Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Bare Minimum: Flashlight

     As I sit here and write this, I can't help but hope that most of you reading this say to yourself "Of coarse I have a flashlight, what apartment/house doesn't!?"  Having lived in NYC for several years, I unfortunately know too many people that would not think that at all.  In fact, some of these exact people lived in Manhattan during the black-out of  '03, and still don't have one.  

      Flashlights are one of those things, you don't realize you need, till you need it.  They come in many shapes, sizes, watts, and many other technical terms you really don't need to know.  They are sold all over the place in the city, their cheap, and there is just no excuse for not owning at least a few.  Make sure they are in easily accessible places, and you remember where you place them.  Just like the radio, you should own one flashlight that has a sustainable power source (i.e. hand-crank, solar), so if you don't have any spare batteries on hand, (Bare Minimum post on batteries linked here) you can charge it manually.  One thing to look out for in a portable flashlight is that it has one or more LED light bulbs.  They last many times longer then incandescent bulbs, and don't blow through batteries.

      I suggest having at least one hand-crank, and one LED headlamp in your apartment.  Headlamps are ideal for times when you need both hands to operate (i.e. everything.)  They are reasonably priced, and are useful when on camping trips, or riding the bicycle late-night.  Headlamps also tend to have LED bulbs in them, allowing them to last for a long time if conserved properly.

      Owning a portable lighting option in a city whose power grid is a little shaky, is a smart start for budding preppers.  Darkness is debilitating (not to mention scary) for most families, and not having light can really make a bad situation, worse.  Do your family, and yourself, a favor and either go out and buy a flashlight or check the batteries of the flashlights you do own.  Taking small steps toward self-reliance will help you feel more confident, and sleep better at night.  Here are some lights I suggest:  


Monday, September 27, 2010

Quick Pick: Rain Coat

     On this very rainy Monday in New York City I figured I would do a 'Quick Pick' on a rain coat.  I often use a poncho*, because it can cover me, my backpack, and can be easily transported.  Unfortunately a poncho may not be an option sometimes and a rain coat might be needed when you want to look a little more fashionable/normal on the city streets, and in places of business.   

     *I will say this to those of you that would never wear a poncho; you often get looked at while wearing it around on rainy days, but it's a two phase look.  At first people think "that guy looks weird",  but as soon as the thought goes through their head, you see the voice of reason kick in and instantly remind the person that I am dry, and they are not.  They stop staring after that.

     For the days when I have to wear a rain jacket, instead of a poncho, I like to have a jacket made of a 'breathable fabric' like Gore-Tex or something similar.  Gore-Tex can be expensive, but is in my opinion the best waterproof breathable fabric on the market right now.  Gore-Tex is a must in good hiking boots, and I will get into that in another post.  There are a few different forms, and functions of Gore-Tex, but when it comes to rain during the warmer months in the city, Paclite is the way to go.  As the name suggests, it's light in fabric, and weight.  Many of the mainstream companies (i.e. The North Face, Marmot, L.L.Bean, etc.) make Paclite jackets, and though they use the Gore-Tex Paclite fabric, they do differ in size, weight, and price.  For the most part they are similar, and I suggest going with a company you know and trust.  Some things to look for when shopping are; pit-zippers (to keep you cool), a good hood, extra vents, and zippers that are taped and waterproof.  The following jackets are what I either own or suggest.  Shop around to see what you can find.

     Marmot makes a great product, and this jacket is no exception.  It has pit-zips, is lightweight, and packable.  I have not seen it for less than $200, which makes it a very expensive rain coat.  *Edit: I recently saw this jacket for $145, so shop around and wait for the price to drop if you can.*  Gore-Tex makes a great outer-shell. (Three-Layer System post)  Mainly an 'outer-shell' is used as a wind and precipitation block for the colder months.  So it's not only useful as a rain coat, but it can be the outer-shell of your layer-system.  Still expensive though.

     This jacket is one that I have owned for a few months.  It's what I use when I'm in the bush most of the time, as it's cheap, has a ton of pockets, and is durable.  The Condor Soft Shell Jacket does not use Gore-Tex, but instead uses a 'breathable technology' from Condor.  It stands up to rain for the most part, but if it get's too wet, for too long, it will start to get heavy and seep.  It's not given me problems in the city at all though, because I'm not outside long enough for it to be a problem.  The jacket itself, is more of a fall jacket, because it does have a fleece lining making it not so ideal for hot temperatures.  It also has a bit of a military/tactical feel to it, so if you don't like that look, stay away.  What really sold me on this jacket is that I purchased it with a Condor Micro Fleece Jacket that fits underneath the Soft Shell Jacket, giving you a much warmer option for colder days, and is ideal for layering when outdoors.  I would purchase the jacket, or jackets, here at U.S., as they have great prices, good customer service, and often offer deals and discounts.  Both jackets together cost about $120, which is an amazing deal for two great products.  Here is an online review for the soft shell, and here is one for the micro fleece if you want to see some of the functions these jackets have.

     This is another expensive, but good Paclite for women by a company called Arc'teryx .  This company makes great outdoor gear, but tends to be the most expensive.  Arc'teryx makes their Paclite jackets some of the lightest on the market if that's what you are looking for.

     This is mentioned in my ECB, but figured I would throw it in here again, in case I sold you on using a poncho....



     I have always been fond of running; it is a type of meditation for me.  Running in NYC is one of the easiest and cheapest sports you can participate in.  All you need are sneakers and a running path.  It's very satisfying, as in the more time and effort you put into it, the better your results will be.  What people tend to get wrong when starting out is that they over do it.  They run too often, and keep a faster pace then they can handle.  Like most sports, it takes time, and there is no reason to kill yourself in the beginning.  Just take it nice and slow and let your body build its endurance naturally. 

     You can find great paths all over the place.  Central Park is a quite place during the week in the mornings and afternoons, and has a few good off-road, trail running paths as well.  The West Side has a wonderful running and biking path that goes from The World Trade Center all the way up into the 100’s.  The East Side has a path going from 59th street up into the 100’s as well as from 34th street all the way down to the Staten Island Ferry.   If you’re a skilled enough runner, you could always challenge yourself to one of the many races that occur throughout the year working your way up to The New York City Marathon.  That’s the great thing about running; you don’t need an actual path.  You can run up and down any street, or sidewalk.  Run to and from work, to the dry cleaner, wherever. 

     From a survivalist stand-point, running helps keep you in shape and your endurance high for whatever disaster situations you may find yourself in.  Like for instance; there is another black-out and you have to walk down 40 flights of stairs (just like the last black-out that forced people to do just that.)  You don't want to add to the emergency because you are about to pass out from the physical activity you are forced to do during a disaster.  A survivalist will also gain a lot from running by studying the terrain of his neighborhood.  Find your local police department, nearest park, or closest bridge.  Running up and down the blocks around your apartment paying attention to your surroundings will teach you a ton about the people and places in your neighborhood. 

     Staying in shape obviously has many other benefits, the most important of which is your health.  One of the most ironic aspects of the survival prep community is that these people have enough food and supplies to last them 20 years, but will die of a massive heart attack in 2 years due to poor health.  Your health comes before all prep, because without your health, all that prep is useless.
     Get yourself some good, upbeat music, a pair of decent shoes, put one foot in front of the other, and get out there.  If you have bad knees, I suggest power walking, which is much better on the joints and can also give you some great results.  Make sure to stay hydrated, and as always, bring your EDC equipment.


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Kits: ECB (Suggested Bags)

     This is a quick post finishing up my ECB (everyday carry bag) series.  I'm going to give you some ideas on what you can use for an ECB, and explain what I use and suggest.
  • The following bag is what I use a good portion of the time.  It's perfect for people who, like me, are able to carry a backpack throughout the day.  It's made by Maxpedition, a company that I have mentioned before and highly recommend.  Their gear is durable, and has tons of amazing little features.  I suggest shopping from the main site instead of getting it through the following Amazon link because they are a reputable company.  I also suggest getting a "normal" color like black or a neutral color, as digital camo might be a bit much for our city environment.
     On a side note, I travel often and prefer not to check luggage.  One of the amazing features of this pack is that it expands to give you tons of room.  I can easily pack a few days worth of clothes in this giving me a reasonably sized carry-on bag.  Maxpedition has a few choices of packs that you may prefer over this one.  Do some research and see which one works for you.
  • The next bag I suggest is from the company Timbuk2.   This companies bags are functional and stylish.  Many of the messenger bags you see people carrying around the city are Timbuk2, which will help you blend into the crowd.  Timbuk2 makes mini pouches that strap onto belts and straps for cameras and phones that I suggest as well.
  • The last one I suggest is not so much of a pack, as it is a small pouch to put your EDC in.  The company LeSportsac makes a bunch of different nylon pouches that are great to put your gear in.  The pouch, with the gear in it, can then be moved from pack, to purse, to backpack and so on.  These little pouches are great for women because, other then being fashionable, they can easily be transported from whatever bag or purse you decide to carry that day.  These packs are also a good option for men, though finding a neutral color might be a bit difficult.  This company also has a few different sizes and options, so be sure to shop around before deciding.
     The blog that I often read and refer to; Code Name Insight has a post about what his EDC looks like linked here.  He uses a LeSportsac to transport his gear, and has a bit more info on that system.  I personally use a backpack, as stated above, for my ECB most of the time.  If I can't have a backpack and I'm not going to be away from the apartment for a long period of time, I will just have my EDC as I explain in my EDC Series of posts linked here.


      Friday, September 24, 2010

      Defining a Modern Survivalist


            I often get asked by people, why do I practice and believe in survivalism?  To answer the question I often have to explain where the ideas come from first, and then why.  The words 'survivalism' and 'survivalist' are misunderstood, and often misinterpreted in my opinion.  When you use terms like these, you run the risk of people assuming that you are a military guy, gun nut, or wacko with a tin foil hat.  This, in reality, could not be further from the truth.  The terms are currently media's buzz words for ideas and practices that have been around since the dawning of man.  Show's like Discovery's Dual Survival, Man vs. Wild, and Les Stroud's Beyond Survival are becoming more and more popular and are watched by millions of viewers every week.  Magazines, websites, and blogs like this one, about camping, homesteading, and survival are getting more attention then ever.

           Though survivalism seems to be a new idea and it's popping up all over the place in media, its concepts are ancient.  It's been called many different things over the years; survivalism, homesteading, prepping, self-sufficiency, The Prepper Movement, etc.  The survivalist/prepper movement really got its start in the 1960's when global nuclear war became a very real threat.  People started to realize that all our modern conveniences could be gone in a flash, and our societies infrastructure was actually very fragile.  The movement gets, what I'll call "refreshed and renewed" every so many years when something big is on the horizon for humanity (i.e. nuclear war, Y2K bug, 2012.)  These 'movements' lose steam though, as people lose interest and stop caring once the impending doom has passed.  Many a businessman have made a fortune on these trends by playing into peoples' fears and selling ideas, and products that will save you from the disaster.  You are starting to see that a lot right now with the approaching 2012 scare.

           Before the 60's, prepping and self-reliance did not need to be a movement because it really was just common sense and a way of life for most of the world.  Many of our grandparents remember that way of life as they grew up during those uncertain times.  They lived (though were probably children) at a time when indoor plumbing was not very common, and things like growing your own food, and preserving it for future use was normal for most households.  Most of that generation is now gone unfortunately, taking with them the knowledge that our now elder generations in the United States, don't have.  We as a nation have been fortunate enough to have had many years of exceptional wealth.  All present generations only know these wealthy times and have never seen a real major disaster such as The Great Depression, or either World War.  Most of us have witnessed a few regional disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and 9/11.  These events were drastic, especially in the areas where they happened, but for the most part did not effect our day to day lives.  Our current younger generations have no real survival knowledge beyond how to survive in our rich, and plentiful environment.  They don't get to hear the stories from the generations before that have the hands-on experience that most of us lack.  (Like when my Grandfather was young and had to walk to school 3 miles in the snow uphill, both ways!!  Maybe he exaggerated it a bit, but I'm sure it still sucked...)

           I do use the terms 'survival' and 'survivalism' often in this blog, but I do so with a purpose.  The purpose is to educate and bring awareness of something that we in America, and especially in N.Y.C., have already forgotten; self-reliance!  The modern survivalist is not about stockpiling as many guns and ammo as one possibly can, it's about preparing for realistic, very plausible events that can happen to us in our modern society.  It's about taking control of how prepared you are for these events, while not having to rely on others (i.e. the government.) 

           To me survivalism is more about controlling my own destiny, without having to rely on those that I do not trust.  Self-reliance allows me to live comfortably and confidently with the knowledge that no matter what disaster happens to me and those I love, I am in control of how prepared we are.  No one can control the disaster, or if you will even survive it.  That is the unknown, its out of our control, and should be let go of.  Knowing I can control how prepared I am for whatever disaster (large or small) comes my way without relying on outside help, that may never come, allows me to live without fear.

           Here is a link to a podcast about Prepping from "The Survival Podcast".  It is a worth-while listen, and goes a bit more into detail of why he, and other people believe survivalism is one of the most important things you can do for yourself and your loved ones, which I agree with completely.


      Thursday, September 23, 2010

      Kits: ECB (Everyday Carry Bag)

           The ECB, or everyday carry bag is a bit more involved then the everyday carry items listed and explained in previous posts.  It’s more of a daily safety bag for a number of things that can happen to you throughout the course of a “normal” day.  It goes a bit beyond the basics, and should be on you if you are leaving for work, or will be away from home for a few hours.  It may seem like a lot of stuff, but with a bit of ingenuity, you can fit it all into something like a small nylon pouch that can be transferred into bigger carrying cases like a purse, backpack, briefcase, etc.

      • 12-27 oz. stainless steel water bottle - This obviously won't fit into the bag, but I mention it because you should always have a full water container on you at all times.  You can boil water in this in an emergency situation, it helps if you spray paint the outside of the bottle with a high heat enamel spray paint.  Don't buy aluminum bottles, which are cheaper and lighter, because it leaches.  I like attaching a carabiner to the top and hanging it from my backpack, or belt.
      • Spork - These are lightweight, and very useful if you find yourself without a utensil while getting a quick bite on the go.
      • Pen light or small flashlight - Though you have a light on your EDC Key-chain, a small lightweight pen light can be very useful for more reasons then I can get into.
      • Food - Dried fruit or nuts, Cliff Bar, Lifesavers, things that won’t spoil or melt.  Here is a post on the power gel I make, and carry.
      • Passport - Though a lot of people won't agree, having a few forms of ID on you at all times is very important.  Passports don't have personal information, like your home address, on them.
      • Lighter or matches
      • Pen and paper - Useful for many things in daily city living.  In a survival situation, they are excellent for leaving notes to friends or family if real-time communication go down.  If your in unknown backcountry, you can draw a patrol map of your area so you know where places of interest are i.e. watering holes, shelter etc.
      • Ultra small packable waterproof windbreaker - Can be substituted with a nylon “reusable” poncho, which I prefer, but the windbreaker looks a bit more fashionable.  You can also substitute a small umbrella, even though I think most are fragile and too big.
      • Compact signal mirror - Optional because you have one in your wallet, but since there small and very useful, it never hurts to have more than one.
      • Mylar space blanket - One or two, they take up no space at all and they have unlimited uses.
      • Bandana - Multiple uses like a sling for broken arms, filter water through, keep the sun off your head, wipe off sweat, snot rag...on and on and on.... These things are priceless!
      • Wool hat - You can take this out in the summer if you would like.  This amazing piece of equipment is explained in this post.
      • Quart sized zip-lock bag - I use for many things, but I most often thrown my phone and wallet in one of these if I get caught in the rain.
      • Un-waxed floss - Can be used as thread, or its intended use.
      • Small first aid kit - Any of your own medication, a few Band-Aids, aspirin, Benadryl, alcohol wipes, sewing needle (You can use the above floss as thread), ginger pills (great for upset stomach and motion sickness), feminine hygiene products i.e. tampons and maxi pads (many uses like wound compress, and fire tinder.)
      • $100 in cash - Left in bag, not in wallet.
      • Rubber bands - Just a few.
      • Safety pins
      • Condom - Non-lubricated for transporting liquids in an item like a hat or glove.
      • Spare set of apartment keys
      • 55-Gallon contractor bag - I carry one of these in my ECB, and in all my other kits as well.  They have limitless possibilities.  I fold it up and attatch it to the the Mylar space blanket with a Ranger Band.
      • 50 Feet of 550 Paracord - This is optional because I wear about 10 feet on my wrist in the form of a paracord bracelet, but it's just so useful, I tend to carry around extra.

      Here are a few links of other peoples ECB:  

           Here is the post on what backpacks and or nylon pouches I suggest using for your ECB. 



           The term “minimalist” is somewhat of a new one to me.  I’ve heard it in passing, but never really paid it much mind until recently.  The more I research and practice the ideas of survival prep the more I see minimalism and preparation, in Manhattan, being a perfect fit.  The concept is an old one to me, having lived most of my life so far with the belief that I don’t want, and sure don’t need much to survive.  I find it rather enjoyable not having many possessions as it is extremely freeing and I suggest it to all.  It definitely makes it easy to keep stock of things, and though I do enjoy my apartment and my possessions, I’m not bound to them and can leave it all behind without much hesitation.  I believe that it is very important not to be attached to the objects of your life, or they will control you.

           Learning how to be a minimalist in N.Y.C. is probably easier than New Yorker's realize as most of us in some way or another already are.  We tend to have small living spaces, we keep limited supplies (which is, in my opinion, a recipe for disaster), and we very rarely have more things then we need.  This limited space requires us to keep only the necessary items.  We learn how to conserve space by proper use of shelving and innovative storage options i.e. raised beds, or making use of high ceilings.  Space is a hot commodity here that people pay top dollar for.

           A good portion of us do not have cars in the city.  If you do own a car, one of the first, and greatest things you can do for yourself as a downsizing budding minimalist is to get rid of your car.  Not only do you save a ton of money on no longer paying for gas, insurance, and upkeep, (not to mention if you don’t own the car and make payments on it tsk tsk) but you are also reducing your carbon footprint.  On top of the fact by now walking, or using the bike to commute, you have a constant activity to keep you in great shape (which by the way, is also very important to survival.)  The money saved by not having a car alone could easily help you build an effective survival cache.  Every day in the city you see more and more people making use of our excellent and ever expanding bike lanes (bikes by the way are perfect survival gear for New Yorker’s, but more on that in a later post.)  New York also has the world’s best, if not sometimes flawed, mass transit systems, and there are sidewalks and walking paths everywhere.

           By adopting some minimalist views you can save even more money by dropping your standard of living a bit.  Do you really need the apartment with the two bedrooms, and two bathrooms?  Now is a perfect time to get into a smaller more economical apartment.  Not only will it help to simplify your life, but it will help with another survival necessity, living debt free.  I know we already live in cramped conditions as opposed to the rest of the country, but take the time to consider how easy a smaller place is to clean, furnish, and afford.

           Making steps toward minimizing can be done immediately.  By slowly and methodically going through your closets, drawers, and storage singling out things you don’t need, or haven’t used in years.  My rule of thumb with clothes is if I have not wore it in a year I probably never will.  Certain items like tuxedos, suits, and ties might get a bit more leeway, but otherwise I promise you probably out grew them.  You have to ask yourself, how many suits do I really need?  How many purses do I need?  One of the best ways I have found to do a clean sweep of my items is by moving.  Moving in the city can be a real hassle, but you find that most of the items you own are not that important when you need to lug them up a 6 floor walk up.  But hey, I guess it can keep you in great shape!

           Start looking at your items in a new way.  I like to look for items that have more than one purpose.  Ask yourself, can this be of use to me in a survival/prep situation?  Most camping gear is definitely going to be useful.  A good portion of our day to day clothing is a bit iffy.  A lot of our city apartment dweller items probably won’t make the cut.  Now I’m not saying get rid of all the toys; T.V.’s, computers, and kickass stereo systems.  They all have their place in our day to day living, just try to remember to keep their size and cost reasonable.

           Selling items on Craigslist, pawn shops, or trade markets can make you some quick money and clear out some clutter.  Donating to a good cause, or giving items to friends can be a “good deed” and will defiantly make you feel good about yourself.  You can give items to some of the more important people in your life like your doctors, or local deli cashier as small tokens, or gifts.  Not only will they now like you more, but it will also get you in good graces.  Having a few key important people that like you are a must in a smaller survival scenario.  If you need medical attention, the doctor, who is now more of a friend, might rush to help you or your family first.  The deli may have run out of supplies to sell, but might be able to come up with something for you all thanks to the kindness you have showed in the past.  Being kind to all, and keeping your friends and neighbors close, may just save you and your family’s life when you need it most.

           Becoming a true minimalist doesn’t happen overnight.  The steps you take now to lessen your possessions and clean out the clutter of your life will help you in your survival preparation.  By letting go of the things that do not have a purpose in your life, and keeping the things that do, you will find that you appreciate the items you do have that much more.

            Here is a blog I follow that has some great advice on being a minimalist.  She also has a link page here that has amazing resources, links, and recommended articles.

           *Author's Edit*  I realized after I wrote this post that there is a bit of a contradiction.  Here I am writing about 'minimalism' when a good portion of this blog is about gear, and items.  I would like to make it clear that; the ideas behind minimalism are not about getting rid of all your possessions, but to limit the items that are useless and indulgent.  I believe in keeping as few items as possible, and letting go of all attachments to them.  The items I do choose to own have multiple uses that allow me to live a less cluttered and yet still comfortable life.  If one was to drop all the gifts of modern society and live as a hermit in the woods with nothing but their will and what Mother Earth provides, they would probably die young and alone. (As many of the frontiersmen did.  Their average lifespan was 32 years.) JV 


      Sunday, September 19, 2010

      Quick Pick: Watch

           Trying to figure out a proper survival watch can be a bit confusing.  The market is flooded with watches that have more features then you could possibly ever need.  Watches can be cheap or cost as much as a car.  One could get lost in Tourneau for days trying to choose your next time piece. 

           Like many of the items listed on this blog, I like my watch to have multiple functions.  I suggest staying away from a watch that looks expensive, because that kind of attention is unwarranted and topically should be avoided.  Some of the following functions are not necessary, but can have their benefits.  

            I opted for the Casio Pathfinder PAW1500T-7V for a few reasons that I'll get into.  As there are many different choices in the Casio Pathfinder Collection do your homework to see which one is right for you.  I choose the 1500T mainly because of the titanium case, making it durable and light.  Pathfinders have the added benefit of being reasonably priced, as a watch from a big named company like Rolex would not have nearly as many functions and could be as much as three times the cost.  Here are the main features of the 1500T that sold me on it:
      • Power supply - A watch should have a renewable power supply i.e. solar, crank.
      • Waterproof - I can’t understand owning a watch that isn’t.
      • Durable material - We wear watches on a daily basis and so they get beaten and battered, I prefer something that will put up with some abuse, but also something light.
      • Light material - There are many watches out there, and many materials.  The better the material, the more expensive.  A watch can’t be heavy, but needs to be durable.  My favorite material is titanium, which is light as hell, and strong.  It can be a bit pricey though.
      • Stop watch and timer - Great for timing runs, or if you put a load of laundry in and want to go get a coffee.
      • Compass - Always good to have a back up.  Not overly necessary for the New Yorker, because we almost always know where we are by building and landmarks, but it’s nice to know what direction you’re walking when you get out of the subway.  Much more useful in the bush, and when reading maps.
      • Barometer - I like knowing if a storm is coming.
      • Altimeter - This is more for when you’re in the bush, very helpful in figuring out where you are on a map.  Also cool to go to the top of The Empire States building and see just how high you are.
      • Alarm - Good if your phone is dead, or not around.
      • Price point - I really can’t justify spending more than $300 on a watch, and you really shouldn’t have to.  Shop around to get a good price.
           I have owned the Casio Pathfinder 1500T for about six months, and I'm very happy with my purchase.  It normally has a stainless steel band that makes it look more sophisticated.  You can buy the rubber band for when you are in and out of water, or active.

           Here is the rubber replacement band, and tool needed to replace it.


      Sunday, September 12, 2010

      Survival Library: SAS Survival Handbook

            I'm going to start a series of posts about what I suggest you keep in your survival library.  It will be a mix of a review and suggested read.  A good survival library can be used as a reference for when a disaster situation arises, or when you want a good survival related read.  Since even the best survivalists can't remember everything, it's good to know you have knowledge at your fingertips when needed.  Though books are becoming a thing of the past with wonderful inventions like the Kindle, and e-books, having a physical book for reference when our utilities goes down can be essential to survival.  The wealth of knowledge available to us online won't always be accessible, so make sure to have the subjects that your not very knowledgeable about on hand.  If you want to save a bit of money, and or don't have the space for books, get some cheap paper, a folder, and find online articles and e-books.  Print them out and keep the file in your apartment for easy reference when necessary.

           My first book in this series is a must for anyone and everyone, even if you don't read the book, though I suggest you do, as it can save your life.  This books information can be vital to teaching you how to survive most survival scenarios in and out of the city.  In fact, this book is so important, that I suggest you carry a copy of it in your B.O.B. (or G.O.O.D. bag.)  It is written by John 'Lofty' Wiseman, who has served in the SAS* (Special Air Service) for 26 years, and is meant to teach you how to handle any situation, in any climate.  It does so in an easy to understand, well structured way.  The knowledge contained in this book is vast, that is why I suggest it in the physical book form.  You can read it many times over through the coarse of your life and still learn something new each time.  This book also has an iPhone app., which is actually very good.  It combines the information from his books, as well as some video clips showing proper procedures and quiz's.  I rather enjoy it.  The second link is a smaller version of the original, and fits much more conveniently in a pack or B.O.B.

           *A quick quick fact about the SAS (the British equivalent of our Navy Seals), is that Eddie 'Bear' Grylls from Man vs. Wild served in it for three years.  

           This is another book by John 'Lofty' Wiseman's on urban survival.  Though you would think it would be more appropriate to us in our urban environment, that is not the case.  It give you a little too much detail on mostly common sense topics like; how not to store matches where children can get to them.  If you are very new to survival and have no common sense on things like how to use a screwdriver, then I might suggest this book, but I doubt if you were one of those people, you would want to read this book.


      Thursday, September 9, 2010

      Bare Minimum: Food
           Food, and food storage are something that we New Yorkers need to get a better understanding of.  I'm going to try and explain how much food to keep, and why I believe food storage is one of the simplest, most intelligent things you can do as a New Yorker.  

           Unfortunately for city dwellers, like myself, NYC does not produce one ounce of its own food (and no I don't consider window gardens/city gardens viable food sources), and relies on outside supplies to be brought in on a daily basis.  There are some estimates that say Manhattan could run out of food in 2 days if not constantly resupplied (that is if you don't know some method of how to obtain it, and what's edible in the city.  I'll save that for a later post!)  On top of the fact that Manhattan is an island, so if there is a major disaster, getting supplies in and out of the city, could be slowed or hindered.  

           Because of convenience, New Yorkers have opted to not keep food in the apartment in favor of free delivery, and good restaurants.  For a town that is so dependent on outside sources, and whose infrastructure is under constant threat, that convenience can be our downfall.  Most NYC apartments have a serious lack of food storage, and that can be a very dangerous thing for any household.  This is a ticking time bomb waiting to go off, in my opinion.

           Food storage shouldn't cost much, and it doesn't happen over night.  It's a long, slow process of buying one or two items while at your local grocery store.  Or going to a place like Costco's every few months and buying some bulk items.  Here is a link to a great bulk food site.  Better yet, you can use the amazing Thrive Q system from Shelf Reliance to have long-term food items shipped to you on a monthly budget as I explained in a previous post.  There are options, it's a matter of knowing how, and where to begin.  That's what I'm here for.

           I have many "non-survivalist" friends who live in Manhattan, and their #1 excuse to not storing food is space.  Storing food will not take up that much room.  As I've stated on this blog before, I live in a small NYC apartment and can always find places to put my supplies, without making the apartment cluttered.  It's a simple matter of ingenuity, with a bit of know-how.  Here is an article in Backwoods Home Magazine that explains stocking a pantry.  It's a bit long, but she knows what she is talking about, and touches upon those of us with limited space.

           What you should store is more of a personal preference.  I don't eat meat, (though I would if I was in a survival situation) so I cache more grains and legumes because that is what I prefer, and eat on a normal basis.  There is a saying in the survival community that perfectly sums up what your personal food cache should look like, it goes; "eat what you store, store what you eat".  The first part meaning that you should be eating your supplies and then restock them to help rotate your cache.  The second part makes a good point, explaining that you should store the foods that you and your family are used to eating because, in the event of a disaster, these changes in diet can make your already stressed system, worse.  If you or your loved ones could not "stomach" the foods you have on hand (like MRE's) and get sick, then you have an even bigger problem then the disaster.

           Since heating things up may be a problem depending on the type of disaster, make sure to stock up on some foods that are good even when not heated, like canned beans and rice.  I suggest, at the minimum, a months worth of food and water be stocked in your apartment.  A grown healthy adult needs about 1800 cal. a day to be able to function properly.  That can change slightly because of age, health, activity, and sex, but I find that 1800 cal. is the sweet spot.  It's hard to say how much food you should store, the idea is to just start.  Try not to have an end goal.  Just start by having a few things on hand, trying at first to get to an estimated months worth.  Then after you get to a month, shoot for two, and so on.  To give you a basic idea, I would say store about 2-3 normal sized cans (not the #10 coffee cans that Shelf Reliance makes) per person a day.  You can also get bags of dried beans, grains, and cereals at your local super market.  They're cheap, they have a long shelf life, are easy to prepare, and can supply more servings if rationed properly.  Try and cover all basic food groups as in grains, meat, veggies, dairy, and fruit.  I personally keep about a years worth of food, that I eat and rotate, but that's my personal preference.  It's up to you on how and what you decide to store.  I've given you the resources, and steps, now it's up to you to apply them.  


      Quick Pick: Sunglasses Neck Cord

           This is just a "Quick Pick" on sunglasses neck cords, or 'retainers'.  As an active person in, and out of the city, I am constantly taking my sunglasses on and off.  I ride my bike, and walk, to and from different locations all throughout the city (on our wonderful and ever expanding bike paths) daily.  I go in and out of buildings, and underground to the subways often, being able to just let my glasses hang at my neck is ideal.  Having them at my neck helps me, A. not lose them and B. not break them.  Two important things in my book.

            When hiking or backpacking in the bush, I am also constantly taking them on and off.  Knowing that I won't lose them while on trails with heavy brush, and not having to search through my pack for my case is a plus as well.  Check them out if your interested, their just a few bucks.


      Kits: EDC (Survival Necklace)

           Though not for everyone, a city survival necklace can have life saving functions, as well as being fashionable.  The necklace and key-chain go hand and hand, and you can trade things between the two.   If you are not in the position to wear the necklace, you can place it in your ECB.  Use a ball chain, nylon rope, or even a more fashionable metal (i.e. gold) for the necklace making sure it doesn’t chafe.  I like to wear mine a little long so the gear hangs down to the upper part of my stomach.  A necklace like this is a necessity if hiking or camping, but more on that in a future post.
      • Small compass - Something like a button compass.
      • Small LED light 
      • Flat survival whistle - Great for being found if lost, i.e. stuck in ruble after an earthquake.  The whistle sound can be produced much louder and longer then the human voice, it also requires less force.  For women, it’s a great way to call for help.
      • Small manual can-opener *Optional* - These are great if you find yourself in the bush often and want a back-up to the opener on your multi-tool or Swiss Army Knife.
      • Gold coin, small bar or charm *Optional* - This could be used for trade in an emergency situation where you either have no cash or cash has lost all value.  You can mount the coin or bar in a small bezel as to not damage the precious metal.  You can get a good deal on precious metal coins and bars from this site.
        Here is a link to some ball-chain

             I tend to keep just the compass, and whistle on the necklace because of the weight.  I usually keep the light on my survival key-chain.


        Wednesday, September 8, 2010

        Kits: EDC (Key-chain)

              Your city EDC key-chain can actually be a very useful, convenient way of keeping gear close on hand, as well as giving you an easy way of transporting your survival equipment.  A few of the items can be switched out with your EDC survival necklace, when you can't wear it.  The following are suggestions that I own and recommend.
        • Keys (Obvious)
        • Small LED light - A light has multiple uses besides survival.  Can be switched out and put on survival necklace.
        • This light is small, bright, lightweight, and durable.  It also comes with a clip, which I keep in my ECB(Everyday Carry Bag) for when you need it to be hands free.  Great light.
        • Small compass - Can also be switched out and put on survival necklace.

        • Metal Match or Ferrocerium Striker - I feel it is important to have a way of making fire on you at all times, even in our city surroundings.  Fire is crucial to so many aspects of survival, that it is just too important to be ignored.  Carrying a lighter, matches, or a Firesteel, like I suggest, takes up so little room, and weigh next to nothing.  There is just no excuse to not have a version on you.  I prefer this striker for my key-chain because it has a cover, and I like the company.
          This is just a light one that Amazon sells, I prefer the one from the link above.
        • Carabiner - Attach key-chain to it.  Can be used to attach to your pants, or inside of your ECB.  Also useful to get a better grip on bags.  If your hand can fit, you can use it for self defense (Stick it on your hand and use it as you would brass-knuckles).  The items can be removed from the carabiner to reduce their size, and weight when needed.  I typically buy these at EMS so I can see which size I prefer.  I use the following Black Diamond carabiner as they're light and durable.


        Tuesday, September 7, 2010

        Kits: EDC (Wallet)

              I like to keep a simple, yet useful wallet for my NYC lifestyle.  The following are my suggestions, add or remove as you see fit.
        • ID (Drivers license in my case.)
        • $100 in cash (Broken into change preferably.)
        • Laminated card with phone numbers (Containing at least four people you can count on.)
        • Credit and Bank Cards (Hopefully with at least $1000 spending amount on the credit for bigger purchases, and emergencies.)
        • A few business cards (If you have, or need them.)
        • Card with medical info (Doctors name, medications, allergies, etc.)
        • Credit card multi-tool (There are a bunch on the market, but try for one with at least a few features including LED light and magnifying glass.)
        • Signal mirror - These can be as small and thin as a credit card, and can be used with one hand to signal up to about 100 miles on a clear day.  Also just useful to have a mirror on hand.  The mirrors I link here are a bit big, I use the mirror from the pocket survival pack as it's a smaller compact mirror.
             I bet you are wondering what I put all of this in?  Well I like a small, minimalist wallet, and suggest;
             If you are used to a bigger wallet, shop around, I don't have many suggestions.  The larger Maxpedition wallets have a Velcro closure that are noisy, and I just don't like them because it makes me feel like a 15 year old kid.

             There you have it, my suggested EDC wallet.


          Kits: EDC

                My first post in the kit series is about my suggested EDC (or everyday carry) for New Yorkers.  It should not be confused with an ECB (everyday carry bag).  City living can get a bit hectic at times, and we don’t always feel like carrying around a pack or purse.  For example, when you go out to dinner, go see a movie, or go to the gym.  Sometimes you’re in a hurry and just want the bare essentials with you.

                This is a list of everyday carry items that have multiple purposes, and I would suggest you never leave the house without them.  They should even be on you when you go to the local deli for a quick bite, or when you step out to Starbucks for five minutes to get some coffee.  The idea behind this kit is that you have basic survival equipment on your body at all times (compass, signaling devise, fire making, small light, cordage, knife), while looking just like every other New Yorker walking the streets.
          • Smart cell phone - These are the modern day electronic Swiss Army knives.  It serves super multi-duty as phone, camera, notebook, voice recorder, music player and GPS.  They are becoming cheaper by the day, and since they have so many functions you can actually save money just by buying one piece of equipment for most of your electronic needs.  I own an iPhone, which I highly recommend if you can afford it, or are with AT&T.  Remember to always keep it charged.  You should also put an “in case of emergency” contact number sticker on you, and your family member’s, phones.
          • Keys (Link to my EDC key-chain post.)
          • Wallet (Link to my EDC wallet post.)
          • Pocket knife - There are tons of options here.  I carry around a Leatherman Charge TTi multi-tool and can suggest it, though it's a bit bulky on your belt.  I have a smaller Swiss Army knife when I want to be more discrete.  You need to be careful carrying a knife in NYC because the laws are a bit vague i.e. a knife is not suppose to have a point...  One thing is sure about knife laws in NYC though, the blade can not be over four inches long.  When carrying a knife use common sense; don't pull it out in plain view of "sheeple"...  I mean people (tends to scare them.)  If a police officer asks you about it, tell him it's for work in a friendly, submissive tone.  You can keep the knife in your ECB if you don't want to have one on your person, though I suggest always having a blade of some sort on you at all times.

                The Swiss Army Fieldmaster is not the lightest knife they offer, but it has a useful saw blade that I prefer.
          • Para-cord bracelet - Having 10 feet or so of 550 para-cord on you at all times is real nice.  On top of that, they are quite fashionable.  Here is a site that explains how to make one yourself.  You can find different ways to make these if you do a Google search for "how-to make a para-cord bracelet".  I like to have the button on mine as the link demonstrates.  You can also place this in your ECB.  Here is a link to one that is cheap on Amazon, and some good quality Para-cord;

          • Basic survival necklace - A necklace that has some survival applications to it.  Here is a link to my post explaining it.

               Here are some links to sites that have more info on suggested EDC if you want to do some research yourself:

          The Everyday Carry Forums or EDC Forums:  Great site with reviews, and useful information.

          Code Name Insight Blog:  My favorite blog, and I reference it often.  Linked are a few posts on his everyday carry.

          Surviving In Argentina Blog:  This guy survived the economic collapse of Argentina, (a major city) and most of his posts and info will apply to us if we suffer the same fate in America.  The link is his EDC labeled posts.


          New Post Series "Kits"

                My new series of posts; "Kits" is going to explain to you the gear, and kits that I suggest you put together to help with disasters, big or small .  Being a bit of a "gear head" myself, I could go on for days about gear I would prefer to have for all the possible situations that come my way.  One of the first things to understand about gear is that it is considered a bonus.  We can carry around all the best knives, rope and the most well thought out EDC gear, (everyday carry) but if you don’t know how to use these things, they are pointless.  Gear is nothing without knowledge.  Then you have to consider the fact that when you start to get this gear together it is only as good as the commitment to carry it.  You can have the greatest gear ever made, but if it’s not on you, that's a problem.  You should always try to remember that there is still a chance that the one day you decide not to be as prepared and leave your water bottle or pocket knife home, because life is just too crazy that day, everything goes to hell.   Even if it’s not a total SHTF event, it may still be the day you get stuck in an elevator for four hours, or you’re caught in the subway for an hour.   In Manhattan, there are little “disasters” everyday, most of us have become somewhat accustomed to them.  A few key items would alleviate much of the stress that you would get out of these smaller situations.   How much better would it be to have a few dried pieces of fruit on you, or some trail mix, not to mention some water?  You have to ask yourself, how much space would these items really take?  The answer is; not much at all.  This is just an example of a few small items that can make a world of difference.

               Gear in our urban setting is a bit different from say preparing to go on hike in the bush. The city offers a different set of obstacles in the short term.  You don’t have to walk down the street in hiking boots, and a full 5000 cubic inch backpack.   Blending in is key.  You want to look just as fashionable and “normal” as everyone else going on there day to day business.  Any difference draws attention, which is really unwanted in any circumstance in New York City.   If your co-workers carry briefcases to work every day, then you put your gear in a briefcase.   It’s the same with backpacks and purses.  The kit's I will be suggesting can be modified to your preference.  Most people's kit differ slightly, these are the fundamental items I suggest that are the most efficient and useful to handle most possible disaster's in NYC.

               My first post in the series is going to be about what I suggest for EDC (or Everyday Carry).  I am planning on having it put together by tomorrow.  I am also putting together a new Bare Minimum post, so stay tuned...


          Sunday, September 5, 2010

          Company Review: Shelf Reliance

               My first post for "Company Review" is going to be about one of the best long-term food preparation online business's I have found; Shelf Reliance.  Their site has tons of preparation resources on it, like emergency survival kits, but the one that stands out above all, is their canned food system.  They use #10 cans (or coffee cans; big, gallon sized cans) to store food that has been either dehydrated, or freeze dried, giving foods a shelf life of anywhere from 5 to 25 years!  They have all food groups including meat, and fruit.  What really sets the company apart though, is their THRIVE Q, which lets you build a customized food storage plan divided by a monthly budget.  So, for example, if I set up a monthly budget of $50, they will go through my THRIVE Q and send me however many cans equaling $50 for that month.

               Other than offering great long-term food storage options, Shelf Reliance goes a step above giving you recipes (video and text), and reviews (from customers).  Best of all, they are reasonably priced, and their Q system allows you to slowly build your long-term food supplies over time, not forcing you to spend a lot of money at once.  

               One problem I had is that the cans came dented, though I don't blame them for that.  If you are concerned about dented cans, you shouldn't be.  Dented cans are safe for the most part, though it can drop the shelf life of a product by a few years.  Either way, here is a quick article about how to tell if a dented can is safe to consume. 

               For our small NYC apartments, food storage may be a problem, but I find a little ingenuity goes a long way.  I live in a small studio, and have always found ways to store food and water all over my apartment while keeping the apartment livable.  I also do my best to keep my supplies out of site, making sure my apartment looks no different then any typical New Yorkers, as to not draw any unwanted attention from my buildings maintenance/management.  

               It's up to you how much or how little you decide to cache in your apartment.  I suggest no less than a months worth of food per person, or a few #10 cans covering all basic food needs (carbohydrates, protein, fat).  Most disaster scenarios, typically, do not last more than 72 hours, or so they say (tell that to Hurricane Katrina Victims).  I feel that if there was a major disaster, like a category 4 Hurricane in NYC, we would have to support ourselves, and those we love, longer than 72 hours.  The cities fragile infrastructure, and the amount of people that reside here would ensure a long recovery process.  I personally try to supply at least a years worth of food for me and my loved ones.  
                As per Shelf Reliance's recommendation, I cook at home with my stored food on a day to day basis as to rotate my stock and learn fun, enjoyable recipes.  This saves me loads of money as I don't "daily shop" my meals at expensive stores like D'Agostino's and Whole Foods.

               Companies like Shelf Reliance can help you take the guess work out of preparation, teaching you how to become a master prepper.  Beyond prep, it can help you live a satisfying, self-sufficient New York life style.