple of weeks, when the stores ran out of food, so would I.

Then I got married…

Then my son was born.

So at one point while I was watching the Walking Dead I started thinking “What would happen to my family under similar circumstances.” Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I expect the dead to rise and start attacking us at any point in time. I just wondered what would I do if civilization suddenly stopped for any given reason. I realized that basically my family would be statistics in the end when our firm faith in society was run over by the reality of just how thin the paint is that hides the ugly side of human nature. I’m not saying that people are bad, on the contrary I assume that most people are basically good people like me with a few jerks thrown in for spice. But I know this, if you had food and my family was starving and about to die, I would probably try to take your food from you to save them if I remotely could. I think most people probably would. The difference is I wouldn’t take all of your food, just enough to get by till I can find the next bit. And I wouldn’t hurt you if I could avoid it. Not everyone is like that.

Once again, I’m not a gun nut either. I used to hunt when I was younger but I don’t even do that now. I own no guns and if I do buy weapons in the near future they will be few and to fill specific purposes. Just laying out the facts here, I’m just a regular Canadian Joe who really has no interest in having to shoot his neighbors some day. In fact, I think it’s pretty safe to say that in the event of a major disaster, you’re going to need those neighbors if you ever want to bring your world back to some semblance of normality.

Do we need to be prepared? Ask yourself this. If the power went out for two weeks how well would you survive? You may remember back a few years ago in 1998 when there was a huge ice storm in Quebec and the power was out in some areas for up to a month. four million people were without power. The government got in there with food shipments and warming centers that kept people from going completely off their stick. Thirty five people died as a result of that storm. The massive deployment of military personnel by the government was the only reason there weren’t thousands more. At their height of the operation almost sixteen thousand Canadian armed forces personnel  were helping feed, warm and repair the infrastructure in the three provinces affected.

But what if the government hadn’t stepped in, or couldn’t. What if instead of a localized disaster, it had of been a national one. What if a massive solar flare wiped out the grid in the dead of winter across all of North America? It happened in Quebec once… (They have a hard time with power apparently…) A massive solar storm hit the North America once in 1859. This was known as the Carrington Event and it caused telegraphs to fail all over North America and Europe. It apparently happens quite often, the last Coronal mass ejection was in 2012 but it missed us. Had it of hit the magnetosphere it would have caused power outages worldwide that would have taken months to fix. Imagine that in the dead of winter.

Now if it was just the cold you had to worry about that would be fine. But without electricity, you won’t be getting any food in the near future either. #1, it’s a pretty good bet you won’t have access to any money to buy it and #2 there’s a good chance you don’t have any money coming in when there isn’t any power because you can’t go to work. “Sure…” you say “But I’m on salary!” Ask yourself truthfully if you really think your company is going to come and give you cash to tide you over for a month, or three while they aren’t producing any kind of income. Chances are the company you work for also won’t have any access to their cash reserves anyway. In a situation like this everyone is equally screwed.

Now in this situation even if they manage to keep food moving to stores, do you think you can wander in to Sobey’s or the Superstore and give them IOU’s for food? Probably not. Our government being the kind and beneficial socialist state that it is will probably step in and make sure people can get fed, the problem is with a massive solar storm there won’t be any communications for a while. So it will take time to get food to stores and a method in place for distributing it. Keep in mind that all grocery stores operate on a just in time system now, and anything you see in the store when you go in it today, that’s all there is for the most part. There isn’t a massive store room with weeks of food in it. When the mad rush hits to get what is left, when it’s gone that’s it for a while. How long will the food in your house or apartment last if that’s all you have for a while?

This is just one small example of the ways Mother Nature can mess your life up for a while. Don’t say it can’t happen because it has. So what to do? Give over to despair? Forget everything you just read and go on with your life as if you were invincible and nothing could hurt you?  If that’s what you want, sure, go for it. Or you could just start to learn, plan and execute. Education, much as it is in every other part of your life, is the key to survival when the Scheisse hits the Fan (heretofore to be known as WTSHTF… I don’t like to swear.) Forewarned is Forearmed, and Preparation is everything.

I would suggest you start with getting all the basics you need for two weeks of survival. That’s two weeks of Food (must be food that can be stored for a long time in case you don’t need it for a long time) Water (If the water stops flowing from your taps, what then?) Shelter (if there isn’t any electricity do you have heat? Most people don’t.) and Clothing (do you have proper clothing that allows you to survive outdoors in any weather for an extended period of time.)

Two weeks. Its a start. have a plan to hunker down, and have a plan to bug out if needed. Then increase that margin to a month. You don’t need a big budget to do it, and you don’t need Caviar and aged two years cheddar in order to survive. As a matter of fact the bulk of my survival rations consists of Rice and Pulses (dried beans and peas etc.) for a few reasons. One, they keep for years and two, They are far from my favorite foods. That doesn’t mean I don’t eat them at all. I do, just that I’m more likely to go for the potatoes and meat and keep them in stock for an emergency. PrepperWife eats lots of rice (PrepperWife is from China originally, go figure) so I know that we will turn the rice over before it gets bad. What I do is wait until it’s on sale and grab what I can. Today I happened to be in WalMart (not my favorite place to go for a lot of reasons) and they had 9kg bags of rice for sale for $5.00, so I bought them all. There were only four left, but for $20.00 i got enough food for my family for two weeks right there. If you mix in pulses with your rice it gives you all the protien, carbs iron and amino acids you need to survive. Add some canned or dehydrated or even freeze dried veggies to that and you are well on your way to surviving.

I didn’t think I could afford to do it, but I looked after my families basic needs for the most part for under $10.00 a week. I buy things on sale and store them in my storage room. Now I have six months rations for three people (2 1/2 actually… PrepperKid is only three.) Get your basics covered then add stable long lasting luxuries to it if you want. Sugar, Honey, Cocoa etc. We can leave a full list of what needs to be done for later. This first installment is getting too long now anyway.

Cheers all.
Be prepared, and don’t be scared.

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The Very Basics.

food shelt wat

The picture above shows four thing you need to help in any given situation. These are the very basics. But I think there are actually five. Food, water, shelter, Character and Community. They are all important, some in the short term, others for your long term mental health and physical well being. Today we are talking about a concept known in the community as “The End of the World as We Know It” otherwise known by the acronym TEOTWAWKI. If you do some searching on the interwebs you will certainly find lots of proposed ways in which the world as we know it will be disrupted for anywhere from months to permanently. Some of them are based in reality (Search for Massive Solar storms or Economic collapse) others are somewhat specious at best (The Zombie Apocalypse or Nibiru) Others have happened quite often in our history (Plagues for instance.)

I don’t want to be a fear monger by any stretch of the imagination, but there are some realitiies to the modern world that put us at risk. If you want a good read on it pick yourself up a copy of James Wesley Rawles “How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It.” I’m not a Rawlesian prepper (mostly because I can’t afford to be a Rawlesian prepper. If you’ve read the book you know what I’m talking about.

In the book Rawles talks about the “Thin Veneer of Society” that holds the civilized world together. Think about it, in our world there are some rules and conventions that hold up and let us function as a society as long as it’s in the majorities best interest to function with those rules in place. The moment it becomes deadly for someone to follow those rules they will go out the window in no short order. Not many people will face their starving children and tell them they have to die because their parents didn’t plan well and it isn’t right to steal. I’m sure some will because they have a strong moral character that will guide them to do whats right. I daresay there aren’t enough. Some people are just bullies by nature, remove the grip of law from their reins and they run amok. So being prepared is your goal.

The first thing you need is a plan. Two plans actually. The first plan is to hunker down until the danger has passed. The second is a plan to get the heck outta dodge. Both involve some expenditure on your part, but can be done on a budget. Trust me, it’s not as overwhelming as you think. Give yourself a budget. Lets say $10.00 a week. Or maybe $10.00 a month. it will take longer but something is definitely better than nothing. Lets look after the basics first.

Water: If you are hunkering down you need a solid supply of water. A good rule of thumb is four litres per person per day for cooking and drinking. Obviously you can’t store enough bottled water to last you a year. A family of three would need 1100 gallons for a year. That would fill a 5 foot by 5 foot by 6 foot  (1 2/3 x 1 2/3 x 2 meter) tank. To cover your first two weeks you would need 14 gallons per person. You can get by for a while on less water (don’t cook anything that needs water etc.) but that isn’t sustainable. To help with your hunker down water supply the first thing you need to know is if your water supply is gravity fed or uses electricity or other power to pump it to you. If it isn’t gravity fed, water will stop flowing as soon as the back up generators run out of fuel. If you live in an earth quake zone they could be severed by a quake. If there is any reasonable belief on your part that the water will stop flowing in the event of an emergency you need to plan for a source and a method to clean it. It’s fairly easy if you live in a rural area or a house in the city.It becomes problematic if you live in an apartment building in the city.

I live in a small town with lots of fresh water springs in rural Nova Scotia. I know of three lakes and at least 7 streams and rivers that are all within walking distance of me. But fortunately, i have an active spring right on my property. But that’s me. To get started simply lay in four cases of water for every person in your household. For economy and ecology’s sake you can use larger containers as long as you lay in 1 gallon (four liters) per person per day for two weeks. This will cover your short term hunker down needs. Same for when you bug out. You will need water. If your bugging out you will need enough water to get you to your bug out location and a secure source of water at the location when you get there.

For longer term hunkering down you need to secure a source of water. Rain barrels are great for this, but you have to be aware of two things. Waterborne pathogens (germs) and pollution. Filters will help with this short term. The problem is after a while you will run out of filters unless you learn how to build your own. If pathogens are the only real concern you have then I would recommend either the Life Straw or my personal favorite the Sawyer Squeeze. I like the sawyer squeeze (well, the sawyer filter technology in particular) because if you use it properly and clean it as instructed it will filter about one million gallons of water. Thats a lot of water. Of course, boiling works well for pathogens, really well. Another cheap solution is to add Chlorite bleach or Food Grade Hydrogen Peroxide to your drinking water. The ratio for bleach is two drops to one liter of water (8 drops/gallon.) The ratio for Hydrogen Peroxide is 2ml/gallon of water. You can use both as they compliment each other really well. The last, easiest most effective and cheapest solution is to place clear two liter bottles out in the sun for a couple of days. UV light will kill all the pathogens in the water. A steripen will do this as well. Put some tinfoil behind the bottles to help with this.

If you need to be concerned about pollution (for instance if you live in an active volcano zone or a massive fire breaks out or, and this is a worst case scenario, a tsunami hits your area… think about all the diesel and home heating oil that would mix into the ground water at that point…) then you will need a more definitive solution. Katadyn makes some great all round portable filter systems as well as Berkey. Just be aware that you will need to lay in extra filters. Examine how many gallons each is reasonably capable of cleaning contaminates out of. If you do go that way you can prolong the life of that filter by first filtering with either a Sawyer filter to get the larger contaminates out, or even a Brita first. Brita’s eliminate a few contaminates themselves. Remember, you can’t boil out a lot of chemical contaminants. Boiling the water just concentrates the chemical even more. If you are worried about chemical contamination you are going to need some kind of hefty filtering technology. If you can’t afford to buy any of these goodies you can build a solar still. there are plenty of designs for these on the internet including step by step directions on the Internet. They are cheap and easy to make. I’m currently looking at creating a few solar contraptions myself including a solar furnace. A small still will also help you out.

Remember one thing, you can survive three days without water in a warm environment. A little longer in a cold one as long as you aren’t exerting very much.

Food: This is harder. You need space and you need to know what to keep. But first of all I have some important news for you. Best Before dates are NOT expiry dates. They simply mean that the food within is freshest and tastiest before this date. If food has an expiry date, when it hits that date it is no longer safe to eat. There have been cases in the past where cans have contained safe food for 100 years (Look up the steamboat Bertrand.) Cans in that case had been underwater for 100 years and were still safe to eat. Here is a good rule of thumb for you, but If you look closely they say that it’s only taste appearance and smell that deteriorate after the best before dates.

So you need to lay in food stores for a disaster. Once again, start small and learn the tricks of the trade. Canned foods have a long shelf life, along with dried foods. Fresh produce is not a prep, but seeds to grow it are. If you can can or bottle your own stuff that’s all the better.

How much do you need. Well, if you’re mathematically minded you can calculate the Basil Metabolic Rate and figure out exactly how many calories you’ll need to make a go of it. A basic rule of thumb however is 2000 calories a day for a woman, 2200 calories a day for men and roughly half that for toddlers (900-1000 calories.) A teen needs about 1800 calories. Lay in two weeks of food for everyone in your family. I recommend you lay in some of each of the following starting out.

Rice: one 8 kg (17.6 lb) bag for every member of your family. I suggest white rice for this because the oils in brown rice will go rancid after about six months. White rice has a shelf life of 5 years in an airtight container. If you remove the oxygen from that container with either oxygen absorbents or using the dry ice oxygen displacement method it has a shelf life of over 25 years.
Beans: Dried beans cooked with rice give you all the protein and amino acids you need to survive. Pulses are great and can be bought somewhat cheaply in bulk. Like rice, your best bet is to store them in airtight containers. Use 5 gallon food grade plastic containers with gasket-ed airtight lids. You can get them at many places. Brew shops, grocery stores, online etc. Gamma seal lids are pricey, but if you have trouble opening the five gallon lids these will make your life much easier.
Canned Goods. My local superstore has a sale every so often on Campbell’s soup. It’s not the best solution but at $0.50 per can you can buy a lot of shelf stable food for $10.00. Sales are key to doing this on a budget. Never buy food for preps unless it’s on sale. I also grab the Primo soups when they’re on sale as well, especially the Beef and Barley soups. Yummy. Canned vegetables and fruit will carry you through the winter hopefully until you can obtain a source of fresh vegetables and fruit. Also get some canned tomatoes and pasta sauce. These work better in bottles as the acidity in tomatoes tends to give them off flavors after about 1 1/2 years. Canned meat stays good for at least five years. I stock canned ham, chicken and smoked herring. Yummy. This will give you some of the fat you need to live, especially the smoked herring (Omega fats guys.)
Pasta and Grain. In a perfect world you would lay in unprocessed grain. When you need it, you open a bucket (remove the oxygen from it, this will kill any pests that lurk within) grab what you need and either soak it to make Wheat Berries or mill it to make flour. In lieu of that have some flour, but it will only be good for a year or so. Turn it over often. Pasta keeps for a very very long time on it’s own. It’s listed as good for two years, but industry insiders say it can be eaten for up to a year past that. Probably longer but I wouldn’t plan it that way just in case.
Snack foods and Comfort. Whatever it is you like. Check the shelf life of it (you can just type “Shelf life of Potato Chips”) into google and it will tell you what you need to know to plan. Dried fruits and berries, nuts etc all have pretty good shelf lives. This is easy to look after when your goal is just two weeks worth of food. Its a little harder when you plan to increase that to one years worth of food for your hunker down/bug out location. Personally I think your best plan is to store some sugar and honey as well as cocoa and a few other ingredients to make your personal favorites. Beef jerky is also a good snack that will keep for a long time, plus it’s an excellent source of protein. Not so good if your a Vegan however. Popcorn is a great solution as whole kernels will keep for years. Just don’t buy the microwave kind. There might not be any microwaves WTSHTF.
Vitamins: Just a general multi vitamin and some vitamin C. Scurvy really sucks. It would be terrible if you died from Scurvy with a belly full of your survival rations because all the Vitamin C in your canned goods went away.
Baby Food: Breast feed. That’s the best solution in any case. Baby formula has a very short shelf life. use it by the use by date, then it has to be discarded for safety’s sake. A use by date is a hard safety like an expiry date. Powdered cows milk is an inadequate back up. Having a goat or two would be a much better solution (hard to do that in an apartment.)

Bugging Out Food: I have a backpack (it’s a small one, black and looks like something a student might carry, I’ll explain why in a later post.) full of nothing but dehydrated soup packages (mostly all in one knorr or lipton packages) it’s actually got about two weeks worth of food in it. Also in it are tins of Smoked herring for Protien and fat. You need fat to live. This is compact but requires you to have some kind of portable cooking equipment. I don’t recommend a Coleman stove or anything like that. Instead invest in a portable wood gas stove (you can get them for $15.00 on Ebay) or a portable rocket stove of some kind. The fuel for these can be found anywhere there are trees. I personally have several back up systems for heating food depending on the situation. I have a portable wood gas stove, a butane stove (single burner compact) with two weeks worth of fuel, an alcohol powered hiking stove (cheap one) and I just invested in a Biolite stove (pricey but it can provide you with cooking heat and charge your batteries or provide you with light at the same time.) and I can build a rocket stove out of bricks and a piece of heat resistant mesh anytime I want.

Basically you need two weeks worth of food to cover the majority of modern emergencies. Then two months worth. Then six months, then a year. Step by step, one rung at a time up the ladder of survivability. You can last about 3 weeks without food. Less so if you are already exceptionally healthy and skinny. Being prepared means not being scared.

Shelter: There are two pieces of shelter you will need. The place you live in, and the place you plan to bug out to. It’s best if you live in your bug out location but if you can’t it’s good to have a place to escape to if the situation warrants it. Regardless, some of us have to make do with a small apartment in the city due to financial and work considerations. If thats your case, these same things apply to you because both your Bug Out and Hunker Down location need the exact same things. You need your food and water for one. It would be really difficult to transfer all of your food supplies between your house and your bug out location if it came down to that so you need to stock both locations. You might only need a months worth in your Hunker down however as after a month it would likely be easier for you to get from the city to your bug out location. But sometimes you just have to pick up and leave anyway. Even if you can’t afford to buy a cabin in the woods you still need someplace to bug out to.If you were to learn that an imminent attack was due on your city what would you do? Hunker down and ride it out or hop in you car and get the hell outta dodge. If you live in the city your car might very well become your coffin as hundreds of thousands of people all hit the road in a panic trying to get out. Weather permitting you would be actually better off if you took a bicycle out of town. I’m not advocating theft, but knowing how to hotwire a car might be a handy skill for you at this point.

Regardless, your shelter will need heat, light and security. You will need a heat source that isn’t dependent on electricity. A wood stove is ideal but if you live in an apartment or rent a house or own a condo that might not be possible. Some neighborhoods have outlawed them due to health concerns. Wood stoves and Asthma are a bad combination. In a short term emergency my secondary source is a K1 Kerosene heater. It will keep the house warm enough that I won’t have to worry about PrepperWife complaining too much. It’s not a great long term grid down TEOTWAWKI solution however because it requires me to keep the house ventilated. Open flames are a bad idea unless you have a fireplace. Carbon monoxide poisoning will kill you before you even realize it’s on you. For the long term I’m planning a solar furnace. Of course we will eventually need to have a better long term solution. Solar furnaces can only do so much in the dead of winter when it’s -15C. When the time is right we will have a long term bug out location somewhere in the country. But for now I need to deal with our reality. Prepperwife was a Nurse in her native China for 17 years before she came to Canada. She’s currently re-educating herself in order to get her nursing license here in Canada. So no one can question her credentials she got a english Canadian academic grade twelve and is now working on her Nursing Diploma. once thats done and she obtains a job we may have to move, so there isn’t any sense in planning our bug out in this area right now. When we buy, the house will have wood heat and a southern exposure.

You need heat. If you can’t manage a secondary heat source here in Canada, then you need to plan to be cold. That means good quality winter outer wear and lots of sweaters and layers of pants. Also plan on extra calories because your body will need to burn them to ward off hypothermia. Invest in a couple of Mylar Emergency blankets for each person in the house. Don’t use them like blankets however as they really suck at that. Instead create a pup tent to sleep in. On the coldest nights hunkering down in that with a good sleeping bag and a candle will keep you alive. Be extremely careful with the candle however. Make double sure it can’t come into contact with anything flammable (including the mylar) or you. I recommend tea lights in a glass so that the flame is a couple of inches below the top of the glass. Tea lights are cheap and give you a lot of bang for your buck. I just bought another 100 of them for $3.77. They are my main everyday source of light in an emergency with my various flashlights and other sources being saved for when they are really needed. I have somewhere in the neighborhood of 400 hanging around here right now. Mostly in our storage room but others are in Bug out bags, Every Day carry bags and stored in our SUV as well.

I can’t express this enough, you need access to water from your shelter. Preferably safe clean water, but if not you also need the means to clean it. You need to be able to boil water for a lot of different reasons, but it’s the very least you should do to clean it. It will remove pathogens but will not remove metals ash or salts. Salt water cannot be your safe secure water source unless you have the ability to distill it or a desalinization set up.  Set up a rain catchment system of some kind, scout around your area and find streams or lakes. You can’t store a years worth of water… unless you have a swimming pool. If you do make sure as soon as things start to go wrong, you get it covered. Keep the water from evaporating. As a last resort, when things go wrong… Fill your bathtub with water as far as you can. Plug up the overflow if you  can. But remember, that will only last so long.

Light is important for your shelter too. Both for mental well being and for practical reasons. Keep a good store of candles or solar powered lights in store in case the power grid goes down for a long time. I have flashlight with NiCD batteries and a solar powered charger for them. Flashlight, batteries and charger all bought for under $50.00 off ebay. Even a few of the cheap garden solar lights will help out. 

Security is your next concern. If you’re hunkering down by yourself or with just your family you need to make sure your location is safe and secure. If power is down for any amount of time and the government isn’t there to keep people under control things could go bad fast. There are a few common sense ideas to keep yourself safe. #1… Black out your windows at night. Cover them with heavy thick cloth so that light cannot escape at night. If you’re the only glowing window in a blacked out city that will make you a target. #2 Try to make your place look like it’s already been ransacked. Your fridge might now be useless… Push it out the front door. If you have a porch, break a few windows and toss some junk out the door. boot the door and make it look like someone kicked it down. Make sure you seal the door between the porch and the house however. 3/4 inch plywood screwed directly into the frame from your side in case someone still gets curious. Biohazard signs will keep people guessing as well. Especially if there is a pandemic in progress.

As far as weapons go, unless you have some pretty heavy duty training in how to use a weapon in stressful circumstances then the best gun for you is a big dog. A gun in the hand of an untrained unskilled person is more dangerous to the person holding it than the person it’s being pointed at. Especially the person it’s being pointed at is trained and experienced. If I have a gun and someone is pointing a gun at me, I’m going to try and take them out. I was in the military for a while so I know a bit about using a weapon in anger (or more aptly, in a calm reasoning and trained manner.) If a gun is the only thing going to make you feel safer then I suggest you not only go through the basic Non Restricted training, that you go ahead and get the restricted training as well, then ask your local police or RCMP if they know of any training you can take for self defense in your home with a firearm. There’s a pretty good chance there isn’t any, but you need to be educated and body trained in order to operate well under stress. The motions you make have to be second nature and programmed into your body and brain for you to be effective at defense. Once again, a big dog is more effective than an untrained person with a firearm, but he needs to be properly trained too. If he barks at every little noise, he’ll end up attracting attention. You also need to lay food away for him too which is a problem as a lot of dry dog food has a high oil content which will go rancid after a while.

Then you need to think about Hygiene. Remember… if the water stops flowing… the toilet won’t flush. You can flush it manually by filling the tank by hand, but if the sewers aren’t working anymore it will just clog them eventually. Easy solution… Five gallon bucket with a toilet seat. Or even a few pieces of wood strategically placed to allow you to squat on it. When it gets full, carry it outside somewhere and bury it. If you can bury it, line the bucket with a good plastic garbage bag and tie it off. It will keep the stuff contained for the winter, but some summer you’re going to have to bury them or deal with exploding bags. Try to bury it as far away from your shelter as possible so you don’t pollute any water sources near you. Keeping some lime on hand will cut down on the smell coming from your Honey Bucket as well. If you live in an apartment building maybe you can stash it in an empty apartment (gross) if thats all you have available. Make sure it isn’t the one next door though. get it as far away as possible.

Women, you will need to store products to look after your menstrual needs. Pads run out eventually no matter what you do. Diva Cups will last pretty much forever however. Get a couple just in case. Redundancy is very useful in prepping. They’re also much better for the environment.

The rest, well just think of your needs. you need soap and a good supply of your medication (this is hard to stock up on in Canada. I’m a Type 2 Diabetic and I’m trying to keep a three month supply of my meds on hand at any given time. Insulin, if you’re insulin dependent, needs to be kept properly stored in a refrigerator or it will go bad in no short order. Once it starts to turn cloudy, it’s no good anymore. It can remain at room temperature for anywhere from 28-42 days depending on what kind of insulin it is. The issue for diabetics is Survival foods tend to be very carb rich. So your going to have to take steps to keep your blood sugar down WTSHTF. Calorie restrict your diet. Try to keep a fat in your diet. Exercise more. Above all, cut out vegetable oils right now. Studies are showing that they exacerbate the problem of insulin resistance and cause heart disease. Being able to keep yourself clean and comfortable not only helps your physical health, but allows you to maintain a sense of normalcy in a world that may be crumbling. hunkering down will kill your blood sugar, but once you need to actively work to survive, type two diabetics should be in the clear. Type one diabetics however will need some kind of help.

The last part is entertainment. Even if you’re all alone, books and a deck of cards will help you while away the hours until normalcy returns. If you have a friend that will also be alone WTSHTF then you might want to prep with them so you won’t be alone. Community is very important for a lot of reasons. Keep some games around to help everyone stay sharp and happy. A good family game night will help you maintain the bonds you are going to need to survive.

Character: Develop the character of a survivor. Be determined and resolute. Be open to new ideas and develop an interest in your fellow man. The golden rule “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” is going to be very important to you if the world falls apart. Start practicing it now. Get to know your neighbors. Make friends with them, find out what they know how to do, what they enjoy. Do them favors and help them whenever you need to.

Be a student. Learn, read, investigate and study anything that might be useful if TEOTWAWKI happens tomorrow. Education removes ignorance. Removing ignorance removes fear.

Practice making fires without matches. Practice any skill that might be useful someday. Buy books that will teach you how to survive. In a later post I’ll list some very good books for you to start on. Become a leader. Be ready to step in when the danger is over and you need to rally whats left of your community to rebuild something safe and secure.

Be generous and charitable as much as you can. Let people be friends with you. Allow people to help you when you need a hand. Develop a sense of community before things go bad. Learn who in your community might be a danger if things go wrong.

Community: As things progress you will first need to protect yourself. This is the hunker down period. Stay safe until the danger or emergency has passed. If gangs of armed looters are running amok, take the steps you need to protect yourself up to and including getting out of there. But if possible rally your neighbors to oppose the looters, especially if they’re looting food and weapons from houses. Above all be safe.

When the emergency has passed, things might not go back to normal for a while. They may never go back to normal depending on the event. That’s when you will need a community. No one person can be a community. You can’t do everything and be everyone you might need in life. You may need carpenters, electricians, doctors, machinists, lumberjacks, farmer and a thousand other things.

Whether your community is the people on your street, in your town or the three or four families in your prepper group that you’ll bug out with you need the interaction and skills they will bring to the table. Prepper groups should be like minded and very compatible if they are going to be spending extended periods living together as a community. You’ll know if it’s right or if it’s time to move on to something else.

Don’t let fear get the better of you.

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