Tuesday, December 28, 2010

ECB Anyone?

     So now that the big media fuss about this past weekend’s storm and the follow up media on how it was handled is just about over, what did you learn from this ‘mini’ disaster?  I personally found my prep’s were sufficient, and in fact I rather enjoyed the storm.  Not owning a car, having proper clothing, and having a well stocked pantry all assured me of that.  I also find that my positive attitude towards life’s experiences make most situations more of an adventure then a burden, more on that another time though.

     Some of the media stories published about the storm caught my attention, especially this one.  This is the kind of stuff I try and prepare us for.  I can’t help but point out that my suggested ECB would have alleviated a majority of the problems these people faced.  If I happened to be stuck in a similar situation and had my kit, as I always do, I would have had water, food, and been able to keep myself warm with a mylar blanket (or someone else warm, as I wear appropriate clothing for the weather/season).

     There are further stories of emergency vehicles taking too long to respond to calls due to the sidewalks and streets being a mess (proving that help isn’t always on the way.)  This is again something that makes people who believe in becoming more self-reliant cringe.  It’s time to stop expecting help to come because it is thought of as "deserved".  We need to start being responsible for our own lives and actions.  Granted some emergencies are major and professional help is definitely required.  Nothing is certain though, and there are no guarantees that the help you rely on now will be their tomorrow.  Learning how to take care of things now while times are good and while the help is still readily available, is an important step to becoming free.     

     So now that the storm has passed and the sidewalks and streets are somewhat clear, we can look back at what we could do to better our prep’s and learn how to further enhance our preparations for future disasters.  I would like to give an honorable mention to one of the items that I own that is really coming in handy; my Sorel’s.  Big, waterproof boots are a must when we get large amounts of snow, and make walking through slushy, wet street corners a breeze.


Sunday, December 26, 2010

Winter Wonderland!

     Happy Holidays to all!  I hope you are enjoying the beautiful, so called “blizzard” here in the city.  Storms like these are a good reminder to be prepared.  They can also be a great ‘test’ to those of you whom already walk the path of self-reliance.  Being prepared (from food to clothing) can alleviate much of the stress that comes with this kind of weather, allowing you to actually enjoy a good snowfall like when we were children.  I took a wonderful walk in Central Park this afternoon and got to revel at the beauty that this city can offer during heavy snow.  The walk also allowed me to test some of my newer clothing items.  All items passed with flying colors as I stayed warm and dry for the three hours I was out and about.  Having the proper prep's for all climate/weather is just another layer of self-reliance and can add even more to your confidence in dealing with anything that can be thrown at you.  Here are a few more pictures that I took today in the park enjoy, and stay safe! 


Friday, December 24, 2010

Survival Sanitation: Toilet

     It’s an often overlooked, and in some peoples opinion awkward topic, but it is a very important one none the less; how to keep conditions in your apartment, or home, sanitary after a disaster?  For any disaster lasting more than a week this is a real concern because as the sanitary conditions get worse, personal health and safety will drop significantly.  Keeping you and your family healthy without working utilities will be a difficult task as you will need to have a pre-planned protocol for such a situation.  How to handle human waste, keep food safe for consumption, and how to keep your hands and body clean are all questions you need to start asking yourself now before a situation arises.  Because New Yorker’s are mostly apartment dwellers without yards, we will have even more difficulty in dealing with a lot of these issues.  In my “Survival Sanitation” series of posts, I will give you some ideas and suggestions on how to handle a mid- to long-term ‘bug-in’ situation here in The Apple.
     Handling your family’s ‘human waste’ will be one of the first, and most important problems you will have to deal with after a disaster.  Most people won’t know what to do if their apartment’s toilets won’t flush.  Not realizing, or not wanting to realize, that if we lose electric for more than a few days, the electric pumps that suck the waste through our pipes will no longer function.  Unfortunately, most uninformed people will revert to dumping their waste out the window as they did in the early days of New York.  This is not only stupid, but will lead to disease and the eventual death of many people just as it did in the 1800’s.  

     People that are somewhat informed will probably remember that you can manually flush a toilet if you pour water directly into the pot, and in a short-term disaster this can be a possible solution.  I suggest using non-potable water to pour down the toilet, allowing you to conserve your clean potable water.  A great source of non-potable water can be found in either of the rivers, all you would need is some rope and a bucket of some sort.  A five-gallon bucket with a handle would be perfect.  One of the biggest problems with doing this is the fact that the salt in the water will deteriorate your pipes fairly quickly.  Untreated rain water can also be an option if you don’t want to destroy your building's plumbing.
     For a disaster lasting longer than a few days, pouring water into your toilet pot to manually flush it is not a good idea.  Once again, the electric pumps won't work, so the more people pour water into their sinks and toilets, the more built up waste there will be in the sewers.  The end result will be a massive overflow leading to all of the drains in the city to ‘give back the gift’ we gave them.  For this reason alone, I suggest treating any disaster where you won’t truly know the duration as a long-term disaster, putting into effect your long-term ‘waste disposal’ solution right away.  You can than plug your toilet and drains alleviating the smell, and the overflow.  A basic plug should suffice at first, but because there is no way of knowing what will happen to the system long-term (as a long-term disaster has thankfully not happened in NYC yet), you should plan on a more permanent solution.
     Properly storing your waste in your apartment until you can dispose of it will be one of the only options you have unfortunately.  If you are prepared, this may not be as bad as it sounds, I promise.  Two of the biggest problems you will face when storing your waste are going to be the smell, and flies.  The smell will obviously make any home during a disaster unbearable to live in.  Flies can get you and your family very sick because they are attracted to your waste like “flies on…” well you know what, spreading the bacteria from your waste onto your food.  This can cause serious medical issues at a time when medical attention is non-existent.
     The way to address these problems would be to first have a dedicated bucket or two depending on the size of your family labeled “waste” in big, bold letters.  I suggest five-gallon buckets as anything larger will be difficult to transport.  You also need to make sure to have tight fitting lids for the buckets.  The next step will be to have a supply of thick 3 to 4 mill contractor bags, or at least some kind of plastic bag.  The capacity of these does not have to be large, as they just have to fill the five-gallon buckets.  Line the inside of the bucket with two bags, maybe three if they are a thin plastic.  You can place some newspaper or crumpled up magazine pages in between the two bags if you prefer.  You then need to have a good supply of wood ash, saw dust, or dirt stored next to the buckets so you can sprinkle it onto the waste after you ‘use the facilities’.  Place some tp or whatever you decide to use as tp (book pages, leaves, yellow pages, newspaper, magazines, etc.) next to the toilet as well.  You don’t need to have a seat for the buckets, as you can remove the one from your existing toilet and place it on top of the bucket.  The next step will be to have some way to sanitize your hands.  You can use anti-bacterial gel if you have a good supply of it.  I suggest a household bleach and water mixture in a spray bottle.  Bleach has millions of uses, and you should have a few bottles in your apartment at all times anyway.  Place whatever you decide to use for sanitation next to the bucket. 

     You can now safely relieve yourself in your apartment by;
  • Removing the lid.
  • Placing the seat if necessary. 
  • Doing what is needed. 
  • Sprinkling some saw dust or whatever you have at your disposal over the waste. 
  • Placing the lid back on the bucket tightly. 
  • Properly sanitizing your hands and the exterior of the lid and bucket.
     After you get close to filling the bucket, you can either remove the bag, or you can carry the bucket to the location you plan on burying it.  You need to bury the waste because if left above ground outdoors, animals would find and spread it in no time.  As I mentioned, the bacteria from the waste would be spread by insects, which will lead to disease, and you already know that outcome.  Burying waste will be the most sanitary option available to us urbanites.  It will most likely further contaminate our already contaminated ground water, but it would have to be done.  On the bright side, if done properly, it could actually be excellent fertilizer for the trees and plants around the city.  

     Having a solution to safely dispose of human waste is a real concern for apartment dwellers.  If you live in a home with a yard, basically you either store the waste in your home, and periodically bury it, or just dig a big hole and cover it with a layer of dirt, wood ash, or saw dust every time you go.  In the city, most of us don’t have yards, and the only ground that we can dig in is in the parks, or at the base of trees lining our streets.  This is where a little imagination on your part will go a long way.  Finding suitable places to bury your waste close to your apartment will be necessary.  Security will most likely be an issue as well, so make sure to enter the location at night, armed in some way, and definitely don't go alone. 

     Though not the best table talk, it is something that needs to be addressed by all.  Being able to adapt to change, and not shying away from the reality of a situation can mean the difference between life and death.  A survivalist knows how to foresee, and prepare for any situation that could arise and will do what is necessary to survive no matter what the circumstance.

     *Author's edit* As I am constantly researching and bettering my knowledge, I continue to fine tune the blog.  I wanted to mention another great product that I have come across that can help urban dwellers in an easy to use, convenient way.  The following liners I link to Amazon fit inside your toilet bowl, making it easy to place and remove.  They also have bio gels that mask the smell.  These would be perfect for short- to mid-term use.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Quick Pick: Atsko Sno-Seal

     With winter’s low temperatures upon us already, it’s just a matter of time before our first major winter storm here in the city.  The “Quick Pick” item I suggest today; Atsko Sno-Seal is an item that helps you winterize your leather gear by protecting, and waterproofing them.  It does so with a natural bees-wax formula that is simple to use.

     I suggest using it every year right before winter on items like leather boots, shoes, and gloves.  You can use this stuff on your dress shoes, as it makes them much more resistant to water as well.  Just be careful, because it can make brown leather darker.  I am also a fan of using Sno-Seal on all my leather gloves, especially the gloves I keep in my kits to use as work gloves while out in the bush.

     To use Sno-Seal, place a generous amount all over the leather of the (clean) item.  Put an especially ample amount on the seams, as these let in the most water.  Next use a hair dryer (you can also use an oven at a low temp if you don’t have a significant other with a hair dryer) on a high setting and blow hot air all over the item melting the wax into the leather and seams.  Let the item cool, for a half hour and that’s it!  You now have a leather item protected from snow, rain, salt, and ready for anything the elements can throw at it.


Thursday, December 9, 2010

The NYC Survivalist Holiday Gift Guide

     With the holiday season upon us, I wanted to give you some gift suggestions for friends and family that I have found I prefer to give.  This guide is for all people no matter what religion you are, and is geared towards the spirit of giving that we sometimes forget in this consumer driven country we live in.  It is also meant for any budget no matter how large or small.

     My first suggestion is something I personally have given as a ‘gift’ to my family members for a few years now; a donation in their name.  Why I do this stems from my beliefs in minimalism, and from traveling to other parts of the world allowing me to witness just how fortunate I really have been.  Since I grew up a white, middle-class American man, I really never knew, and may not ever know, real poverty.  What I consider “real poverty”, is when something as basic as fresh drinking water and food are precious commodities to you.  

     For years I fought the system, telling friends and family members to forgo gift giving to me, as I would to them.  I felt that I did not want to buy a stupid _____ (insert pointless gift here), just to receive something of equal value and of no use.  Or the ridiculous gift cards that people so often give these days.  At some point you realize that you gave a $25 gift certificate to store “X”, just to be gifted a $25 gift card to store “Y”!  I got disappointed, and disillusioned around the holiday season because it started to occur to me that we really lost the spirit of giving, and found the spirit of shopping instead.  Beyond that, I noticed that there was nothing I, nor my family members really “needed” as we have all grown up at a time of amazing wealth in this country.  So there was my dilemma; what can you buy a person that has virtually everything?

     Becoming a survivalist, and self-reliant over the last few years helped me to have the confidence to realize that I don’t have to conform to what other people are doing, or what people deem ‘acceptable’ and ‘expected’ in this society.  This confidence led me to a revelation; to give money to a trusted charity in the name of the gift recipient so I would not have the guilt the holiday season made me feel.  I know it seems pretty obvious, but truthfully I had not thought of it before.  You can give as much as you would spend on that person, and it will make a world of difference to the people receiving the gift.  Just think, instead of buying your co-worker “Bob” a new tie that he probably won’t wear, you can give a village part of the funds to help build a water pump that serves all the people.  If that is not the spirit of giving, then I don’t know what is!  I usually buy a big box of cheap holiday cards and write my holiday greeting along with a note that this year they gave the gift of water (or whatever I decide for that person) to someone who needed it.  A great site for a bunch of worthwhile charities is GlobalGiving.  I’m fond of giving donations to charities that give solar ovens this year.  Solar ovens are a simple, yet very functional way to cook without fuel.  It is also an excellent, environmentally sound way for third world countries to make water potable.  I will do an article on them soon, and suggest them in the NYC Survivalist long-term apartment preps (also coming soon.)

     If you want to give a more ‘personalized’ gift to close friends and families, then start them off on the path of survivalism without them even realizing it!  The way to do this would be to buy some of the bare minimum items that every household shouldn’t be without.  Things like a hand-crank radio and hand-crank flashlights make great gifts to the unprepared, and can possibly be very useful to them someday.  You could also send them a case of #10 cans with different freeze dried foods from a company like Shelf-Reliance or from my sponsor The Freeze Dry Guy to help get their food storage started.

     If you have a brother, or someone whom you consider a brother, I feel one of the most honorable gifts you can give that person is a good knife.  A knife signifies respect in many cultures for good reason.  Here is a site that has some great handcrafted knives.  I prefer to give a knife that can be used in the field, is practical, and does not cost an arm and a leg.  Here is a link to my post on what I suggest and use.  I also own a Ka-Bar utility knife that I mention I carry with my B.O.B.  Ka-Bar's make great gifts, and I will be doing a post on that knife soon.

     For children, I suggest giving them what The Survival Podcast host Jack Spirco recommends; precious metal coins.  This is a great way to get children to understand the value of an object, and can also start a realistic savings program for their future.  My Grandfather used to often gift me minted coins, as his generation saw the long-term value of metals and coins.  We can see a revival of that with the present "gold boom".  Here is a link to a great site for precious metals.
     Because NYC is a “Holiday Mecca”, it’s easy to get lost in the sales and deals of the stores we pass on a daily basis.  Try and remind yourself that you really don’t need anything beyond you and your family’s health and happiness.  Appreciate all you have, and all you have had in the past.  This holiday season skip the updated laptop, or 'newer' shoes and give to someone much less fortunate.  Being a survivalist goes beyond just helping you and your family live, prepare, and survive.  A true survivalist wants humanity to live on, prepare for the future, and survive, so we can grow


Monday, December 6, 2010

Some additions to previous posts

     I recently starting adding the occasional picture to posts as well as a few archived posts per suggestion of a handful of readers to give the blog more appeal.  I would also like to mention that I continually revise and edit some of my former posts like my EDC necklace post here.  This blog is continually growing and evolving with the more knowledge I gain and is attempting to become an invaluable 'free' resource for those New Yorker's that have awakened to the world of self-reliance as I have.


Sunday, December 5, 2010

Bare Minimum: Manual Can-Opener

     This is just a quick "Bare Minimum" post to remind you of something fundamentally essential for every household; a manual can-opener.  Most people will have one or more of these around the house, though I know some people that don't.  If you use an electric can-opener for convince that's fine, just make sure you have a cheap, back-up 'manual' one to use in case you lose power.  You could open a can with-out one, but it is dangerous and you risk injury.  Any injury in times of a disaster, even a scratch, can be life threatening.  If you don't own one or don't know where you placed it, do yourself a favor and get one as soon as possible.

The little one below can be placed on a necklace or on your EDC key-chain so you can have one on you at all times if you prefer.


Quick Pick: Wool Pants

     Since the temperature gauge has been dropping significantly around these parts as we approach winter, I am going to suggest something to you today that might make your morning commute a bit easier to deal with; wool pants.  Wool pants are standard military issue to troops in many of the colder countries of the world for good reason.  Places like Sweden and Switzerland commonly see temperatures far below the freezing point, and can make even our coldest days in the city seem mild.

     Wool makes an excellent mid-layer for use in the three-layer system as it is one of the best insulating materials available.  It is also wonderful at allowing the body’s natural moisture (sweat) to escape, helping you stay dry and much warmer.  You can combine a good polyester base layer with your wool mid-layer to help the wool 'wick' your bodies sweat even more efficiently.

     Because the three-layer system is not always convenient for our city lifestyle, you can invest in either wool dress slacks or even a wool suit.  These items could be useful for some of the colder days in the winter and can even be proper dress attire for your job.  If there's snow in the forecast, a nylon or Gore-Tex outer shell would leave you feeling warm, and dry no matter what conditions were thrown at you.

     If you are a backpacker or hiker, and don’t mind going into the bush during the colder winter months, like myself, then I would suggest a good pair of military surplus wool pants.  These can be a bit difficult to find, but a search like this one can get you going in the right direction.  A pair like these Swedish wool pants is ideal for outdoor use.  I personally find that I prefer to wear a pair of comfy wool pants while lounging around the apartment and for running local errands in the winter as they’re durable and warm.
     I really am a big proponent of wool products as they are, and have been, one of the best fabrics available to us for generations.  Do yourself a favor this winter and get a few articles of clothing that are made of wool as it's cheap, and very functional.  The littlest bit of effort, and proper planning can keep you much warmer and comfortable this winter.  

     The first pair of pants below is from Cabela's, look up their website here, as they have great deals on products like these pants.  I'm putting the suit link from Amazon below as a frame of reference.  If you are to buy a wool suit, I would suggest going to one of the cities many department stores like Syms to get a better deal, and a more tailored look.   


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Guide for Beginning Preppers

     I recently was informed by a close friend that he wanted to start taking survivalism/prepping more seriously and needed some help with the basics.  The subsequent e-mail I sent him, outlining the fundamentals to help him in his first steps of prepping became a “Guide for Beginning Preppers”.  This guide reaches beyond the scope of New York, and could easily be applied to any household in The U.S.:

     Glad to see you are awakening to the world of self-reliance!  The following is the basics that I believe every household should have to prepare them for a short to mid-term disaster;
  • Water – A few gallons at first will do.  You can fill up a 5-gallon Gerry Can or two and keep them in the closet.  Or you can stock five or more gallon jugs (depending on how big your family is) as well.  Water is life as you can only live about three days without it, so don’t skimp.  You can set up a rain catch if you run out.
  • Food – Set up a Q over at Shelf Reliance as soon as possible and start having food delivered in #10 cans right away.  You can set up the Q to spend any amount, but I suggest $50 to $100 a month depending on your budget.  The next step will be to go out and buy about ten to twenty cans (once again depends on your family size) of food to keep in your pantry.  Make sure the food is edible out of the can (can safely be eaten cold) and don’t worry about the food being organic or not.  Buy the cheap ‘on sale’ stuff.  Also make sure you have a manual can opener so you can open your cans.  You can start buying ‘bulk’ items like dried whole grain rice and beans as well, as these items will last many years if stored properly.
  • Emergency gear - By that I mean a portable hand-crank radio so you can stay "in the know".  Also a hand-crank flash light so you can find things in case the electric grid goes down.  You should keep a few candles in case the flashlight does not work, or if you don't feel like cranking it all the time.  Keeping a few spare lithium batteries and a good medical kit on hand couldn't hurt either. 
  • Security – The next thing you’ll need is security, because without that, all your preps can become someone else’s instantly.  It’s up to you what you decide to use for home and personal security.  I suggest acquiring your handgun license and buying a handgun so that you can practice with it and store it in your apartment.  Here is the gun license permit page for NYC.  Here is a link to a company that helps you deal with the red tape if you want to spend the extra money.  If you opt not to own a gun, then look into things like pepper spray (link to my post about legal pepper spray in NYC.)
  • Cash – Make sure to have an adequate amount of cash on hand in case you can’t pull money from your bank account.  You can keep anywhere from $500 - $3000 depending on your financial situation.  While I’m on the subject of cash, do your best to get out of debt while building your prepping supplies.  It’s a tall order I know, but debt is a cancer that will grow and consume you.  Try your best to limit your expenses, spending only on things you need, and sell the things you don’t.  Also stay away from credit cards at all costs, they are a trap.
  • Trade items – I call these trade items, but they could also be considered investments.  The old adage; “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” really applies here.  Start investing small amounts of money into things you can see being trade items if the economy collapsed and paper money was worthless.  A few things that would be worth trade to people would be; 
  1. Precious metal jewelry 
  2. Precious metal coins and bars like gold and silver (Gold is very over priced right now and you might be better off with silver, it’s best to own a few coins and bars of each though.  Here is a link to a great site that offers both.) 
  3. Bullets (Even if you choose not to own a gun, or are in the process of getting one, getting a few boxes of common ammo like .22 and 9mm will trade easily.  Here is a bulk ammo website.)
  4. Boxes of cigarettes (People who do smoke will kill for cigarettes if they can’t get them.)
  5. Extra cheap knives
  6. Razor cartridges for common razors
  7. Multi-vitamins (What makes these nice is that they are small, and you can use them as well.) 
     There are limitless possibilities here.  Items like these can have a much better value in the long run then something like a mutual fund or bond.
     There you have it, some basic preps to help you and your family become more self-reliant.  If you want to go beyond these basic preps, you can start looking into building a proper EDC system, and a B.O.B.  You can also start looking into buying some rural land if you have reached a level of prep you are comfortable with, and are looking for a 'next step'.  If you are interested in further information start reading over past posts in my blog, and start looking over some of the blogs I suggest in the side bar.  The information is at your finger tips with many books on the subject and the internet.  It just takes a willing mind and some dedication.  Good Luck!!


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Loss of Electric! Keeping Warm Indoors

     There you are lying in bed in your warm apartment reading a good survival book.  You put the kids to sleep a few hours ago and your wife is sleeping soundly besides you.  You’re all tired because you spent the day making sure your apartment preps were in order due to a big, “storm of the century” snow storm on the way to the city.  You know that media has been wrong many (many) times before about storm intensity on The East Coast, but you figured it never hurts to go over your supplies.  As a prepper you believe in always being prepared.  You are also aware that when the city does get hit by a major snow storm, it cripples us (mainly due to our lack of preparation and knowledge of how to handle big snow.)  Though you love your book and could read one more chapter, you decide to turn off the lamp and retire for the night.  As your about to close your eyes, you decide to get up and take a brief glance out your window.  You see maybe six inches of snow accumulation on the ground already, maybe this time they could be right?

     You awake early to notice that your head and face are strangely cold.  In fact it’s so cold in your bedroom, that you can see a hint of your breath when you breathe.  You look over at your digital clock, it's dead.  You try your lamp, same deal.  Electric is out.  "No problem" you think to your self, "I have a hand-crank portable radio so I can check the news to see what the deal is, and when the electric is expected to come back on."  You turn on the radio to get the news and happen to look outside just as the radio announcer states;  “storm of the century hits the East Coast…  Twenty feet…  Electric grid down from New York to Chicago!”

     This little piece is intended to paint a very plausible picture of what happens to us in the city when we are faced with a mini-disaster.  Now most people who are prepared should be able to get through this type of disaster with little change to their lives.  They may in fact enjoy the snow, and make the best of the situation by learning how effective their preps were for the few days they lost power.  By taking stock of what worked, what didn’t, and what they lacked most, if anything, they could help bolster confidence in their preparation for future events.  I mentioned this story to help you get a glimpse of all that is possible in our day-to-day lives in New York.  The story is also meant to get you to start thinking about how sufficient your families preps are, and if you could handle something as simple as being without electric for a few days in the winter.  Imagine the disaster laid out above and play it over in your mind’s eye.  Would you have enough water, food, and supplies for your family to live comfortably in your apartment for a few days without electric?  How would you handle you and your family’s safety if your apartment’s temperature dropped into the low 40’s?

     I mentioned this topic briefly in yesterdays post about portable stoves, and it’s something that needs to be addressed with winter quickly approaching.  My main problem with using your stove or even a propane heater to heat your apartment is that they are extremely dangerous if left on for long periods of time due to carbon monoxide poisoning.  Carbon monoxide is very dangerous.  It’s invisible, does not smell, and you won’t know what hit you until your dead.  Another problem with portable fuel heaters is the risk of fire.  The fire department will have enough problems with the grid being down, and starting a fire could have very deadly consequences.

     There are a few safe ways of keeping you and your family much warmer if stuck with no heat, all of which just require some proper prep, and knowledge (of course.)  The first line of defense against the cold will be the proper use of clothing.  I go over a wonderful three-layer system in this post.  After getting an understanding of the proper use of layers, the only other thing about clothing I would like to add is to make sure everyone in the family has a comfortable wool hat, and wears it at all times while in the cold apartment.

     The next step will be to either locate the smallest room in your apartment, besides the bathroom, or set up a tent where you can fit it.  This location will be where you will sleep.  By shrinking the space you and your family sleep in, you’re conserving the heat from your bodies.  I prefer the tent method as it’s easy to place in the living room with some sleeping pads/bags and is very efficient.  If you have kids, I suggest making it into a fun indoor camping trip hot chocolate and all.  The less you stress about disasters, the less they will.  If you don’t have a tent, place blankets in the doorways of the room to help keep the heat confined to that room.  You could also build a “fort” like you did as a child with pillows and sofa cushions.  You should place a bunch of beds on the floor as well, so you’re not directly on the floor.

     The next step will be to cover your windows with clear plastic and duck tape.  Make sure to use clear plastic, and if it is a window that gets lots of natural sunlight don’t block too much of the sun’s rays.  You could also use mylar space blankets, but I would only suggest those if the window gets no sun.  Also place a towel at the bottom of your front door if there is a draft.

     The last and probably most effective way of staying warm is to sleep next to each other.  Your body’s natural heat will fill up your small sleeping space quickly.  If you have animals, invite them into your tent or fort as well.  You should also be sure that everyone ups their calorie intake as that helps heat up the body’s ‘internal furnace’.  Drinking hot liquids also heats the body core up, and boosts morale.  Try and have some hot coco or caffeine free teas on hand to drink before going to bed.  You can heat the water up with your portable stove.  Just do me and your neighbors a favor; don’t leave it on to heat your apartment up.

     A few preps can really make a difference in how you handle disasters large or small in The Apple.  If something like this does occur in the future you will be able to take it in stride.  Who knows, you may even get time to get in some sleigh riding in Central Park while everyone else is digging out. 


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Quick Pick: Portable Stove

     A portable propane camping stove can make a great addition to your New York City dwelling for use during or after an emergency.  It can be very helpful if we lose electric and or gas for anywhere from a day to a month, and can take up virtually no room at all.  It allows you to be self-reliant if necessary and do many useful things if stuck with no utilities, especially during the colder months.  Some helpful applications for your stove would be: 
  • Heat up your supply of canned foods (though you should stock many canned goods that can be safely eaten cold).
  • Make water potable. 
  • Sanitizes dirty rags and or clothes by boiling them. 
  • Allows you to make hot 'moral boosting' drinks like coffee and tea. 
  • Spot bathe with a warm pot of potable water.  You do that by dipping a clean rag in the water and wiping down your body with water and soap.  The key is to not soak yourself, but just use enough water to help the soap lather, and then enough water to help wash off the soap. 
  • Heat up your apartment if the temperature is extremely cold outside, though this should be a last resort use.  There are better products for this, and definitely better/safer methods to conserve heat in apartments to keep you warm.
     You will find your stove most useful in short- to mid- length disasters as you can only store so much propane.  Laws in New York only allow you to store two 16 oz. canisters (I’m not 100% on this one, but I’m pretty sure I read that somewhere.)  The small portable camp canister can last you for a few months at a time if you properly ration the fuel.  If you decide to store more than 2 canisters, keep in mind fire safety issues.  If there is a fire in your apartment building, propane canisters could go off like a bomb adding a much bigger risk to you and your family’s safety.  You should also keep in mind where you store the tanks.  Away form where you sleep is suggested.

     If you wanted to break the law (tsk. tsk.) and have a long-term supply of propane, you can store a 20 lbs. propane cylinder, though I really don’t suggest that at all as it could be dangerous and unnecessary.  If you have a porch or balcony you could store the large tank out there, but if you do have that luxury I would suggest keeping a cheap charcoal grill out there instead.  Make sure to have a bag or two of charcoal as well.  The pros to charcoal grills are that you can burn more than just charcoal (i.e. furniture, books, etc.)

     Safety will obviously be a major concern while using and storing an outdoor stove while indoors.  Like most things dangerous you will have to be extra careful, and make sure to always follow a set of protocol.  Most propane stoves will not have instructions for indoor use so there will be a few key things to remember; 
  1. Make sure to properly ventilate the room. - You can do so by using the stove near an open window, or even possibly on your fire escape.  The one concern with being near open windows will be security.  If the disaster lasts more than a few days, crime will run rampant in Manhattan.  You will have to be much more covert while cooking, and showing others you have food.  One option, if available to you, could be cooking near a window with no entry from the outside (i.e. seventh floor window opening out into an ally.)
  2. Keep all flammable objects away from stove. – Make sure you cook somewhere where the stove will not catch things on fire.  One of the best places should be near or on your existing stove in the apartment. 
  3. Make sure the stove is stable and secure. – Pretty obvious, just try and make sure you keep the stove on a stable platform and make sure no one can bump into it.  Once again, the best place will probably be on your stove as the family will already have the body awareness of that area being for cooking. 
  4. Only cook items in a pot. – Don’t heat your marshmallows over the fire please, you’re not camping… 
  5. Use a lid on the pots you cook with. – This will heat things up much faster, and help you conserve precious fuel.
     One last thing I wanted to mention was what I mentioned above about using the stove to heat your apartment.  Though you could do this, and should if you’re about to freeze to death, I don’t suggest it.  There are many alternatives to keeping you and your family warm without having to resort to using an unsafe product intended for outdoor use.  I will do a post on a few methods to keeping you warm in your apartment without the use of unsafe fuels or traditional utilities either tomorrow or the next day.  

     Below is a great two burner stove sold by Coleman that would be perfect for most small families.  You can also look into some of the very compact, efficient 'pocket stoves' that are meant for camping if space is an issue.  The "MSR pocket stove" I link below is a great one person portable camping stove, and can save you a bunch of room if you just use it store it and a case of small fuel canisters.  If you have been prepping for a while, then your B.O.B. should have a small stove in it that you could use.  I suggest the propane stoves, for ease of use and convenience for two or more people.  If stuck bugging-in for a long period of time, having one of these will make a bad situation, much easier to handle. 


Self-Defense: Pepper Spray

     This new series of posts is going to be about what I suggest you own, and use for self-defense as a New Yorker.  New Yorker's are a bit limited in defense options due to the strict laws we have.  These posts are meant to help keep you, and those you love protected in the most legal, realistic way possible, helping you ultimately decide what you will choose as your self-defense options.  I will be touching upon all aspects of self-defense from day-to-day personal defense and training, to long-term home defense.  I will also do my best to explain the safety, and responsibility issues you will face when owning an item that is intended to harm others.

     Pepper spray (also known by the brand name ‘Mace’) is a very effective item that helps you debilitate and escape from a potential attacker.  It does so by spraying an inflammatory agent affecting a person’s breathing, vision, and skin for anywhere from 15 minutes to over an hour, allowing you to make a hasty retreat.  The active ingredient in most pepper sprays is called Oleoresin Capsicum (OC).  The amount of OC that is in the product effects how potent the spray will be.  There are many producers of pepper spray on the market these days, most are pretty generic and will get the job done in most cases.

     Unfortunately for us in our bustling metropolis, we are limited in what kind of pepper spray we can legally carry, and how much OC it has in it.  We can legally carry, and buy online, pepper spray that is made to deter animals.  This type of pepper spray has a very little amount of OC, (or whatever active ingredient the EPA deems humane) and is not as potent so it will not harm the animal long-term.  This type of pepper spray can be all you need to neutralize an assailant, but leaves me a bit skeptical on its effectiveness against someone who is mentally ill or is on some type of drug (as most would-be attackers typically are.)  It also makes me wonder how long its debilitating effects will last.  "Mace" makes a dog pepper spray that I link below, and though the reviews are not great, it is a legal option.  The other spray "Halt", is what you see attached to most mail carrier's bags or belt.  You can carry bear spray in New York, but you will definitely run into problems with its size, as it will be hard to conceal.  Also, the size of the container actually makes it illegal to carry in Manhattan.  As a side note, if you are camping in the bush during bear season it is legal to carry a big can of bear spray in the state of New York, and probably not a bad idea to do so.

      A few more laws and restrictions that you should be aware of if you do decide to buy pepper spray for you or your loved ones self-defense are; 
  • You need to be 18 years or older to buy, and or use pepper spray.
  • You cannot have a history of felony convictions or assaults. 
  • You can only buy the spray at a gun dealer or an authorized pharmacy. 
  • You have to complete a form with your name, address, date of birth. 
  • You cannot transport the spray into another state. 
  • You can’t give your pepper spray to a minor (sorry young teenagers, no self-protection for you.)
     Another quick thing to mention is that it states in NY law that you should carry around the directions of use the spray came with.   Most companies place these instructions on the bottles, but to be on the safe side, also carry around any printed materials the spray came with in your purse or EDC system.

     As with anything potentially harmful to others, you need to do your homework on the proper use and safety precautions of pepper spray.  One of the most common problems with it is that people end up getting splashed (a foam based pepper spray alleviates that problem) or they breathe in the spray that they are using to debilitate an attacker causing the same debilitating affects to themselves.  As most situations will be different, here are some things to keep in mind when using the spray; 
  • Try and take a step or two back from the attacker. Best case scenario is to spray them from about two to three feet away.
  • When about to spray, do your best to remember to hold your breath. 
  • Do your best to shield your eyes (glasses would be helpful if you wear them.) 
  • Remember while trying to shield your eyes, to aim it at the assailants head and face. 
  • As pepper spray is a deterrent, when the attacker is subdued, run away to get help.
     Having done extensive research on different sprays and companies, I have found this product to be the best ‘legal’ option for us New Yorker’s.  It comes in a few different sizes, and is fairly easy to find, and buy.  The site for the above product also has some great info on pepper spray laws in NY, as well as a location finder for a dealer.  Here is a link to another site with tons of useful info as well.  Read over this page to explain the different applications of foams, foggers, and forced-cone type sprays.

     You can buy pepper spray for your out of town relatives (i.e. non-New York residents) from online stores like Amazon.  Maybe even buy two for them so you can have them ship you the extra one in a new box, or you can pick them up in person the next time you visit.  Not that I suggest that because it is totally illegal, and can get you arrested and fined if caught.  Also keep in mind that if you do use an illegal spray on a would-be attacker, you could face potential legal problems afterwards.  If you were to do something like that, then I might suggest the Cold Steel Inferno Pepper Spray I link from Amazon below, as it is a very effective spray.  But I know you would not do that, as you believe that our right to defend ourselves and our property were something our forefather’s put in The Constitution because they didn’t realize we would be protected by our impeccable police, and government.  Allowing us to ignorantly, I mean, blissfully let them take care of our personal safety, and security while we sit back and watch TV.


Friday, November 26, 2010

Quick Pick: Ponch Liner

     I have mentioned in a previous post that I grew up with a former Marine father who had bought many of his military items home after serving in Vietnam.  His poncho liner (at the time, I knew it as the comfy camouflage blanket) ended up being one of my favorite blankets, and for good reason.

     Poncho liners (also lovingly known as Wubbie's in the military) are military issue multi-purpose blankets that are typically made of a nylon shell with a polyester insulating filling.  They are durable, warm in the winter, cool in the summer, and dry extremely fast.  Originally they were intended to be added to your poncho as a liner/blanket to help keep you a bit warmer during cold, wet weather.  It has strings on all corners to help you tie the blanket to the poncho or to use in conjunction with your poncho as a waterproof shelter or makeshift sleeping bag (the strings also helped me build many an indoor fort as a child.) 

     Due to their light-weight, and how small the poncho liner can be folded up, they are great to have on hand especially while camping or hiking in the bush.  They make perfect sleeping bag liners, as the polyester helps 'wick' moisture from your body.  They're also ideal as a ground mat for sitting on the ground as the nylon shell is naturally resistant to dirt and moisture.  

     There really are a million and one uses for these blankets, and after trying it you will be amazed at how comfortable, and useful this little gem is.  The one problem you might find will be matching your apartments furniture to the camo color.  Luckily camo is in style right now in fashion, so you might be starting a new furniture trend...


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

      I hope all of you have a wonderful Thanksgiving.  Though it is often a day thought of as a ‘football watching, eat till you burst’ kind of day, I prefer to observe it how it was most likely intended; a day to be with family and friends.  During this day I like to surround myself with those who I love.  It helps to remind me why I prep, and who I prep for.  I’m more of a “glass half full” kind of person, and try not to get lost in the doom and gloom of survivalism.

     We all prepare for different reasons.  By reminding yourself during the holiday season why you prep, and by reassessing your prepping needs and wants, you can help refocus your efforts.  Focus is one of the most powerful states of mind a human can attain.  While focusing on a goal, you are unstoppable, and by continually reminding yourself of your focus, you can truly achieve great things.

     I personally take this time to remind myself why I do this in the first place; to allow myself, and those I love continue to be confident in the fact that no matter what happens, we will do our best to survive with the knowledge and supplies we have acquired.  I especially take solace during the holidays that my knowledge can be used to help other, less informed (unprepared) New Yorker’s through whatever disaster may occur to us in our big beautiful city.

     Make an effort to remember what Thanksgiving is all about this year; love and appreciation.  Appreciate the good in your life, and love those around you.


Friday, November 19, 2010

The Neck Knife

     My post today is about my recommended knife carrying system while in the bush; the neck knife.  I would like to explain in a bit more detail what this system is, and why I use and suggest it.

     The neck knife most likely came from Scandinavian countries.  They often wear their knives around the chest area by either using a necklace attached to the sheath or by placing the sheath on a button near the top of their overalls.  Many traditional Scandinavian countries had this button placed on their clothing just for this purpose.  The reason they place the knife there is so they could get to the knife quickly and efficiently if they fell into frozen water.  They could then use the knife to help pull them out of the ice by sticking it into the harder ice around them or by chipping through the ice to escape.

      The Scandinavians must have quickly realized the benefits of keeping their knives around the neck because many of the Scandinavian knife companies like Mora, and Roselli make many of their 3 and 4 inch blades exceptionally light.  Some weighing in at barely 3 ounces, with the sheath!  Most of these knives are made of either a hardened carbon steel, or stainless steel.  I prefer carbon steel as I’ve explained in my past post about knives here.  If you live near the beach, or often use your knife in salt water, then I might suggest stainless steel as it will be more resistant to rust.

     These days, many outdoor guru’s, and survivalist’s use a neck knife for slightly different reasons, though it would still help if you fell into a frozen body of water.  Mainly it is worn around the neck for convince, but there is much more to it than that and I would like to go over some of the benefits here;
  • Conveniently located - Why search around in your pocket or under your shirt/jacket when you can place the knife on the outside of your clothing.
  • Can be concealed easily – Great for New Yorker’s, even if you’re upstate, as knives are perceived as dangerous, and mainly used by criminals in this part of the country.  It’s still easily accessible if under your clothing, more so then a belt knife anyway.  I mean in the bush by the way, don't walk around the city streets with a knife under your shirt, it will most likely be considered illegal because it has a pointed tip.
  • Can be accessed by one hand – Because the knife is light, you can use one hand to pull it from the sheath. 
  • Knife is on you at all times – If you change clothing, you can leave the knife on and not forget it in the process.  Belt knives have to be removed if you change pants or belts. 
  • Wear whatever pants or shorts you want – You no longer have to wear a pair of pants with pockets, or a belt.  You can also wear light shorts because you no longer have to worry about attaching the knife to your belt. 
     There are many neck knives on the market right now, and more and more companies seem to be jumping on the wagon (which is not a bad thing.)  I use and suggest one of the variations of carbon steel Mora for use as a neck knife.  The 4 inch S-2 is the perfect blend of size, weight, and function in my opinion.  It is also durable, and since it is polished can be used as a signaling devise similar to a mirror if lost in the bush.

      You can turn your neck knife into a bit of a survival necklace if you don't mind a little bit of added weight.  I prefer what minimalist survivalist Cody Lundin does and make the knife sheath a mini kit.  The idea is to always have a knife, signaling devise, way of starting a fire, and container all close at hand easily accessible in an emergency.  He suggests wrapping a lighter on the bottom of the sheath with duck tape, as well as a non-lubricated condom.  The duck tape can then be reused if need be.  You make the necklace out of 550 paracord, which allows you to have cordage as well.  Last you can attach a whistle to the paracord as you should always have a whistle around your neck while in the bush anyway.  You can attach a compass as well, I prefer to use a separate compass around my neck so the metal from the knife does not interfere with the compass's reading.  You can also substitute a fire steel, for the lighter as it will be much more reliable, and add a small LED light.  Below is a picture of what mine looks like when worn, as well as what it looks like up close and some Amazon links to make your mini kit.  *Author's Edit* I have upgraded my neck knife a bit and added a cut piece of bicycle inner tube to hold the lighter in place.  Inner tubes make excellent emergency tinder as once lit, they will burn hot for a minute or two.  I've also added a foil wrapped iodine pill that can be used to purify a liter of water in a pinch.  I still wrap the condom with duct tape.  So now I have a knife kit that allows me to make fire with good waterproof tinder, purify water, water container, signaling device, cord, and has about 20 inches of multifunctional duct tape.

Here are a few links to YouTube of a few different variations on neck knives:



Thursday, November 18, 2010


     Sorry about the lack of posts, but my book is not going to write itself.  Today, as a treat, I'm going to write about something that I know many people are fond of (I definitely am); knives!

     As a child, I had an affinity for all things military.  My father is a former Marine and willingly enlisted to serve our country during The Vietnam War.  After serving, he returned home to continue his life, and start a family.  Being more knowledgeable about military gear now that I'm older, I have to laugh about all the different things around the house that were originally intended for his military career.  Some of my favorite blankets growing up were actually "poncho liners" (I still keep one of these in the apartment as it is one of the most comfortable blankets I've ever owned) and the uncomfortable, but exceptionally warm, military issue wool blend blankets.  He allowed me to use his old medals, and uniform's to help my very active imagination while playing "Army".  He also allowed me to own a few pocket knives which I cherished.  In fact, I still own my first Swiss Army Knife till this day, and the box it came in.

     If you read this blog, you know I am a firm believer in always having a knife of some sort as part of your EDC or EDB.  Unfortunately knives have got a bad wrap over the last few decades, especially in places like NYC.  The simple fact is that they are, and always have been, an extremely valuable tool.  Knives are a part of our culture as human beings, and a tool that has helped shape our modern society.  Talk to some of the older generations about how school children always had a pocket knife on them, and how going on an airplane with a large sheathed fixed-blade knife was normal, and acceptable.  Do knives have a dark side?  Sure.  Bad people use them for bad things, but that is unfortunately the case for most tools.  Axe's and hammer's have been used as murder weapons many times.  Just like the debate for firearms; "firearms don't kill people, people kill people."  The same applies to any object that can hurt or kill someone.

     I have to remind you not to be stupid, and obey local laws.  In New York, our laws are a bit vague, but pretty easy to figure out;  No auto assist knives (i.e. switch blade, or spring release.)  A knife has to have a blade that is no larger then four inches, or about the size of your palm.  And here is were it gets a bit tricky, no knife should have a sharp pointed edge.  The way I see it, the last one is so the police officer can use discretion as to if they see the knife as a tool, or as a weapon.  I have never had a problem with my Leatherman, but if I did I would explain that I use it during my job.  Yes I would be lying, but I would approach it in a submissive, friendly way.  If you choose to carry a small pocket knife like a Swiss Army Knife, then it should never be out of your pocket as to draw attention.  New Yorker's are a bit jumpy when it comes to things they determine a weapon.  You should never have your fixed-blade on you when you leave the house, unless it is an emergency or you are going into the bush.  It should be concealed or in your bag in either case.

     Now that I got that out of the way, I can get into the meat and potatoes of this post; fixed-blades.  NYC may have laws about carrying big knives, but none on buying and owning them. (Thankfully!  Not so lucky when it comes to gun ownership though, more on that in a future post.)  When shopping for a fixed-blade knife, rule number one is to make sure it's a full-tang blade.  Full-tang blade knifes are when the metal of the blade goes through the middle of the handle and ends at the bottom.  This makes the knife much stronger, and keeps the design simple.  The less parts there are, the better.  Next thing I suggest looking at is what the blade is made of.  There are a plethora of metals on the market these days, each one stronger and more expensive then the next.  Strong is great and all, as it can take a beating when you attempt to do something stupid with your delicate blade like cut down a tree, just like you saw on TV!  (Don't use your blade for stupid things please, if you break it, your screwed.)  Strong is not great when you have to sharpen the blade after it becomes dull and all you have is a ceramic rod or a wet rock to sharpen your blade with.  Unless your a master sharpener, you will have a real problem getting a fine edge on your knife if it's made of a tough metal.  I personally prefer, and suggest carbon steel.  It is a softer metal, which makes it much easier to sharpen.  It also has the added benefit of creating a spark to start a fire if struck with a sharp object like a rock edge.  Carbon steel needs a bit more attention then its harder brethren, and should be dried before stored.  You should also do your best not to abuse it by attempting to cut down trees, throwing it or digging it into the ground.  

     The last thing you should look for is a good sharpening bevel or primary grind.  A bevel is where the edge begins, typically in the center of the knife, and gets finer until it becomes the fine edge.  Unfortunately, many modern knife makers no longer use the bevel.  It has become decoration, as it serves no other purpose.  Modern knives have a secondary grind of the edge making it sharp, but hard to sharpen.  A wedge or chisel shaped point is easier to sharpen as the bevel sits into the sharpener, taking the guess work out of trying to figure out where the edge is suppose to be.  A master sharpener can put an extremely fine secondary grind on a blade making the knife super fine, but most of us are not masters, and I find that the easier to sharpen in the field, the better.  

     Which brings me to why I don't suggest using a folding knife as your primary knife.  I am not a fan of products that have a lot of working parts.  The most functional tools in the world are simplistic in design, and don't rely on many parts.  The same should apply to your knife, as it's one of the most important pieces of equipment you can have on you in the bush or during a disaster. 

     So where does that leave us?  A fixed carbon steel, full-tang blade with a wide bevel.  The beautiful part of carbon steel blades, is that they tend to be very reasonably priced.  In fact Mora, a Swedish knife company, makes an excellent assortment of carbon steel blades priced in the $15-$20 range.  I have owned and used Mora's blades for a few years and I am very impressed with the quality of their blades.  Their carbon steel knives come in all different shapes and sizes.  I suggest the blade be no longer then 4 inches if you are going to use it as a neck knife.  If you need something a little bit bigger, Mora offer's a few larger sizes as well.  Here is a great web site that has a full catalog of Mora knives, as well as many other Swedish knife companies that I suggest looking at.  If your new to knives, the Mora Clipper I list below, is a great starter knife, as well as a great back-up knife.  You can also find my favorite Mora knife the S-2 here.  Since carbon steel blades are very reasonably priced, I suggest owning a few.  The following are a list of a few that Amazon offers.