This blog is to help you in preparing for an emergency. It also contains other information that you might find spiritually up-lifting. This is not an official website of "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints". This site is maintained by Barry McCann (barry@mail.com)

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Emergency Preparedness: Cell Phone Must-Haves

If you only remembered one thing from your time with the scouts, it is likely this: Be prepared. It means never having to apologize to anyone for taking a few extra precautions, even the crazy ones. For instance, no one is going to survive doomsday. That’s why they call it “doomsday” in the first place. If you could survive it, then it would just be a really bad day.
Doomsday implies an extinction level event (ELE). It’s all in the name. You’re not going to make it. That is no reason why you shouldn’t have a well-crafted, well-stocked, well-financed doomsday bunker. You never know what might happen, and what might happen after that.
One thing’s for certain: If things get bad enough that you need to seriously start considering such a bunker, you are going to need a cell phone that can get you through the situation, at least until all of the cell towers are gone. Here are a few things you will need to harden your cell phone against an emergency:

More Battery

It doesn’t matter if you have the very latest Droid Max Pro Plus Giga. Once the juice runs out, it’s out for good. No battery lasts forever, you will always need more battery. And while 7800 MAH may not get you through the entire apocalypse, a portable powerbank and similar products should get you through the most critical part.
In addition to juicing up, you are also going to want to do the following to increase battery life:
  • Shut off push Notifications
  • Kill Facebook, and other background processes
  • Turn off vibrate
  • Turn the screen brightness as low as you can stand it
  • Stop playing Candy Crush
Regardless of what kind of phone you have, it is completely worthless once the battery dies. If you want to live, make sure your battery does too.

Military Grade

What does it mean for a product to be truly rugged? It is easy to slap that label on a product package. But many products claiming to be ruggedized fail the test. The military has a standard for ruggedness testing. If you find a phone case that advertises Mil-Std-810, you have something that you can be confident will protect your case from drops.
It is not just the phone’s body that needs to be considered. It is also the phones screen. There isn’t much that will cause a phones metal chassis to shatter. Most of the critical internals are non-moving parts. No matter how many gorillas these screen makers use to test their products, phone screens will shatter if dropped just the right way.
When ELE strikes, things are going to be flying, falling, and breaking. If you want to make sure your phone is not one of the broken things, put it in a case that provides military grade protection. And don’t forget the screen.

Security Measures

The ELE may be triggered by an alien invasion, or perhaps just Homer Simpson falling asleep at the nuclear plant. If the latter, there is truly no hope. If the former, at least you can keep them from scanning your smartphone for information. Even without an assault from beyond, it is a good idea to harden your phone against security threats, especially Android phones.
The reason Android phones need the extra security is because 98% of mobile malware targets Android phones. You have to place your best shields where they will protect you from the strongest attacks. We don’t need aliens. The person two places behind you in line is doing his best to break into your phone and steal your passwords right now. If things get bad enough so that you need a doomsday bunker, rest assured that your smartphone will need heightened security.
At the end of the day, it is not some doomsday scenario that will do us in. It is life’s everyday emergencies that we don’t see coming. Smartphone preparedness means having a backup battery to get you through, having enough device protection so that it survives the craziness, and securing your phone against malicious attacks.
In the event the ELE is a robopocclypse, throw your phone as far away as you can. And run for the hills.

Friday, May 20, 2016

USA Made Fire Steel: Have You Tried it?

Recently I went to a preparedness convention in Georgia and had a great time. I was very impressed with a lot of the booths that were set up, but I have to tell you about one of my favorites, the Fire Steel Booth with Georgia Pyro.
I have seen a LOT of fire starters in my day and have tried many different kinds. This one takes the cake. What drew me to his booth was the amount of sparks I saw flying from one strike, but also the size of the sparks. They were HUGE!
So I started asking questions about their product and found out some very interesting things. For starters, they are USA hand made right here in Georgia, but also that their fire starters produce an amazing amount of 3000 degree sparks and their magnesium burns at 5000 degrees. WET or DRY and their larger rods give over 20,000 strikes!
Their scrapers are 1/4″ square high speed steel tool Bits. They are very sharp and very easy to strike. So much so that you can actually use it to scrape wood shavings to use as tinder. David Bailey demonstrates in the videos below.
Look at all those sparks!
Starting a Fire with Cotton
Scraping Off Tinder
If you want to see for yourself, he has a list of shows he will be at on his website. There are nothing but outstanding reviews there as well. We purchased the fire block at the show but will be getting the Tiger Maple one soon to add to my husbands bag. I can not stress enough that you will not be disappointed in this product. You guys know me, if it is USA made I’m all about it. Especially if it is done by an individual verses a corporation. I personally prefer supporting the little guys. 🙂

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Backpacking For Emergency Preparedness

In the prepping community the term “Emergency Preparedness” is used a lot but what does it really mean to be prepared? There is more to being prepared than just stocking up on food and water. In order to have a good idea of what it really takes to take care of your family you will need some type of experience under your belt. A backpacking trip can be a great way to get the experience needed to help with being prepared.
When planning for emergency survival situations you can make it as simple or as complicated as you want. We’ve all seen the prepper shows where people have underground bunkers, guns & ammo, tons of provisions, water plumbing systems, sealed and filtered air systems, etc. Most Americans have no interest in prepping on that kind of level nor can they afford it.  Realistically, your emergency preparedness items will consist of  basic food, water, shelter, and miscellaneous items stored in a closet or in a small room.
Emergency preparedness can be narrowed down to three basic scenarios that covers everything from a basic power outage to the infamous zombie apocalypse. Really? Yes, really, and if you plan for these three scenarios you should be good to go for whatever comes your way (within reason of course).
1. The first scenario is when you are in survival mode at home (bugging-in). This may happen for any number of reasons including long term power outages, road closures due to flooding/earthquakes/wildfires/ice storms/etc., civil commotion (riots, protests, unrest), home being severely damaged from a storm and you are camping out in the yard until it becomes livable again, and the list goes on and on – I’ll spare you the zombie examples:)
2. The second scenario involves vacating your homestead for any number of reasons. This can range from evacuating with your vehicle due to a flood or wildfire, to hiking out to the woods and living off the grid for a while.
3. The third scenario is car survival. Car survival could also be considered for workplace survival. If you are stranded at work and can’t get home you should be able to rely on your car survival kit to provide you with the basic essentials.
Going on a backpacking trip can help get you prepared to handle all three of the above mentioned scenarios. I recently went on a 2.5 day / 13 mile backpacking trip with a couple friends (Chris & Derek) and realized how little you really need and also realized that what works for one person may not work for another. Below are lessons learned while on the trip, the goal here is for you to learn from our experiences and apply them to your emergency preparedness plans.
Filtering water from the creek
The weather was perfect, not too hot and not too cold but the terrain was very challenging. My backpack weighed over 50lbs on the first day and over 60lbs on the second day. Due to the less than desired terrain and the heavy pack I consumed a lot more water than I thought I would while Derek barely drank any water. I started the trip with 1.3 gallons of water, on the first day I drank about half of it and then topped off at a creek about half way to our camp. I ended up running out of water by the next morning while Derek still had plenty water left. On day two we topped off at our water cache and then packed more than an additional gallon each (hence the 10lb weight increase on day two).
Lesson Learned:
Water was a much bigger issue for me than I thought it would be. I will need to make sure that I always have plenty of water or have access to a place to filter water on a regular basis. Some people require more water than others. There is really no way of knowing this until you get out there and experience it for yourself.
Darrens Setup: REI Bug Hut Pro 2 with Kelty Noahs Tarp
Derek’s Setup: Hammock with cold weather barrier in the bottom and tarp over the top.
My shelter was the REI Bug Hut Pro 2 Tent with enough room for me and my gear. To shed some weight I left the rain-fly at home and packed a Kelty Noah’s Tarp to use as a wind break, sun shade, and a makeshift rain-fly. Derek used a lightweight hammock with a tarp over the top for cover and lightweight barrier on the bottom to keep the cold from coming up underneath. Chris used a one person backpacking tent, the Eureka! Solitaire Tent, but he didn’t like the fact that there wasn’t any room for his gear inside. We all had lightweight shelter options but they were all very different from each other. Some people with back issues may not be able to sleep in a hammock while others would love it because they don’t like sleeping on the ground.
Lessons Learned:
I was comfortable and had room for my gear inside my tent but it weighed more than the other guy’s set-ups. Derek liked his hammock setup but learned that he will need some type of netting to keep the bugs off of him and a larger cover tarp to keep his gear dry in case of rain. Chris learned that one man backpacking tents are lightweight but there is no room for your gear to keep inside for easy access or to keep dry in case of rain.
Just like the shelter, we all had different thoughts on food so we each brought something different. I ended up bringing freeze dried backpacking meals as they were super lightweight and I was able to pack along a lot of food without adding a ton of extra weight. However, even though my food tasted good and I was full, I found myself wanting something more, something to satisfy a craving I was having. That’s when I remembered that I had a few packets of apple cider and hot chocolate. After drinking one of each the cravings I had went away. Maybe it was the sugar or maybe it was in my head but I was satisfied afterwards.
Lesson Learned:
Food is a huge morale booster. Obviously you need your regular food for the calories but be sure to pack something to satisfy your “craving” whether it’s a piece of candy, hot chocolate, coffee, dried fruit, or whatever, be sure to include these type of items. They may not seem important now but when you are in survival mode they are definitely worth it!
Staying Warm
In addition to what I was wearing I had only planned on packing extra socks (keep the feet happy!) and extra underwear. Since the temperature was expected to get down to the upper 40s and lower 50s I wanted to pack my sleeping bag but I didn’t have room for it. So instead I left my sleeping bag at home and packed long underwear, a long sleeve shirt, wool socks, a beanie (stocking cap) and a pair of insulated gloves. These items weighed less and required less room than my sleeping bag. With the help of a poncho and an emergency blanket I stayed nice and warm.

Lesson Learned:
Thinking outside the box and improvising can really save you a lot of weight and space. Try to use items that can serve multiple purposes. For example: Should you pack that large and heavy survival knife or a lightweight Gerber multi-tool that has a knife, pliers, wire cutters, saw, and other items built into it?
I can give several more examples of lessons learned but this article is already long enough and you get the point. Once you learn what works for you and other members of your family you can then determine between what is actually needed for emergency preparedness versus what you think you need. After you’ve had some minimalist camping/backpacking experience under your belt you will know exactly how to pack your car survival kit and your evacuation kit within the space allowed in your pack. A minimalist backpacking trip forces you to be resourceful and will help tremendously in survival situations, including bugging-in at home.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Tools You Will Want in an Outdoor Emergency

outdoor toolsWhen preparing an emergency kit for the car or camper, or for a compartment in your backpack, keep in mind that usefulness must be combined with situational likelihood. If a vehicle malfunction leaves you stranded on a forest service road in the mountains, you may need certain items that aren’t all that necessary if your car breaks down on the interstate highway. Likewise, if you’re on a backpacking trek, you might need to fend for yourself for longer than if you encounter bad weather and flooding at a campground.
In addition to the obvious inclusion of energy bars, dried fruit, Mylar thermal blankets, rain jackets, and matches, consider packing some special tools that will come in handy. The following list contains essential items that you may want to keep in a separate duffel bag in your car or SUV, or in a special container stowed in a larger backpack.
1) LED Flashlight
These are lightweight, the battery lasts far longer than a light with an incandescent bulb, and most of the outdoor-suitable models are practically unbreakable. In fact, it’s a good idea to have at least two LED flashlights on hand, one of which is head-mounted for hands-free use.
2) Collapsible Shovel
The best models are the ones that have a simple, pull-out handle that is then fixed tightly with a twist mechanism. The shovel head should be made of high-strength steel. This tool can be valuable if your car gets stuck in thick mud or gravel, and it can also be used to dig a fire pit. Choose a model that fits into a stowaway compartment on the SUV or laid flat in the bottom of an outdoor preparedness duffle.
3) Lighters and Fire-starter
Several disposable lighters should be packed in a watertight compartment in the emergency kit or in a zip-loc style bag in a backpack. In addition, invest in a Magnesium Fire-starter. These come as two blocks that are struck together and come on a chain. Make sure to practice using it before you head out into the wilderness. (APN recommends these fire starters. Jalapeno Gal has one and it is her personal favorite.)
4) Multi-Purpose Knife and Fixed Blade Knife
A Swiss Army knife or similar model is one of the most invaluable tools you can have with you should you become stuck in the wilderness. It only takes a little practice to memorize where the various blades are located. Make sure the model chosen has a mini-sized saw blade, a small pair of snippers or shears, and a metal file. Keep a fixed-blade knife with at least a five-inch blade in the emergency kit in addition to the folding knife.
5) Stainless Steel Water Bottle
It’s important to have plenty of water, and most of the supply can be stored in plastic bottles. However, keep at least one steel water bottle in the emergency kit as well. It can serve as a container for boiling water if necessary. Stainless steel has naturally occurring anti-septic properties that will keep your pumped water cleaner than most other bottles.
6) Outdoor Wallet
Although fashionable to carry in public, a camo wallet is actually designed for easy location of cards, folded maps, and small tools. Some of the best dual- and tri-fold styles have separate cash pockets and checkbook inserts. When taking one with you on a trip, keep a list of map directions to nearby destinations inside. If your phone or GPS goes dead, you’ll be glad you did.
7) Map and Compass
You might not think of these as tools, but they can save your life. Don’t rely on GPS devices if you get stuck in the middle of nowhere. Make sure you have a paper map that shows the area where you are traveling, and download a map onto your smartphone as well. Keep a compass in the emergency kit, separate from those you carry on your person. Remember to keep the emergency kit compass in its own container, and don’t store it next to anything else that is magnetic.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Test your knowledge of Utah snakes, spiders

SALT LAKE CITY — There are many animals and insects that send chills down our spines —Two of them are snakes and spiders.
In Utah, we are very familiar with both creatures — several of which are venomous. There are three venomous spiders and nearly 10 venomous snakes that can be found in the Beehive State.
In this quiz, we’ll test your knowledge on snakes and spiders found in Utah, as well as quiz you on some facts about the creatures.
If you can't access the quiz, click here for the full link.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

5 Cordage for Your Bug-Out Bag

ua_cordage_imgWhen we talk about what belongs in your bug-out bag, we often focus on things such as food, water, clothing and first-aid items. But if we look at the essential tools that helped everyone from early humans to pioneers survive, it’s clear they also mastered the use of another important item – cordage.
These people used cordage for everything from hunting to fishing to sailing. They wove nets and ropes from plant material, even using animal fibers such as sinew or catgut for making bows and arrows. Making cordage is essential to survival.
In the context of modern survival strategies, cordage is a blanket term that includes everything from nylon string to hauling rope. While you’ll find cordage on most bug-out bag lists, I want to discuss the specific types you’ll need and situations where it will come in handy. Here’s a brief rundown of five essential types you should consider including in your bug-out bag.
You’ll want to have a length of rope in your bug-out bag for dragging heavy items like game back to your campsite. Yes, rope is bulky, but you can easily fit a decent length (say 50 feet) in the bottom of your pack, or even strap it to the outside.
While plain old braided rope is cheaper, climbing rope is more durable. In addition to hauling stuff, you can use it for navigating steep terrain or hoisting up a food bag at night to keep it away from critters.
Parachute cord (a.k.a. Paracord or P-Cord) is lightweight but very strong. Look for military-grade P-cord with 550-pound test strength. A decent-sized spool of 50 feet or so only costs a few bucks, and will easily fit in your pack.
You can use it for any number of tasks, from binding logs to making a splint to lashing a tarp to a tree. P-cord is so strong when braided together, it’s even been used to pull vehicles out of ditches and snow banks.
Nylon Thread
You’ll want at least a spool or two of nylon string as part of your mobile survival kit. It’s cheap, and can be used in a wide variety of situations. For one, you can use it to mend your clothes (just remember to also pack a few sewing needles). Beyond the obvious, however, nylon thread also has several other key uses.
They include binding shelter rafters together, making animal snares and fishing lines, or bundling firewood and kindling. In an emergency, you could even put together a kite to help rescuers find you by using some string, duct tape and a bit of brightly colored rain poncho or tarp. Fishing line or monofilament provides added durability if you want to spend a few extra dollars.
Metal Wire
In some cases, metal wire is preferable over nylon string, such as tying up meat to roast over a fire. We’re talking about steel baling wire or floral wire here, not the copper stuff used for electrical wiring that’s insulated with plastic.
Thin metal wire is also useful for making trip wires, small game snares or even small repairs. You don’t need a huge length here, only a couple dozen feet or so.
Duct Tape
Duct tape is an all-purpose material that can be used as cordage, even if it isn’t technically cordage. For example, you can use duct tape to make a sling, handcuff bad guys or string up lights. Duct tape has about a zillion other survival uses, of course, but that’s a whole different discussion. The best part is you don’t have to pack an entire bulky roll of it – you can just wrap it around your water bottle and tear off a bit when you need it.
Even if you don’t need or know how to use all of these items, they can be useful for bartering or helping you strike up a partnership with others attempting to survive. You never know just what you might need in a bug-out situation, but you can be sure that having a variety of cordage types will make your life easier.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Cutting Tools and How to Use Them for Survival

maxresdefaultShow me a bug-out bag that does not include a survival knife and I’ll show you a basically useless bug-out bag. A good survival knife is not a luxury – it’s an absolute necessity. The only way you’d be able to get along without one in an emergency that forces you to leave home is if you’re checking into a five-star hotel. This is an item that might save your life on more than one occasion.
But your survival knife will get lonely if it is your bag’s only cutting tool. You will probably have some problems if you don’t include others, and they can go a long way toward making your bug-out experience more tolerable and ultimately successful… especially if a crisis situation lingers longer than anticipated.
Let’s first examine the types of survival knives that are most appropriate for bugging out, as well as their features, then we’ll discuss reasons for including additional cutting tools with a variety of uses. You won’t require each one I’ll include in this article, but this will provide you with a few choices. Then you can decide which ones are right for you.
Some folks refer to a quality survival knife as the most important item in a bug-out bag that you can’t eat. I’d suggest spending a minimum of $40 and a maximum of $100 on this. Make sure it has a single-edge, fixed blade, six to eight inches long and made of quality steel. Choose one in which the heel of the knife is flat.
The handle should be comfortable in your hand. This is considerably more important than creative ridges, fancy designs and other ornamentation. Remember – a survival knife is for survival, not for show. The protruding guard between the blade and the grip, called the hilt, needs to be solid due to the fact that it is what prevents your hand from sliding down the blade when you’re applying cutting pressure. Keep your knife in a leather, web or composite sheath so you can wear it on a belt and have quick access.
What types of survival knives don’t you need? Overly large knives that are impressive looking but are difficult to maneuver, and knives with double-edged blades and no heels that you might need for splitting wood. Whatever kind of knife you own, don’t use it as a pry bar because once that blade breaks off, it will be useless.

Other Cutting Tools

Now let’s take a look at other cutting tools that could come in very handy when you’re in the wild. Include a medium-size lock blade folding knife with a blade of 2½ to four inches with a leather holster, web belt pouch or external belt clip in your bag. This knife is convenient for smaller jobs. You can probably acquire a good one for about $20.
Another item that should be included in your bug-out bag is a multi-tool. You can get one for $20, but you’re better off spending $40 to $80 for this tool because the quality of steel will be better. Find a model with all of its blades and tools locked, as this will prevent them from folding back on your knuckles while using it.
Some features to look for with this item are a folding set of needle-nose pliers with wire cutters, a can opener, screwdriver blades, a small saw or fish-scaling blade, a course-tooth file, a boring awl, ruler markings and a fold-out lithium LED flashlight. All models should include at least one pocket knife-sized blade, some of which are serrated or partially serrated and others that are straight. Multi-tools are highly convenient, but they can’t replace your main survival knife.
With both a quality survival knife and a multi-tool, a pocket knife or pen knife is not crucial, but it can’t hurt to include one. For about $10 to $15, you can buy a small or medium Swiss Army knife to handle finer tasks, including removing splinters.
And speaking of “minor surgery,” include a couple of sterile-packed disposal scalpels in your first-aid kit.
If you think there is any chance you might have to construct a wilderness shelter and/or cut firewood for more than a couple days, it might be a good idea to include an ax or hatchet in your bug-out bag. It could come in handy and will be worth the extra weight. This one-piece item with a steel blade should be at least 12 inches long, and you can probably acquire a suitable one for $25 to $30.
There are a couple alternatives for axes, but they have their drawbacks. A lightweight, compact camp ax with a synthetic material handle and titanium blade that won’t break or corrode is easy to handle, but requires considerably more effort to get the job done properly. A modern tactical ax looks like a tomahawk with a pickax on the rear of the cutting head. This item, which tends to be expensive, cannot be used as a hammer.
Regardless of your ax choice, make sure it comes with a complete head scabbard or reliable blade guard. Otherwise, it will move around in your bag and could cut other gear or the bag itself. An option if you prefer not to carry an ax is a folding camp saw. Some of them look like giant lock blade knifes (12-18 inches when closed). They run about $20.
Remember to keep your cutting tools sharp. This is imperative both for their usefulness and your safety. Dull blades require you to work harder and increase your injury risk. A pocket sharpening stone or sharpening steel device can be found at sporting goods or cutlery stores.
If you’re fortunate, your bug-out experience will be short. But it could last a long time, so it’s best to error on the side of caution and include a wide variety of cutting devices in your bag. You will be grateful that you did.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Best Batteries for Emergency Preparedness

The best batteries to prep
Stock rechargeable batteries! This has long been dispensed as preparedness advice. The reasoning behind this advice is of course to have the ability to recharge the batteries for additional use once exhausted. If the stores are closed or you can’t get to them for more batteries at least you can rely on stash of rechargeable batteries. Depending on how the long the power is out, they may last you just long enough to get you by with a few modern conveniences like flashlights, headlamps and radios.
At present, there are four main types of rechargeable batteries that are commonly available for use in place of disposable batteries in electronic equipment. There is also larger Lead-Acid batteries (auto and RV) which are also rechargeable but for the purposes of this article I am only covering smaller consumer dry cell batteries.  Rechargeable batteries are not all equal, each has it’s own positives and negatives, so which kind should you get? Keep reading and I will break down the different types of batteries for you below!

Non-Technical Battery Lingo for Normal People: 
Voltage: Strength of power output of the battery. 1.5 volts is what disposable batteries commonly put out, so rechargeable batteries put out a little less, but are still within the range of what consumer battery appliances need.
mAh: Milliamps Hour (mAh) is important because it’s the easiest way to distinguish the capacity of a battery. The higher the mAh, the more power the battery stores and the longer it will last before needing to be recharged. The higher the number is usually better. Think of a car’s gas tank.  Voltage is how much gas is being used, and mAh is the size of the gas tank (source).
LSD: Low Self Discharge; they won’t lose much energy while sitting around unused. Which means long shelf-life.
Charging Cycles: When a battery is completely drained and then completely charged up to full,  or when a battery is partial drained and charged up to full that is one changing cycle. Batteries that can hold up to many changing cycles are usually preferred.
Battery Chart 1
1. Nickel-Cadmium (NiCd) Batteries
These batteries used to be the only type of rechargeable batteries available, NiCad batteries are harder to get now due to restrictions on poisonous cadmium that is used in their manufacturing. However, NiCad batteries are still in use for low-drain applications such as solar yard lights, remote controls, smoke detectors and emergency radios.
Overcharging Ni-Cd batteries can reduce cycle life (the number of times the battery can be charged).  Smart chargers know when the battery is full and stop charging.  Dumb chargers run on a timer and will almost always overcharge or fail to fill up the battery. You can charge whenever you like, but constantly draining them completely before charging actually shortens their life but on the same hand if you don’t, NiCd batteries have been known to suffer from a  “memory effect” which is when the battery remembers where it was last drained prior to recharging and from that time forward voltage drops as if the battery is going dead. In reality there is more power left to spare but voltage will drop as if the battery is going dead, while some manufacturers dispute this claim it remains widely reported. Occasional draining down to 1.0V is okay, and even recommended (source). A good brand of NiCd batteries you may recognize is Tenergy.

2. Nickel-Metal Hydride (NiMH) Batteries
The successors to Ni-Cd batteries, these commonly used and relatively inexpensive batteries are also the batteries that power some hybrid and electric vehicles. They can be relied on for most applications, but older batteries which have problems with self-discharge should never be used in smoke detectors as they can suddenly run out of power and leave you unprotected (source).

Remember that NiMH batteries come in two flavors: LSD and regular. LSD is “Low Self-Discharge”, which means long shelf-life (they won’t lose much energy while sitting around unused), vs. normal NiMH’s which go dead after a few months of sitting around. Given that, there’s not much incentive to get the normal NiMH’s, since they’re not any cheaper, and their capacity is only a little higher (2700 mAh for a normal NiMH vs. 2400 for a similarly-priced LSD NiMH). A good brand of Low Self-Discharge rechargeable battery is Eneloop, the Eneloop XXX batteries are one of the market’s best in capacity and charging cycles.
So how do you know whether a battery is the LSD kind or not? The easiest thing is to look for the good LSD-only brands: Eneloop and Imedion. You can also look for any of the marketing “code words” that indicate LSD, such as “Pre-charged” (since normal NiMH’s always require charging before use), “Ready to Use”, or “Hybrid” (source).

3. Nickel-Zinc (NiZn) Batteries
One of the newest types of rechargeable batteries for consumers, larger nickel-zinc battery systems have been known for over 100 years. Since 2000, development of a stabilized zinc electrode system has made this technology viable and competitive with other commercially available rechargeable battery systems. However because of their unique chemistry an voltage they require a special charger.

NiZn batteries are recommended for high-drain applications such as cameras, flashlights and outdoor equipment. The AA size NiZN batteries produce 1.6 volts which is higher than the voltage of disposable batteries as well as of NiMH batteries, which allows for better performance in motorized and light emitting equipment. However the main manufacturer of NiZn batteries discontinued production of them so they are no longer widely available. They also reportedly suffer from reliability problems, after only a few charging cycles the batteries self discharge considerably faster (source 1 and source 2).

4. Lithium Ion (Li-ion) Batteries
Li-ion batteries are sold as replacements for camera batteries, and they are also the most common batteries used in laptop computers, and some cell phones. Because they are easy to manufacture in different shapes, they are becoming the standard for use in personal electronics, and a built-in battery protection circuit keeps the battery operating safely preventing overcharge. They also store fairly well, therefore, having back-up battery packs for appliances that require them is not a bad idea. Unfortunately they are only available in the 3.6 voltage – accidentally using them in an appliance meant for standard batteries could easily fry the circuitry (source). Options for off-grid charging of lithium ion powered cameras, phones, GPS devices and tablets have expanded greatly in the past 4 years. Goal Zero’s solar recharging kit is one such highly recommended option that can be used to charge your USB capable devices and/or a pack of NiMH batteries. 

5. Rechargeable Alkaline Batteries (RAM)

Less common than other types of batteries, rechargeable alkaline batteries are similar to single-use alkaline batteries but have a chemical composition that allows them to be recharged. They are best used in low-drain applications, but once charged they are known to hold their charge for longer than other types of rechargeable batteries. If they were commonly manufactured and easy to find this would make them ideal to have available for backup or emergency use. However they have been basically pushed out of the market by the newer (LSD) NiMH batteries. RAM batteries also require a special charger as NiCd and NiMH chargers won’t work (source).

Battery Chargers for Emergency Preparedness
If storing batteries and not using them, you may want to periodically test them to make sure that they have not discharged. Dead batteries are of no help in an emergency.

Ideally you want a charger that will charge both NiCd and NiMH batteries so that you will have the option of using them in everyday life right now and also some stored away for emergencies. There are many nice smart chargers on the market that can safely charge both NiCd & NiMH batteries, and even recondition them for additional use when plugged into a source of AC power (click here to see a well rated charger that also reconditions batteries), however, when you narrow the field down to solar chargers your choices are considerably slim. A regular wall charger is still useful to have especially if you start incorporating rechargeable batteries into everyday life.  A solar charger is must for emergency preparedness as a battery charger that plugs into the wall wound be of little use in an event the grid goes down, therefore an alternative to that is solar power.

C. Crane makes an exceedingly affordable (under $30) and well rated a solar battery charger, that charges AA, AAA, C and D sized NiCd and NiMH batteries. While it is not a ‘smart charger’ the Solar 11 in 1 Battery Charger by C.Crane does have a very easy to read charge meter right on the front of it – a little vigilance is all that is required to make sure your batteries get a full charge. Another great charging option if you have the funds is the before mentioned Goal Zero Kit for AA and AAA batteries, which is actually a smart charger so you will not have to worry about over charging standard NiMH batteries (source). While Goal Zero will not endorse use of NiCd batteries with their product many reviewers have claimed the kit recharges them just as well. Since both these chargers are small in capacity my only advice is if you have the money, get two of them or in the case of Goal Zero to purchase an additional battery pack if necessary.
The Great Solar Yard Light Question
Can I use my solar yard lights as a solar battery charger?
solar light 2
(c) Stephanie Dayle 2014
You may have noticed some solar yard lights come with a replaceable AA or AAA rechargeable battery. The lights with these standard sized rechargeable batteries have become coveted items in emergency preparedness for their potential use as a super cheap battery charger.
The AA or AAA  batteries that come in solar yard lights are typically NiCd batteries (some solar lights use NiMH batteries instead, but not many). NiCd batteries have different characteristics than the NiMH batteries and should not be used interchangeably in solar yard lights. Usually solar yard lights are specifically designed to recharge the size, type and capacity (mAh) of battery the lights originally came with. This is why the slightly lower capacity (600 mAh) NiCd “Moonrays”are usually recommended as replacement batteries for solar yard lights.
Solor Light1
(c) Stephanie Dayle 2014
“Moonrays” are manufactured for solar yard lights with a slightly lower capacity which is better suited to the standard solar charge the lights usually give, so the batteries are not constantly under or over-charged. Always read the documentation that comes with your lights to see what type of batteries are needed; this well give you a better idea of what battery to keep on hand.
If the batteries you use for other appliances are compatible with your solar yard lights they do indeed make a handy recharger, but attempting to recharge a different type and/or capacity of battery could lead to over or undercharging issues (including overheating) unless you want to constantly test the battery all day to insure it gets a proper charge and is not damaged (source).
That being said, if I wanted to use solar lights to recharge batteries for use in other appliances I would go with the higher capacity Tenergy NiCd batteries (1000 mAh) and just be happy with whatever extra charge I got from the daylight over the Moonrays, knowing that they may end up always being slightly undercharged.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Propane or gas: How to choose a lantern and/or stove fuel

Let’s assume an emergency scenario where wood heat/light are not an option.  You can’t use a campfire and a biomass stove is out of the picture.  Maybe there is extreme fire danger, open fires are prohibited, or there isn’t a ready supply of fuel.
Should you have a propane or gas lantern or stove?  Tank or canister?  What are the advantages, disadvantages and what considerations should you be aware of?
My collection includes kerosene, gasoline and propane lanterns. The best  choice will depend on the situation, weight, safety and availability of fuel. (Pantenburg photo)
My collection includes kerosene, gasoline and propane lanterns. The best choice will depend on the situation, weight, safety and availability of fuel. (Pantenburg photos)
I can’t make up my mind which fuel is best.  I currently have one propane and four Coleman gas lanterns.  I own a dual-fuel campstove, gas backpacking stove, and one small stove that screws on top of a propane cylinder.  My go-to stove for all off grid cooking is a double burner Camp Chef propane cooker that uses bulk propane.  I have a propane space heater for emergency warmth.
Your emergency preparations should include some thoughts about lighting, heating and cooking implements over the long term.  Basically, your choices will boil down to two main categories: propane or liquid fuel (gasoline).
Before you buy anything though, consider where the appliance will be used.  Are you car camping, where weight is not an issue, or backpacking above the tree line, where weight will be a major consideration?  What temperatures will the item most likely be used in?  How important is long term use and the ability to replenish the fuel?
Here are some shopping considerations:
  • Convenience and ease of use:  Does the fuel source affect how easily the implement can be used?  There is no pouring, priming or pumping with propane.  With gas, the implement must be filled, and sometimes primed and pumped.  While the gas implement is operating, it will occasionally need to be pumped.
    Propane or gasoline? Where the appliance will be used, and the operating conditions will determine the best choice for you. (Pantenburg photos)
    Propane or gasoline? Check out the shopping considerations to decide.
  • Fuel availability:  The dual-fuel gas implements can use unleaded gasoline, at a fraction of the cost of Coleman fuel or white gas.  I’ve bought Coleman gas at tiny little stores in out-of-the-way areas of northern Minnesota, where the store inventory was sketchy at best.  Conversely, I’ve also seen standard 16.4 oz disposable propane gas cylinders at many of these same stores.  I’m guessing gas is still easier to find, but bulk propane is also very common and cheap.
  • Cost:  Last week at the local WalMart, the disposable propane cylinders were on sale for about $6 for two cylinders, versus almost $10 per gallon for Coleman fuel.  The dual-fuel gas stoves and lanterns are the clear winners in the cost-effectiveness category, with unleaded gasoline from the pump costing about $4 per gallon.  Not to mention, a dual-fuel implement can be re-fueled with a siphon hose from a vehicle gas tank.
  • Safety:  As a Boy scout volunteer, I see safety around fire as paramount.  I’ve noticed that the propane lanterns and stoves are easier, and hence safer, for the boys to light and use.  There is no priming, pouring or fuel to spill.  The idea of a container of gasoline anywhere near an open fire, with kids around, makes my blood run cold.
  • Implement design:  My Coleman model 442 backpacking gas stove has a listed weigh of 24 ounces.  That, in part, is due to the pump and generator required for a gas stove.  My single burner propane stove that screws on top of a propane cylinder weighs less than half that.
  • “Green” design:  I don’t like the disposable propane cylinders – they work great, but it seems to be a terrible waste to throw away the empties.  For a long-term situation, such as a lengthy campout, though, a bulk propane tank can be filled for about $2-something a gallon, making that option an economic favorite.
  • Temperature:  Cold affects propane’s effectiveness.  In extreme cold, a propane cylinder may not work at all.  Gasoline is not affected.  That’s one reason why I have so many gas-powered implements.