This blog is meant to assist you in preparing for an emergency. It also contains other information that you might find helpful and spiritually up-lifting.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

7 Bug Out Tips from Backpackers

Many skills that are taught as “emergency preparedness” or “survival” skills that were outdoor or backpacking skills long before those movements ever even had a name. I have often advised beginners who are building their Bug Out Bags and making their Bug Out Plans to take up backpacking as a hobby for practice, training and education. I know as a backpacker myself, that there are many life saving and sanity saving skills that you can learn from the hobby.  Not only that – it’s a life enriching hobby that I can place no dollar value on.
Bug Out Bags usually pertain to the theory of “Bugging Out” (leaving one’s home for hopefully a safer location in the event of an emergency). Some people say they have no intention or plans to “Bug Out”………okay………that is your choice but it’s always wise to have a plan B. I have no intention of dying in my house during a local wildfire nor a national disaster so I am prepared to get the heck out if necessary, I would hope you are too.  Using my experience backpacking as a guide I know without a doubt that even if I didn’t have a running vehicle I could get to our “plan B” alive and realistically about how much time it would take me to get there.
Here are 7 things preppers can learn from the backpacking world and apply to their bug out plans:

1) Practice Make Perfect – Physical Fitness/Training


Most active backpackers exercise several times a week even if there is no trip coming up. Exercise and practice cannot be overstated, and while nearly all survival/preparedness experts say it, and nearly everyone agrees; only a small percentage of people actually do it - let alone train to travel a long distance on foot with a pack. The excuses are endless, only a few are valid. Exercise is like anything else in life, if you make it a priority it will happen. If watching movies, playing on the internet and gaming is a priority, that is what you will do.
Action Plan:
Start an exercise program and take up day hiking if you are physically able. Start small, walking on the flat first for short distances then increase that distance and add weight and inclination (a few hills). If any problems arise – see your doctor ASAP before continuing. When you are feeling comfortable with exercise and hiking consider trying your very first overnight backpacking trip.

2) Be Realistic on “Bug Out Bag” (Pack) Size
Most backpackers are religious about their packs. A great deal of time and research is put into what size of pack is required for the length of the trip,  the equipment being brought, and how it all fits. Usually they pick the smallest size pack, considering the length of trip because a smaller pack is of course lighter and easier to travel with. They also know the bigger pack you have, the more tempting it is to fill it up even if you really don’t need those things.
By simple trail and error many backpackers learn what size is right for them. It’s not uncommon for someone to purchase and then get rid of 3 or 4 packs before find one that is just right in fit and size. Many preppers think bigger is better so they go big not knowing that if the day ever comes when they will need to grab that pack and book it – they will only get a mile or so from their house before being overwhelmed by the weight, size and/or  fit of their packs.

liters to cubic inches
Image Credit: REI

Image Credit - REI
 As a general rule of thumb a 50-60 liter pack is appropriate for 1-2 day trip. A 60-80 liter pack is appropriate for a 3-5 day trip and often makes an ideal bug out bag. A 80-90 liter pack is appropriate for a 5-7 day trip. Anything over 100 liters is considered an “expedition-sized pack” expedition packs are usually only used on extended trips where the large pack is only carried at a slow pace to a base camp. The large bag is then emptied and reorganized or a different smaller pack is used for trips branching out from the base camp. Often other expedition members like sherpas, or animals like llamas, pack horses, or sled dogs are used to help carry the load. Expedition sized packs are not ideal for use as “bug out bags” because they simply too heavy and too bulky.
Of course, each person will have different capabilities and comfort ranges, personally, I would never use anything bigger than an 75 liter pack because I know my physical limits, where as someone else may be able to go bigger. Would it surprise you to know that most thru-hikers (meaning hikers that choose to hike the entire distance of a trail as opposed to a section of it) of famous long distance trails like the Appalachian Trial and Pacific Crest Trail choose packs in the 65-75 liter range when they are traveling for up to a year at time with limited opportunities for resupply? There are good reasons for that, like weight and being able to hike many miles in one day. The goal here as a prepper is very similar in being able to get away from impending danger and covering ground in a timely manner – if a “Bug Out Bag” prevents you from doing this, what good is it?
Action Plan:
Carefully research the style and size of bag you need for the length of time you will be traveling. Test out several varieties and styles of backpacks, you may find civilian non-tactical style bags much lighter easier to travel with than traditional tactical style bags. If you are female go to a sporting goods store and try on packs made for ladies. Test it out on an actual trip, not just on a walk around your community. Decide what you really need in that bag and what you can do without, be honest with yourself. Subscribe to somebackpacking magazines to see what the industry is up to, explore the new products out there. Some may be of assistance to your Bug Out plans.
3) It’s All About Weight
Backpackers are extremely aware of the weight they are carrying, to the point where it is not uncommon for them to know the exact weight of every single item in their pack including food and water. This is because through experience they have learned that they can travel faster, safer and more comfortably with a lighter pack vs a heavy pack. While there are some factions in the backpacking community like the ‘ultra-light group’ which take trimming weight to an extreme, most preppers could benefit from the weight awareness that even a casual backpacker has, and if you really want some great weight saving tips – take a peek at some of those “ultra-light” backpacking websites, they have some great ideas.
Image Credit: Teachers.com
In fact, even backpackers who have gone on only a couple of trips have quickly learned exactly what they need to pack to survive and what they do not need.  After you have carried a 40lb pack down 1800 ft into a valley and then put in another 5 miles you figure out real quick that some of those extras in your pack aren’t really worth it. What each person is comfortable with carrying is going to be different but as a rule of thumb for a 5-7 day pack (the typical amount of time a bug out bag is packed for) 30-40 lbs is ideal for a physically fit adult, or 1/4 – 1/5 your total body weight. If you want to travel fast, and if you aren’t used to carrying weight 20-30 lbs should be your range, remember it doesn’t matter if its comfortable when you are standing in your living room or during the stroll you took around the block, what matters is how it will feel, and how YOU will feel 10 miles down the road under a real load.
With preppers it tends to be all about the gear and weight is an after thought. “A folding saw that is a fire starter, ax, shovel and machete all in one? A folding metal stove so sturdy I could stand on it? Why not? Weight? What do you mean how much does it weigh? I NEED IT.”  Sound familiar? Backpackers demand that their gear be multipurpose, durable AND light weight. Everything from sleeping bags to tents, cooking supplies, food, first aid kits to cooking stoves are all chosen for their quality, durability and weight, so now they have an entire industry of manufactures coming up with cool new innovative light weight equipment just for them.
A backpacker may look at the the saw, shovel, ax combo and know that lighter single purpose saw will keep then alive and work just fine, that his knife will work for a majority of the reasons why he may need an ax,  and that the little trowel in his pack already covers most needs for a shovel and that all three of those items don’t add up to the weight of the fancy combo tool, besides one would still need to carry at least the knife.
Action Plan:Get a trusted book or guide on how to assemble a bug out bag (click here for one). Test out your bag on an actual trip not just on a walk around your community. Weigh everything in your bag, write all the weights down, then the bag itself empty and full. Evaluate it all objectively based on the above information. Research lighter weight items. Decide what you really need in that bag and what you can do without or store at a bug out location or in a cache along the way, avoid being too repetitive with uses and be honest with yourself.
Subscribe to some backpacking magazines to see what the industry is up to and what new products are out there that may be of assistance to your Bug Out plans, granted somethings will be of little use – others will be exceedingly handy. Take up the hobby of backpacking to gain experience with your pack and improve your fitness level.
4) Non-Digital Navigation Still Rules
If someone were to dump you off in the middle of nowhere with no trails, and only a nice compass and map (ok maybe a ruler), could you find yourself on the map, orient yourself to the map, and plot a course to safety? Most experienced backpackers prefer this method of navigation, why? GPS devices need signal, require batteries, are susceptible to weather and temperature damage, and they are heavy in comparison to a folded piece of paper and a fairly good compass. This seems like it would be no brainer for most preppers who habitually prepare for events which include the loss of global positioning satellites – and to some extent it is; a map and compass are common items on bug out bag lists. However having skills of combining and using the two items as a lifesaving tool are still lacking.
Action Plan:
Here is a good place to start to learn those skills:

5) Camp Hazard Identification
Experienced backpackers are professionals at instantly sizing up camp hazards of all kinds like campsite location safety, local wildlife, weather, fire safety, hygiene, and equipment safety. Most have learned these things through experience, meaning they’ve made all the bad mistakes at least once or watched someone else do it. While alot of camp hazards can be read about and learned prior to going camping, what cements them into your brain and makes it second habit is going and doing it yourself.
Image Credit: National Park Service

A campsite should always be evaluated for dangers, when I am approaching an area where I’d like to camp I am thinking of what ifs. What if there is a strong wind? Will that tree fall on the tent? Am I so close to the trees that there is now a significant lightning hazard? If there is a storm, will that pretty stream flood and take the tent away with it? Is there an ant hill or bees nest near by? Am I in bear country? If so a spot at least 100 yards away to hang your bags will be required. Is that nice tent spot also a great warming area for snakes?Nothing like stepping out of your tent in the morning to land on a rattle snake that was just warming itself up. Is it too dry or too windy for a safe campfire? Often in my area, the answer is yes.
Then there are other smaller things but no less significant like: learning how to read the weather, learning how to prepare your camp for the night in such a way that reduces the likelihood of accidents. Tripping over your own tents guy lines, and pegs can be incredibly annoying, cause sprains, bruises, scrapes, and possible broken bones. It’s a good reason to position them in such a way to keep them out of common traffic areas. Also learning where to locate the “potty” area in relation to camp and your fresh water source so that neither are contaminated is good to know. And lastly more campfire safety; if it is safe enough to light one, prepare an area for it that does not pose a danger.
For those who will find themselves traveling through urban areas in a bug out situation on their way to safety, the ability size up potential campsite hazards translates, especially if you have had the advantage of living in an urban area and already know the ins and outs of a city.
Action Plan:Ask yourself the above questions when you are preparing to stop for the night and make camp. Take up the hobby of backpacking and/or hiking to gain more experience. Explore some backpacking magazine subscriptionswebsites and books to learn more about how to avoid camp hazards.
6) Learn to Improvise on the Go – Fire/Water
Backpackers have long since learned that it is nearly impossible to carry every drop of water that you are going to possibly need for a trip longer than a weekend. So they have become adapt at two things. Planning routes with known water sources and learning how to find water along the way, even in dry settings. Water is one of the heaviest things in your pack at nearly 2 pounds per liter it can really weigh you down if you carry too much of it when you don’t need to. Bear in mind I’m not suggesting that you drink less, but that you carry less:  I still manage to use about 5 liters a day on any given trip.
They accomplish this through the intelligent use of an adequate water filter, water tablets, and even SODIS “Solar Water Disinfection” (click here to learn more about SODIS) by hanging a clear plastic bottle off the back of their as they walk.  UV light purifiers are a sure thing but they are heavy, require more batteries, and can easily be broken. While I am sure some do, most backpackers don’t use a LifeStraw, while they aren’t bad to have – while traveling, water is collected in bulk for cooking, hygiene and for more travel across areas where there may be no water (all situations one may face while bugging out) as opposed to stopping for a quick drink,a pump filter works best for collecting water in bulk. In the interest of weight they also keep their water filtration choices down to two and avoid packing unnecessary back-up items. Usually a pump filter and water tablets (click here to read a great article about water tablets) are the choice. If both of those methods fail – there is still SODIS. LifeStraw devices are still great choices for Get Home Bags and for vehicle kits.
Action Plan:Plan at least two bug out routes – make sure there is accessible year around water sources along those routes (like lakes, rivers, creeks, etc…).  Become familiar with the skill of purifying water and learn how to purify water using SODISWhen it comes to collecting water from unknown sources the rule of thumb for emergency preparedness is ALWAYS - better safe than sorry; purify your drinking water.
Learn to make do with only two light weight methods to start a fire. Many backpackers only pack one method because they have also learned at least one primitive method of starting a fire. Common choices are the lowly flint/magnesium stick and a bic lighter. Some people still carry around a waterproof container of matches but not too many. Some choose ultra light wind resistant lighters such as the Windmill Trekker that will light 1000 times in low or high elevations and in 80 mph winds.
Action Plan:
While some backpackers carry fire starting tender – most do not. Learn how to find and collect dry tender even in poor conditions. While carrying some light weight emergency tender is not a bad idea there is no need to carry around the extra weight of “instant fire starting packets” if you have good established fire making skills in all conditions and you are familiar with your equipment – this goes back to practice makes perfect. Try to learn at least one primitive fire starting method.
 7) Being Secure on Your Own
There is an element of character that can only be built by being out on your own away from an organized campsite overnight. The ability to feel secure and still get a good nights sleep even if you are by yourself, and the ability to stay focused and driven without any outside input is a learned skill for many. This is usually gained through experience and from education. I know many adults who are still secretly afraid of the dark.
Action Plan:
Practicing being outside alone out at night is the best remedy for this. Most of society is accustomed to some sort of ambient ‘city’ light (or what the rural population calls ‘light pollution’) so that even when its dark out, if live in or near a city you can still see fairly well. For some real practice take a trip to the country side hundreds of miles away from city lights and experience what real darkness is like while letting your eyes adjust (and they will if you give them time and don’t reach for the flashlight or glow stick).
Research the animals in your area, know what is really out there so you are not fearing something that would never happen anyways. Take note of your surrounding in the daylight and then practice identifying them once it gets dark. This will prevent your mind and still adapting eye sight from playing tricks on you. Know that sound travels further at night, making unknown animals sound much closer than they truly are.
Staying focused and driven is a time management skill that experienced backpackers have down to an art. There is a promptness to waking up early – eating a quick breakfast that was planned the night before, while breaking down camp methodically. While it may seem like they are needlessly rushing the whole purpose is to get on the trail again as quickly as possible, so that they may put in as many miles as possible during the day. Similar routines are followed for camp set-up and dinner. Again practice in this area is priceless when the skill is applied to bugging out.

Monday, July 21, 2014

DIY Deodorant

Woman with deodorant stickThere are many rumors circulating the internet and other publications about the harmful effects of deodorants and antiperspirants on our health, but finding a more natural solution to deodorant can be difficult. How do you know if it will work and be effective? Is it cost effective? What are these chemicals and why are they bad? Here’s the truth about some of the most common chemicals found in store-bought deodorants and how we can avoid them.
Two of the most common chemicals found in cosmetics are phthalates and parabens. Phthalates are added to plastic products to improve the flexibility of the plastic and are sometimes added directly to cosmetics themselves. When they are added to plastics, they are not chemically bonded and are therefore able to leech out (1). This means that even if your cosmetic product does not list any kind of phthalates in the ingredients, they could still be leeched from the plastic cosmetics container. While companies have claimed that phthalates are safe and do not bioaccumulate, increased levels present in urine samples have been linked to infertility, birth malformations, cognitive problems in children (whose mothers had increased levels of phthalates), earlier maturation among adolescents, breast cancer, insulin resistance, and more (1). Parabens are added to the majority of cosmetic products directly and serve as antimicrobial agents and preservatives. When applied to the skin, these chemicals are easily absorbed. The exact effects of parabens in humans is unknown, however, they have been linked to mitochondrial dysfunction and have also been shown to behave similarly to estrogen which has caused researchers to wonder if increased levels might be linked to breast cancer, although this has not been proven. Increased levels of parabens have, however, been found in cancerous breast tissues in women (2).
Aluminum salts are often added to deodorants to serve as an antiperspirant. According to some studies, aluminum has been found to be an effective DNA modifier and is able to interfere with the interpretation of human hormones, such as oestrogen (3). These changes to the DNA sequence could lead to the formation of cancerous cells. It is also possible that aluminum could heritable cause changes to genetic activity (3). This means that the DNA is not mutated, but its functions are changed and these altered functions could be passed on to children. These changes in function could have no repercussions at all, but could also lead to the formation of cancerous or non-cancerous tumors.
  1. WJ Crinnion. 2010. Toxic effects of the easily avoidable phthalates and parabens. Alternative Medicine Review. 15(3): 190-196.
  2. PW Harvey, DJ Everett. 2004. Significance of the detection of esters of p-hydroxybenzoic acid (parabens) in human breast tumours. Journal of Applied Toxicity. 24(1): 1-4.
  3. PD Darbre. 2005. Aluminum, antiperspirants and breast cancer. Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry. 99(9): 1912-1919.
Making your own deodorant at home is inexpensive and a great way to avoid applying unnecessary chemicals to your body. Here are two different recipes.
The most common recipe used for home-made deodorant involves coconut oil, baking soda, cornstarch, and essential oils. Cornstarch is used to absorb moisture while baking soda is used as an odor absorber. Coconut oil is just what holds it all together and can be replaced with a variety of other oils, such as shae butter. While these ingredients are effective, too much baking soda can cause painful rashes in your armpits and, if you are a good sweater, can leave white residue on your clothes. Keeping these things in mind, this recipe uses a much smaller amount of baking soda than most others but is still good for keeping you smelling fresh:
  • 2 tbsp baking soda (While baking soda does not contain aluminum, the packaging occasionally does. Make sure you get the aluminum-free variety)
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch or arrowroot
  • 3-5 tablespoons coconut oil (Use less oil for warmer climates or add 2 tablespoons melted bees wax to increase the hardness)
  • 15 drops desired essential oil (I used 5 drops each of Melaleuca, Clove, and Lavender. Melaleuca, also known as tea tree, is a great anti-bacterial, as is Clove. Lavender is good for calming irritated skin. This combo worked for me, but feel free to experiment and find your own favorites!)  (click here to purchase essential oils)
  •  1 empty deodorant container (click here to purchase container)
Combine all of the ingredients into a bowl and mix thoroughly, then simply spoon it into your desired container and apply as needed!
**Please note that it is best to store essential oil products in glass containers as, over time, the integrity of the plastic can be worn away by the oils. If you only plan to make small batches of deodorant at a time and go through it fairly quickly, then plastic shouldn’t be a problem.
To put this recipe to the test, I had Taylor put some on in the morning around 7 (without showering first) then took her dog for a 6 mile run. By the time they were done it was over 70 degrees, she had sweat through her shirt, and STILL didn’t stink! She could even still smell the essential oils, so she actually smelled good. Also, she put a dab between her legs and it prevented chafing! We also had two other people give it a try, one of which works outside all day long taking care of trails and hiking mountains in search of invasive weeds. Even HE came home that night smelling fairly pleasant. The other friend has fairly sensitive skin and didn’t have any reactions to the baking soda. For those of you with more sensitive skin or who don’t need as much odor protection, here is another recipe to try:
The Stink Away Spray
  • 2 parts witch hazel
  • 1 part aloe vera (you can usually purchase witch hazel that already has aloe added to it)
  • Several drops of desired essential oil (2 drops per ounce of liquid is a good model, but you can modify it to fit your needs. I used a doTERRA blend called Purify which contains several citrus oils, giving it a very clean, fresh scent while also controlling bacterial growth.)
  • 1 empty glass spray bottle (click here to purchase glass spray bottle)
Combine ingredients into a glass spray bottle, shake, and spray!
Since this recipe is void of any ingredients meant to absorb odor and wetness, the Stink Away Spray would be best for freshening up throughout the day and could be carried around in a purse or car or left at the office. If you aren’t a particularly smelly person or can’t do the baking soda, this recipe will be great for you!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Plants you can eat to survive in the wild

Ever watched those shows where ordinary people are unexpectedly stranded in the wild and have to survive by their bare wits and by living off nature?

Notice how some poor guy always runs into trouble when he eats a plant he thinks is safe but is actually highly poisonous? Clearly his survival instinct weren’t up to scratch. Think you could do a better job?

No matter where you are in the world knowing what plants are edible and which ones could kill you is a critical survival skill. You never know when you may be stranded in the woods, washed up on a deserted island, or even have to fend for yourself when the zombie apocalypse strikes (hey, it could happen). There are some important facts about plants to know which end up keeping you alive by swallowing a few bitter stalks: like knowing the difference between plants that look good but are actually poisonous, which plants that look and smell awful but are really delicious and nutritious, and what plants smell bad, and taste worse, but may really have enough nutrients to keep you going.

Unless you’ve spent time picking up nifty survival tricks in the army, or were a Boy Scout (or Girl Scout), chances are you probably don’t know some of the tricks to finding edible plants. The first things to know are the warning signs that a plant is poisonous: plants with leaves that grow in a pattern of threes, seed or bulbs that are found inside pods, a bitter or soapy taste, sap that is milky or strangely discolored, grain head that have spikes, hooks, or spurs, and a kind of bitter “almond” smell to the leaves or bark. These are all signs that you shouldn’t be eating it.

You can also apply the Universal Edibility Test to the sprout you’re considering consuming. You can also keep your eyes peeled for these useful plants which are definitely edible and should be sure to help you survive in the wild.

1. Amaranth

Amaranth is a weed that looks a lot like pigweed, and is a tall, upright, broad-leafed plant that grows all-year round. It comes in all sizes, shapes, and colors. The leaves can be round or lance-shaped, measure from five to fifteen centimeters long, and have a light green, dark green, reddish, or variegated color. The seeds are usually white, yellow, pink or black and the flowers can be huge tassels or tiny globes, with a red, pink, yellow or cream color.

Amaranth is kind of leafy vegetable and grain that’s actually been eaten for centuries all over the world. Amaranth seeds have been used since ancient times in Central and Latin America and in the countries of the Himalayas, and the leaves are used across Asia. Most green-leaved varieties are popular in India and other places. The Chinese prefer their amaranth red-leaved and amaranth grain once was a staple in the diets of pre-Columbian Aztecs.

Amaranth seeds, in particular, have a much higher content of the minerals calcium, magnesium, iron and of the amino acid Lysine. It’s actually much higher in nutrients than beets, Swiss chard and spinach. Also, amaranth leaves contain three times more calcium and three times more niacin (vitamin B3) than spinach leaves.

2. Burdock

Burdock is mostly considered a stout, common weed with annoying burrs that stick to animal fur and clothing. This plant grows relatively tall therefore having deep roots which are brownish green, or nearly black on the outside. It has a basal rosette of leaves that stays close to the ground the first year and the beginning of the second — these can grow up to a meter wide.

Burdock is an interesting biennial plant because it consists primarily of carbohydrates, volatile oils, plant sterols, tannins, and fatty oils. Researchers aren't sure which active ingredients in burdock root are responsible for its healing properties, but this plant may have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial effects. In fact, recent studies show that burdock contains phenolic acids, quercetin and luteolin, which are all are powerful antioxidants.

3. Cattail
Better known as bullrush, this plant is easily recognizable by its brown cigar-shaped head that stands atop a very long, stout stalk. Young shoots first emerge in spring and once fertilized, the female flowers transform into the familiar brown "cigars" also called candlewicks that consist of thousands of tiny developing seeds. Bullrush is one of the most important and most common wild foods that also boast a variety of uses at different times of the year — it can be used to make mats, baskets, and the cigar-shaped head can even be used as packing material. Dipping the head in oil or fat, they can be used as torches.

Aboriginals used the roots to make flour (high in protein and carbohydrates) and the fluffy wool of the head was used as diapers because of its softness and absorbency. These “cigar-heads” are also excellent fire started. The tight heads are often dry inside even after a heavy rain, making this essential survival tinder. Inside the stalks of fresh shoots is tasty food that can be eaten as is, sautéed or tossed into a stir fry.

4. Clovers
If you’re stranded in the wild and hungry then running into a field of clover would definitely be a stroke of luck… mostly because this wild plant is 100 percent edible. Clover leaves are delicious in salads or as juices, and are also a valuable survival food as they’re high in protein, are widespread and plentiful in most parts of the world. They are not easy to digest raw, but this can be easily fixed by juicing them. The clover dried flower heads and seed pods can also be ground up into nutritious flour and mixed with other foods. The dried flower heads can also be steeped in hot water for a healthy, tasty tea.

5. Chickweed

Chickweed is one of those weeds we’re used to seeing spring up everywhere — your backyard lawn, between cracks in the pavement, in you flowerbeds, and especially in the wild. It’s wild and edible and grows all year round and is hardy despite its delicate appearance. Chickweed is an easy-to-grow plant that’s healthy to eat and it produces flowers throughout the growing season even in hot, dry conditions; it’s multi-functional because its presence decreases insect damage to other plants. This plant has a lot of health benefits and is full of vitamins, minerals and other essential nutrients.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Survival Tools for AFTER....

How are you going to tool up for after SHTF? In the end, it depends on the nature of your fears, your personality, your skills and your motivations. For example, if you asked my wife — a glamor girl and public relations spinmeister — to put together a survival tool kit, it’d surely include a hairbrush, a nail file, a printout of her Outlook contacts, and at least four pairs of shoes.
But me, I’m basically a carpenter with a Comparative Literature degree — a city dweller all my life and a family man. I think the more likely challenges lie in survival in the aftermath of natural disasters like earthquakes and tornado’s. I want to be ready to hunker down at home or somewhere nearby, equipped with tools for salvage and repair in order to restore comfortable quarters for my family and neighbors.
A Hunker-Down Carpenter’s Toolkit
In the aftermath of an earthquake or catastrophic storm, you have to anticipate torn buildings, twisted wreckage and prolonged power outages. I put together a kit of versatile hand tools for demolition and construction, heavy on hand tools and a source of backup power for operating cordless tools.
1shingler's hatchet
Shingler’s hatchet: With a chopping blade and a nailing head all in one, this tool can do double-duty for demolition and construction.
Folding drywall saw with plane: Useful for cutting holes in gypsum board, this tool can do also cut tree branches. (Drywall saws are also my tool of choice for carving Halloween pumpkins.)
pull saw
Double-sided pull saw: A traditional Japanese woodworker’s tool called ryoba, this saw has one set of teeth for cross-cutting (across the wood grain) and another for ripping (cutting parallel to the wood grain). It can be used for cutting 2-bys and other dimension lumber but is especially good for cutting precise joints.
Hacksaw: For cutting Metals.
tool 1
Aviation snips: Essential for cutting sheet metal.
tool 2
Utility knife and plenty of blades: Nothing fancy but razor sharp and great for cutting wood, plastic, insulation and many other materials.
pry bar
Heavy-duty pry bar: A steel bar about 5 feet long with one pointed end and a flattened end for prying; provides lots of leverage for digging and clearing away wreckage.
tool 4
Nail puller: Compact, with a nail extractor and digging/prying head — a must for delicate disassemble and salvage.
tool 5
Channel Lock pliers: A must for working on all things mechanical, including pipes, nuts and bolts; it’s a good idea to have at least two sizes — large and medium.
tool 6
Needle nose pliers with side cutterThis tool is designed primarily for electrical wiring tasks, but it can also be useful for bending sheet metal, working with small metal parts and cutting wire of all types.
tool 8
Wood chisel: It’d be nice to have a whole set with different blade widths, but for survival purposes a 1-inch would do nicely.
tool 9
Cold chiselEssential for breaking up and/or cutting concrete, stone and tile.

With the set of hand tools named above, I think I could do just about anything necessary to repair or build anew in the aftermath of a disaster — with the efficiency of a Medieval craftsman. I have to face it — I’m pretty addicted to power tools but, of course, you can’t count on power availability in the aftermath of a disaster — unless. . . .
Solar Charger for Cordless Power Tools:
tool 10
Could you build a solar charger for cordless power tools? I went online and found that of course you can — more than one ingenious soul has done it. I particularly like the solution offered by Jeffery Yago on backwoodshome.com.
All you need is a small solar-collector module, a 12-volt battery, a bit of copper wire and an in-line DC fuse. Of course you need a charger that’s compatible with the batteries for your cordless tools, and Jeff suggests putting together a set of tools that all use the same battery shape and voltage.
Bug-out Tool Kit:
I shared all of these thoughts with my friend Walter, who worries a bit more than I do about real catastrophe coming our way. He revealed that he’s more likely to bug out than hunker down.
“I’d want to travel light,” Walter told me. “Combination tools like a version of a Leatherman would be all I’d want to carry. Maybe a bow saw, a tarp and some mason’s twine. I’m figuring I’d need to lash things together rather than nailing.”
Not long into this discussion, Walter became wistful and shared this memory: “I had a hard crush on this beautiful girl in high school. When I went to her house for our first date — I was going to take her out to steal signs from the local roads and some buildings downtown — her father took me aside. At first, I was scared of what he’d say, but he really wanted to help. ‘Don’t tell her mother, but I know what you’re up to, and I want to lend you this tool.’
“He handed me this big old combination tool with an ax head, a hammer, a built-in wrench, a pry bar and all kinds of other neat things. The kind of tool a fireman would carry. I’m gonna find one and put it in my bug-out kit,” Walter confided.
I could only imagine the tool that Walter was describing, so I went online to try to find a picture. I found this attributed to Google’s patent image file.
tool 11
Looks like a great survival tool to me!
What’s in your survival tool kit when a natural or man-made disaster strikes?

Monday, July 14, 2014

World economy 'more fragile than before 2007 crash'...BIS chief fears fresh Lehman from worldwide debt surge Jaime Caruana says investors are ignoring prospect of higher interest rates in the hunt for returns.

The world economy is just as vulnerable to a financial crisis as it was in 2007, with the added danger that debt ratios are now far higher and emerging markets have been drawn into the fire as well, the Bank for International Settlements has warned.
Jaime Caruana, head of the Swiss-based financial watchdog, said investors were ignoring the risk of monetary tightening in their voracious hunt for yield.
“Markets seem to be considering only a very narrow spectrum of potential outcomes. They have become convinced that monetary conditions will remain easy for a very long time, and may be taking more assurance than central banks wish to give,” he told The Telegraph.
Mr Caruana said the international system is in many ways more fragile than it was in the build-up to the Lehman crisis. Debt ratios in the developed economies have risen by 20 percentage points to 275pc of GDP since then.
Credit spreads have fallen to to wafer-thin levels. Companies are borrowing heavily to buy back their own shares. The BIS said 40pc of syndicated loans are to sub-investment grade borrowers, a higher ratio than in 2007, with ever fewer protection covenants for creditors.

40pc of syndicated loans are to sub-investment grade borrowers
The disturbing twist in this cycle is that China, Brazil, Turkey and other emerging economies have succumbed to private credit booms of their own, partly as a spill-over from quantitative easing in the West.
Their debt ratios have risen 20 percentage points as well, to 175pc. Average borrowing rates for five-years is 1pc in real terms. This is extemely low, and could reverse suddenly. “We are watching this closely. If we were concerned by excessive leverage in 2007, we cannot be more relaxed today,” he said.
“It may be the case that the debt is better distributed because some highly-indebted countries have deleveraged, like the private sector in the US or Spain, and banks are better capitalized. But there is also now more sensitivity to interest rate movements."
The BIS warned it is annual report two weeks ago that equity markets had become "euphoric". Volatility has dropped to an historic low. European equities have risen 15pc in a year despite near zero growth and a 3pc fall in expected earnings. The cyclically-adjusted price earnings ratio of the S&P 500 index in the US reached 25 in May, six points above its half-century average. The Tobin's Q measure is far more stretched than in 2007.

Volatility has dropped to an historic low
“Overall, it is hard to avoid the sense of a puzzling disconnect between the markets’ buoyancy and underlying economic developments globally,” it said.
Mr Caruana declined to be drawn on when the bubble will burst. "As Keynes said, markets can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent,” he said.
The BIS says prolonged monetary stimulus in the US, Europe, and Japan has led to a leakage of liquidity, contaminating the rest of the world. The rising powers of Asia are no longer able to act as a firebreak – as they did after the Lehman crash –and may themselves now be a source of risk.

Tobin's Q shows the difference between an equity's market value and the cost to replace the firm's assets.
Emerging markets have racked up $2 trillion in foreign currency debt since 2008. They are a much larger animal than they were during the East Asia crisis of the late 1990s, so any crisis would do more damage. “The ramifications would be particularly serious if China, home to an outsize financial boom, were to falter," it said.
BIS officials doubt privately the whether China can avoid a ‘hard landing’, fearing that the extreme credit growth over the last five years must lead to a financial reckoning. They also doubt whether the aftermath will in the end be easier to deal with in a state-controlled banking system where the Communist Party controls the credit levers.
The annual report suggested that China’s $4 trillion of reserves are a Maginot Line defence. It noted US was also a large external creditor in the 1920s, as was Japan in the 1980s, before each went into deep crisis. “Time and again, in both advanced and emerging market economies, seemingly strong bank balance sheets have turned out to mask unsuspected vulnerabilities that surface only after the financial boom has given way to bust,” it said.
The BIS is the doyen of world’s financial institutions, created in Basel in 1930 to clean up the mess left by German reparations payments under the Versailles Treaty. It has since evolved into the bank of central banks, and lately the bastion of monetary orthodoxy. It issued a crescendo of warnings in the build-up to the Lehman crisis, implicitly rebuking the US Federal Reserve and others for holding interest rates too low, which in their view robs economic growth from the future.
The BIS was vindicated, though not everybody agrees that it was right for the right reasons. Monetarists argue that the Great Recession was due to over-tightening into the downturn. This caused M3 broad money growth to collapse months before the banking crisis.
The BIS backed QE as an emergency measure in early 2009 to avert a deflationary spiral but has long since called for a return to sound money, and even rate rises. "The predominant risk is that central banks will find themselves behind the curve, exiting too late or too slowly," it said.
This has earned BIS a reputation for Austrian School ideology , accused of encouraging crude liquidation. The bank denies this, tracing the bank’s doctrines to the pre-Keynesian Swedish economist Knut Wicksell.
Wicksell posited a “natural rate of interest”. Holding rates too low creates a host of problems. While his model looks like the modern “Taylor Rule” used by the Fed and other central banks, it is different in crucial respects.
Confident in its cause, the BIS more or less indicts the central bank establishment of malpractice. "Policy does not lean against the booms but eases aggressively and persistently during busts. This induces a downward bias in interest rates and an upward bias in debt levels, which in turn makes it hard to raise rates without damaging the economy – a debt trap."
"Systemic financial crises do not become less frequent or intense, private and public debts continue to grow, the economy fails to climb onto a stronger sustainable path, and monetary and fiscal policies run out of ammunition. Over time, policies lose their effectiveness and may end up fostering the very conditions they seek to prevent," it said.
Basel's lonely call for discipline pits it against the Fed, the Bank of Japan, the Bank of England, and even Frankfurt these days. It prompted an unusually piquant riposte from London earlier this month. "Has monetary policy aided and abetted risk-taking? I hope so. That's why we did it," said the Bank of England’s chief economist Andy Haldane.
"It is good to have the debate,” said Mr Caruana gamely. Yet he refuses to back down. “There is something strange about fighting debt by incentivizing more debt."
He is now skirmishing on a fresh front, questioning the Fed's new enthusiasm for macro-prudential curbs as a first line of defence. "On their own there is little evidence that they can constrain financial imbalances. We don’t think macro-pro can serve as a substitute," he said.
Mr Caruana said the US recovery is not a vindication of monetary stimulus, but evidence that the best answer to "balance sheet recessions" is to clear away the dead wood and unlock resources for new technologies. “The Americans were quite aggressive in forcing recognition of losses and there was a very rapid recapitalisation of the banks. This is why it was successful. The role of quantitative easing is an open question.”
Mr Caruana dismisses the global deflation scare as alarmist, even though Sweden's Riksbank has just abandoned his camp and slashed rates to near zero to avert a Japanase-style trap. Deflation is very unlikely to happen in the West, he insists. Gently falling prices are typically benign in any case. "We should not exaggerate the role of deflation in history," he said.
The Great Depression is the exception, not the rule. Welfare systems and unemployment insurance now make such an outcome almost impossible. "In the 1930s the stabilizers were very different," he said.
Critics are unlikely to accept this assurance since Spain, Greece, Portugal, Ireland, and Latvia have all gone through depressions over the last six years, and Italy, France and Holland are all close to debt-deflation. The concern is what would now happen to parts of Europe if there were a fresh downturn or an external shock. Debt ratios are higher than they were in the 19th Century. The "denominator effect" of deflation is therefore more destructive today.
The International Monetary Fund has hinted that it might be best for the world to chip away its debt mountain with a few years of inflation, as the US did in late 1940s and early 1950s, armed with financial repression.
Asked whether he would support this form of loss recognition for creditors, Mr Caruana came close to choking. “It must be clearly resisted,” he said.