Tuesday, October 22, 2013

TUTORIAL - Guest Article: The Bug-out Vehicle - Part 1

Preparing a live-in, self dependent bunker is ideal, but what if you need to get out of civilisation all together, be it for a short or prolonged period.  A 72 hour bag will get you so far on foot, but to truly have the versatility to bug out for long stays, or cover long distances, you might consider a bug out-able vehicle.

Regardless of what you have to work with, be it a hatchback or an F-truck, the principles are the same.  First and foremost, you need to consider your vehicle strategy and how that is going to guide any preparations and/or modifications you will need.  You will effectively be turning your vehicle into a “Tourer”, be it 4WD, 2WD, 2 wheeled or otherwise.  The setup will be largely dependent on the vehicle, but only limited by your imagination and ingenuity.

The most important thing is getting to know your vehicle.  This includes its basic mechanicals, its fuel economies (on road, off road, highway driving) and its operating limits.


Mechanically, understand where basic things like fluid levels can be checked and topped up, along with what type of fluids are required (engine oil grades, hydraulic fluid, radiator coolant), spark plugs, tyres and tyre changing, batteries and fuses.  Many roadside breakdowns can be attributed to simple things that could be easily fixed, if you had the gear available (broken fuses, change a tyre, spare oil, etc).  Also, familiarise yourself with things like the steering system, suspension, drive-line components, exhaust system and the chassis and bodywork.  You don’t necessarily need to be a qualified mechanic, just be confident enough to recognise if something isn’t as it should be, which is as simple as doing a visual inspection, checking bolts, nuts and generally poking things.  If you consider yourself “mechanically challenged”, next time you have the car in for a service have a chat to your mechanic about what was done.  They do it for a living, and you pay them for their expertise, so why not pick their brain a bit too.  Most are more than happy to have a chat about car stuff.


Fuel economy is probably the most vital part of any vehicular planning.  It will determine how far you can get, where you will go and how much spare fuel you might need to carry.  If you have a secluded spot in mind, ensure your vehicle has the range to get there AND get back again.  As a rule of thumb, consider your vehicle’s normal range to be reduced by at least 25% when loaded up, and even further reduced depending on the terrain you are travelling on.  Dirt roads may not seem that much worse to drive on, but your vehicle does work harder in all respects, using more juice in doing so.  Carrying spare fuel is a good way to increase your range, but be aware of the safety aspects involved.


 Carrying fuel inside a vehicle is not only illegal in most places, it’s downright stupid.  The fumes are poisonous and the material highly flammable.  Petrol fumes can be ignited by a spark up to 20m away, so seriously consider how you handle and store the stuff.  You can buy behind seat tanks that have external venting kits, but this is probably not a viable option for most.  A good sealing jerry can strapped onto a roof rack is a very simple, economical solution.  Always check your local regulations regarding fuel transportation (see your transport department or auto club).

Operating limits are something that any driver would experience whenever they get behind the wheel of their vehicle.  It comes down to knowing how your vehicle responds to your inputs and how it all feels when driving.  This includes, but is by no means limited to; the pick up when you accelerate; how responsive the brakes are; how responsive the steering is; what degree of body roll you experience when loaded (especially at speed); what is the most ergonomic and comfortable seating position.  Understanding your vehicle allows you to tailor your driving style, be it focussing on economy, long distance driving or dirt and off-road driving, just to name a few scenarios.  Whilst Australian highways often have a limit of 100km/h, most vehicles run at their best economy doing 80-90km/h.  Whether you’re in a survival situation, or taking the family on a weekend drive in the country, it’s always better reach your destination in one piece than not at all.  The difference that travelling 10km/h faster actually makes is roughly 5 minutes over a 100km distance.  What are those 5 minutes really worth?


Also consider your vehicle’s limits on different terrains.  In the instance of off road vehicles, know when a track is not worth attempting to drive.  It’s really not worth damaging or wrecking your vehicle, especially if you’re in the middle of nowhere.  If you do intend to embark on serious off-roading, try to travel in convoy, or at least gain experience beforehand.  You wouldn’t take up mountain climbing and attempt Everest as your first climb, unless perhaps you’re suicidal!  Experience will teach you to think about where your wheels are, where your diffs and underbody components are and their clearance, how your vehicle tackles rough terrain, and so on.  Experience is invaluable when it comes to off road driving, as much as recovery equipment in case it goes wrong, so ensure to have both before jumping into the deep end.

We will go into more specifics regarding setup in future articles, but for now, get under the bonnet, get under the car, get behind the wheel, and really get to know that useful lump of metal that sits in your driveway.

- The Mad Wog

Monday, October 21, 2013

INFORMATIVE - The Lost Arts

In most Western cultures, people are relatively talentless when it comes to proper life skills. This may seem like a fairly harsh sentiment, but allow me to explain.

There was a time, not too long ago, when it was a normal fact of life to learn and become proficient at one or many trades. It could be anything from baking, sewing, gardening, hunting, construction or otherwise.


These were considered necessary skills back then, as people didn't have the modern conveniences we have today.

Today, if you need to eat, you go to the store and buy pre-grown, healthy fruit and vegetables. If you need meat, you go to the butcher and buy clean, pre-dressed and prepared animal meat. If you need a table, you go to the local furniture store and select from dozens of pre-built options. Even if you get a tear in your pants, you can go to a seamstress and have it mended. Little jobs that don't take more than a little while to do yourself are now done for you by others, and it's a dangerous position for people to be.


In the event of social breakdown, the grocery stores empty, the butchers close, the conveniences are ransacked and the servicepeople won't be around to do things for you. Not seamstresses, not builders, not anyone.

Now, one person can't become proficient in every skill - that's too big of an ask for any one human being - but it can be valuable to get in some rudimentary knowledge in as many fields as you are comfortable. In the other areas? It can't hurt to get books on the topic. Books require no power or maintenance, don't expire, and can be studied at your own convenience. They don't replace practical knowledge and experience, but it can help round out an otherwise minimal skillset.


However, if you do have it in you to try learning some good old fashioned skills that have since been lost from day-to-day life, consider the following. I've even provided some good starting points to help you get a head-start:

Baking Bread

Here is a very simple, dairy-free, white-bread recipe that is incredibly easy to make with very few ingredients.

http://allrecipes.com/recipe/amish-white-bread/


Woodworking

Here is a great walkthrough of some of the basic tools and principles behind woodworking.

http://www.instructables.com/id/Some-Basic-Woodwork-Skills/

And here are a few great beginner woodworking projects on which to try out your new skills, all of which can easily be extrapolated into larger projects with a bit of trial and error.

http://www.instructables.com/id/Woodworking-Projects-for-Beginners/


Electrical Engineering



Dressing Wild Game

This video is quite graphic for those with a soft stomach, so please be warned. It is a harsh thing to learn, but if you plan on doing it, it's something you'll need to get used to eventually.





Growing Crops

Here's a great quick-view of the process:


A very thorough and handy book on the subject which is quite commonly available is the Yates Garden Guide (ISBN 9780732289867) and is well worth picking up as a reference volume.


Hunting

Hunting is an ancient art, and very much varies from region to region. How you will need to go about it will depend entirely on where you live and what type of game you are hunting, but the core skillset remains the same. This topic is so steeped in tradition, and so handed-down, that it is hard to find sources of reading or viewing material to adequately cover the topic. Your best bet is to go on a hunting trip with someone who is experienced, and learn everything they have to teach you.

In the meantime, here are a few things to get you started.

Firstly, this is a good collection of tips and tricks:

http://www.sportsmansguide.com/Outdoors/Subject/SubjectFeature.aspx?sid=71&type=T

Secondly, here's a great video to get you building your own traps:



Surgery

Wound assessment and debridement is the most commonly needed surgical procedure that requires no specific expertise:


Clean amputation is another common one, which requires considerably more patience and skill:


One of the best books I can think of for this topic is "Where There is No Doctor" (ISBN 9780333516522)


Pharmacology/Herblore

First off, familiarise yourself with which medications are for which conditions:

http://www.answers.com/topic/common-prescription-drugs-and-uses-1

Once you're done then, learn to grow and recognize plants that actually sythesize these drugs. We actually did an article on this not too long ago:

http://informedprepper.blogspot.com.au/2013/04/natural-remedies.html


Cooking

Learning to cook is very important. Not only will good food keep your morale up, but properly cooked food minimizes the risk of food poisoning and toxicity.

Cooking is just chemistry. Once you learn the theories - even if it's in a nicely laid out kitchen - they can be applied to any cooking method, be it campfire, alcohol stove or other.

Here's a couple of videos that go over the basic theories:



An excellent book that covers pretty much everything you'd need to know to get you started is written by Jamie Oliver, called "Cook with Jamie" (ISBN 9780141019703)


Sewing

Sewing is a crucial skill, whether it be mending what you have or creating new garments from scratch. Also bags, sacks and the like can be made with the right skills.

Most people think "I can run a needle through fabric! I'll manage!" but that won't hold or last for any decent length of time or be durable enough to survive what you may have to put it through.

There are two main types of sewing. Hand sewing and machine sewing.

Here are some easy basics of hand sewing to get you started:


If a machine is available (provided you have power) it's worth learning to use one of them, too:




Bushcraft/Woodlore

I can't think of a better resource for learning bushcrafting skills and woodlore than The Pathfinder School, run by Dave Canterbury, which you can find here:

http://www.youtube.com/user/wildernessoutfitters

Other than that, there are two great books that you should invest in if possible:

The SAS Survival Guide (ISBN 978-0061992865)

Bushcraft: Outdoor Skills and Wilderness Survival (ISBN 978-1551051222)

Also a good investment would be books (pertinent to your region) on identifying edible and medicinal plants in your area.


Weapon Crafting and Use 

 This is a great YouTube playlist of various weaponscrafting videos that are worth watching:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V4BTTsShRaY&list=PL39C45C87E8739C57

Another good channel to look at is Joerg Sprave's Slingshot Channel, where he builds rubber-powered weapons of significant power.

http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCVZlxkKqlvVqzRJXhAGq42Q

Finally, Backyard Bowyer is a talented young man who shows how to build your own high powered bows:

http://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_U6Yek0YgKHN_A-iTAwZbg


Smithing

Metalsmithing will become an incredibly valuable resource in an SHTF scenario, though it is one of the more difficult professions and difficult/expensive to obtain the proper tools.

If you do, however, manage to get the equipment, here is a video outlining some of the basics of the trade:




Get as many of these into your skillset - even in a basic form - and you'll be that much more prepared not only for a SHTF scenario but also day-to-day life. A skilled person is a useful person!

Be prepared, not scared.

- CumQuaT

Sunday, October 6, 2013

TUTORIAL - Preparing a Seed Bank

If you live on a property large enough, or even have access to a secluded area of woodland that could be tended, you can raise a produce garden. Fruit, vegetables, herbs, nuts... Anyone can do it with the right knowledge, but creating and tending to that garden takes time, and you may not be able to build it and maintain it while manning a full-time job and other duties.

Once shit hits the fan, however, you'll have far more time to spare, and you'll be able to build a garden of your own from which to get food to support you.

To do that, however, you will need seeds to grow from, and the stores where you would normally get them from may have long been closed or raided.

Because of this, it's worth building a thorough seed bank. A seed bank will keep a large library of plant seeds safe and healthy for an extended period of time (realistically 3 to 5 years).


First off, you need to select the right container. Since your seed bank is designed to be kept refrigerated, your ideal option is a glass jar which can be sealed completely. So something with a good, solid rubber seal is essential, such as a twist-top with a rubber lining, or a mason jar with a pop top.

Why glass? Since you'll be keeping this container in your refrigerator, the threat of moisture entering the container is a real one. Glass is one of the few container materials which is not actually porous. Plastic containers, while cheaper and easier to find, will eventually have water seep into them, ruining your seeds.

At this point I'd like to point out that many people think "how can I keep it refrigerated if the shit's hit the fan?". It's quite simple, really. Once the power stops, that's when you'll need to make use of it, and so it will no longer need refrigeration.

Once you have your container, you'll need to select the range of seeds that you wish to store. All garden centers and even some hardware stores or landscape supplies will sell you packets of seeds from many various varieties of fruit, vegetables, herbs and more. It's best to do a little research to work out what can easily be grown in the climate in which you live.

Here's a good example of a nice variety based on a tropical climate:

- Carrots
- Peas
- Sweetcorn
- Pumpkin
- Silver beet (Swiss Chard)
- Rockmelon (Canteloupe)
- Sauce tomatoes (such as Roma or Strongarm)
- Fruit tomatoes (such as Cherry Tomatoes)
- Basil
- Chives
- Rosemary
- Watermelon
- Parsley


As you can see in the above example, the smaller seeds have been placed into small, glass ampules, which are then - in turn - placed into the main glass container. This has been done because the smaller the seed is, the more adversely affected by moisture it becomes. So double-layering it inside glass will offer it twice the protection from outside moisture reaching the seeds.

Once your collection has been put inside of your container and labelled and categorized neatly (for ease of access when opening), it is best to fully seal the container to prevent light from getting in, as this will further preserve the seeds inside. A good way to do this is with electrical tape, like so:


Once this is complete, it is best to put a date label on the top of your container stating when the seed bank was packed and when is the latest it should be opened (approximately 5 years after it was packed). Once that is done, put it in the fridge and forget about it until it is needed. You have now a very, very large step towards being prepared to feed yourself should the time come. In the 3 to 6 months your food stores last, you can have a fully producing vegetable farm going in your own back yard which will keep you fed perpetually.

In the meantime, study up on planting and growing techniques. They'll come in handy!

- CumQuaT