Monday, January 24, 2011

"But baby it's cold outside..."

     As New York deals with some of the coldest temperatures it’s had in two years, I figured I would give you a quick tip to help keep you a bit warmer while out and about.  Hopefully by now you already discovered the wonderful three-layer system I suggest, and learned how to use proper fabrics and layers to keep you much warmer during the cold season.  If not I suggest you do it now because winter is a long way from over, and companies such as Patagonia are offering some of their best sales of the year, making it a great time to upgrade your winter wardrobe.

     The tip I’m going to explain goes beyond proper layers, and head protection.  It is more about conserving the body’s own heat.  We lose the heat our body’s work diligently to make four different ways; conduction, convection, radiation, respiration.  The key to this tip is the often overlooked latter of the group; respiration.  We lose boat loads of our natural heat through our breath by breathing in the exterior cold air, and then breathing out our internal ‘warmed’ air.  We can be instantly chilled to the core if we do not make an effort to warm the air before it enters the body.  Fortunately, warming the air you breathe can be done fairly easily by having a neck gaiter or scarf cover your mouth and nose allowing the air to be warmed before it gets to the lungs.  

     I wear a neck gaiter pretty much year long.  During the summer, I wear one as head protection and to sop up sweat around my neck.  In the winter time, I either wear the same polyester one linked above , or a thicker fleece or wool one for the extremely cold days such as today.  Conserving heat through protecting your respiration is very effective.  So much so, that I often wear the light polyester Recon Wrap, because anything heavier quickly heats me up.  (Remember; starting to sweat, or getting wet in any way during freezing conditions can make you much colder and lead to hyperthermia.)  I tend to start the day with the gaiter around my neck pulled up just below my eyes, covering the ears, nose, and mouth.  Then I place a good wool hat over my ears and head leaving just my eyes exposed.  Since this configuration is so efficient, I often lower the gaitor below my chin allowing me to cool off, raising it back over my face when I get cold.  This style often gets “looks” in Manhattan, but once again I prefer function over fashion.  Let the “sheeple” stay ignorant and cold.  Here is a good video explaining the three-layer system, and the proper use of a neck gaiter.  Here are some options that Amazon offers.


Sunday, January 23, 2011

Quick Pick: Wool Blanket

     A good quality wool blanket can have a ton of useful applications in the home and bush.  Wool blankets have earned a place in history for keeping troops and pioneers warm for generations.  It was, and still is, a staple for cowboys and ranchers the world over as well.  Its main purpose was as a lightweight, compact sleeping system, but it could also have many other functions if you check out some the videos from YouTube I link below. 
     Wool itself has amazing properties that I explain in a past post linked here.  If you read this blog often, it is apparent that I am a big fan of wool as it is a “wonder fabric”.  I use, and suggest it for most of my cold weather gear, and especially for things like socks, hats, and as the fabric of your mid-layer in the three-layer system.

     If you’re a minimalist, camping with a wool blanket as your sleep system is the way to go.  Though not comfortable, it is warm and has been proven reliable time and time again.  You can also use it as an alternative sleeping system in your B.O.B.  It would lessen the overall weight and size of the bag considerably as you could ditch your sleeping bag, tent, or both.

     At home, having an extra warm blanket will really come in handy, especially during a winter like the current one we are having in New York.  I suggest leaving one folded up on your couch to be pulled over yourself to keep you warm and cozy while watching TV.

     New York apartments, especially the older pre-war buildings, don't have thermostats in the apartment.  So we are reliant upon our landlords to keep our humble abodes a reasonable temperature.  Most apartments in the city that I have lived in or visited are either way to hot during the winter, or way to drafty and cold.  Having a way keep warm can be extremely important for those of us that have the latter problem.   

     The following is a few videos that explain even more uses for wool blankets.  As well as a few blankets that Amazon offers;

I grew up with a similar blanket to the "Army issue" olive drab wool blanket above as my father served in the Marines in Vietnam.  As uncomfortable the blanket is, it is very warm and holds a special place in my heart.


Friday, January 14, 2011

Boot "Camp" Part 2: Backpacking Boot

     This is part 2 of my boot series, you can find part 1: "Hiking Boot" hereAfter you read this post, do yourself a favor and read over my post on socks linked here, if you haven’t done so already.  It will complete the three-layer system I suggest for your feet.  

Backpacking Boot

     Backpacking boots, or sometimes called mountaineering boots are the real deal.  They can be extremely durable, and have the best ankle support of all the boot options.  They are ideal for multi-day excursions, in rough or rocky terrain with medium to heavy pack loads.  There are a few different options in what material you would like your boot to be (i.e. leather, synthetic), and if you prefer mid- or high-cut.  You also need to decide before choosing the ‘proper pair’ if you want them to be Gore-Tex lined, making the boot waterproof and a bit more pricey, or if you want them to be unlined allowing better breathability.  These types of boots take the most amount of time to break-in, so make it a point to wear them around for a few weeks before going into the bush.  These are also going to be the most expensive boot option, but tend to be worth the expense because they are built to last for years.

     Backpacking boots are my preferred choice of footwear for most of the year while in the bush, because I often backpack in rough terrain with a heavy pack.  My ankles are a bit week as well, so I wear a high-cut to reduce injury.  I am used to wearing a heavy boot, and the added weight has never been an issue in my experience.  When it comes to materials, I am a fan of a full-grain one piece leather boot, and I prefer a Gore-Tex liner.  Full-grain leather is the most durable option you have, though it is not as lightweight and breathable as some of the other materials.  I like a boot that is a tank and can take a beating, which full-grain can fully deliver.  Full-grain leather is a tried and true material that has been used on backpacking boots for years.  When it comes to my choice of Gore-Tex, again it’s personal preference.  I find I prefer a boot to be waterproof over better breathability.  When wearing proper socks, the lack of air is negated for the most part.

     Is there really a need for a backpacking boot for our city adventures?  My answer to that is; of course!  I choose to wear my backpacking boots from about October to April here in the apple.  Big, chunky boots are actually in style right now, which can be a benefit to those of us who value function over fashion.  I personally pay a bit of attention to current styles, because it allows me to blend into our urban environment without drawing attention.  Looking like your everyday, average commuter while being prepared, is ideal.  I wear my backpacking boots daily for a few reasons;  
  • First and foremost, they keep my feet warm during the cold months.  
  • Second, because of all the snow we've been receiving lately, waterproof boots allow me to get around town and trudge through street corners without getting my socks and feet all wet.  
  • Third reason is that I always have a pair of ‘broken in’ boots.  
  • And last but not least, by wearing them often I condition my legs, getting them used to walking and wearing a slightly heavier shoe.
     My 'broken in' backpacking boots are always placed next to my bug-out-bag.  They are the type of boot you should wear in the event that you need to 'bug-out'.  Every person in the family should have a good quality broken in pair stored next to their bags as well.  Ideally, they should be untied and ready to go at a moments notice.

Part 3: Winter Boots are next.  Look for that to be published over the next few days.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Boot "Camp" Part 1: Hiking Boot

      With more snow on the ground here in the city and winter’s end nowhere in sight, I’m going to explain my recommended boot system.  I’m also going to clear up much of the confusion about the different styles and materials available to you when you do decide to do your boot shopping.  After you read this post, do yourself a favor and read over my post on socks linked here if you haven’t done so already.  It will complete the three-layer system I suggest for your feet.

     I would like to give a bit of a disclaimer here before we go on.  There are many different shapes, sizes, materials and everything else you can think of when it comes to boots these days.  I am suggesting what I like and prefer.  Many people will disagree with me because there are so many variables such as, if you have a preference for mesh, cloth, leather, high-cut, low, knee height… you get the picture.  I recommend using this post as a guideline, and then testing different styles and materials to fit your personal tastes.  This guide is meant to give you direction and an explanation of where different styles could be applicable.

Hiking Boot

     This will probably be the first, most generic boot style you will look at when you’re buying a new pair of ‘outdoor’ boots.  The purpose of the hiking boot is to give you a lightweight option with decent support for flat to somewhat rocky terrain.  If you opt for a mid- to high-cut, which I suggest, you can get good ankle support as well.  Typical hiking boots will be fine if you are carrying about a 20lbs pack or less.  Anything heavier, you will need a more specific “backpacking boot” explained here.  Hiking boots are meant to be light so you don’t tire too quickly while on the trail.  They can also be waterproof and insulating, but these additions will add to the weight of the boot which really defeats the purpose of a hiking boot.  They are really just the “jack of all trades” of the different styles.  Good in most conditions, ideal at none.

     I personally find that there really is no purpose for hiking boots in the bush and let me explain why.  If I am hiking in warm/hot conditions with a light daypack on, I would choose to wear mesh low-cut running or trail-running sneakers instead.  No bells, whistles, or Gore-Tex, just normal light running shoes.  I do that because wearing a low-cut hiking boot lined with Gore-Tex to make them waterproof is mostly pointless, as your feet will still get wet as soon as you step in ankle deep water.  Also, Gore-Tex is an amazing product and I am a fan of it, but in a lightweight shoe or boot it will just add to the weight of the item and not allow them to dry as quickly.  Not to mention that your feet will sweat a bit more with Gore-Tex lining the shoe.  If you wear a lightweight mesh running shoe your feet and socks will get wet, but the shoe will also allow them to dry much faster.  Make sure to have a good sock system and an extra back-up pair of socks if you decide to wear mesh sneakers.  The general rule of thumb with footwear made for hiking is that every pound you lighten on your feet is equivalent to lessening your pack by five pounds.  If you have weak or bad ankles, then you can stick with a high-cut lightweight, cloth or synthetic hiking boot.  Though, I would suggest wearing a good backpacking boot for the best ankle and back support, lowering your risk of injury.

     For our concrete jungle in the city, hiking boots can actually come in handy.  Wearing a Gore-Tex lined low- or high-cut boot can make getting caught in the rain or light snow much more manageable.  Since New Yorker’s are a part of the elements 365 days of the year, having a good pair of hiking boots can keep your feet much warmer and dry when necessary.  I find I wear low-cut hiking boots often during the warmer months.  They are also becoming much more fashionable, allowing you to blend into your surroundings and be just another face in the crowd (which is a good thing.)  

     Here are some mesh and trail running sneakers I suggest from Amazon;

     Here are some low and mid-cut hiking boots I suggest for city trekking from Amazon;

Here is the link to Part 2 of Boot Camp: "Backpacking Boot.


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

E-Mail Call

I recently received an e-mail from a reader that I would like to share, as well as my response: 

     Hey, my name is Mike and your blog really is informative. I spent extended periods of time in college in Georgia without a residence pretty much camping after I lost both my jobs. I picked up a lot of useful skills, got into farming and other activities. I do not consider myself an expert, but I have traveled throughout central america. In the rural areas, those people are not phased by the collapse of society, they have been on their own for generations. The outside world has only brought them destruction and oppression.

It is somewhat reassuring to see that someone else shares my sentiments on survival. I wonder, are there any survivalist meetings? Even informal get togethers.


P.S. Here's another tip, in Peru and Bolivia, they eat papa seca (dry potato). Using an ancient freeze drying process, they dehydrate the potatoes. They can last for many many years. They wiped out famine in the incan empire using this technique. Best of all, it is super light, to cook, you merely add water.

     Thanks for reading Mike, I appreciate it.  As you explain in your letter, nothing beats good experience.  Doing what you had to do and giving up many creature comforts to get yourself through college is very commendable, and you have my respect.  You humbly mention that you are no expert, and we both share that belief about ourselves.  There really are no true ‘experts’ when it comes to survivalism/self-reliance, or most things people claim to be experts at, there is passion.  We share a passion, and are not alone I promise, for the ideas and beliefs of self-reliance.  We feel it is only natural to be responsible for our actions and ourselves, and would never want to rely on others unless we had no other choice.  Beyond that, I feel (and judging by your letter you do as well) extremely comfortable, and at home while in the bush.

     I have not been able to travel to South America yet, but have a close connection as a few of my family members are from there, and a few still live there.  I have to agree with you that most of the South American countries suffer due to poor politics and because of the world’s government’s greed.  The people there take it in stride, and are somewhat used to the corruption as it has been happening for generations.  I do much of my research about economic downfall effects in major cities from websites and books about places like Argentina.  They suffered a total economic collapse in 2001, and are still feeling the effects.  Sites like this can give some good insight into living through it, and what might happen in America if we suffer a similar fate.  

     Survivalist meetings are available, but most suffer because of the fundamental belief system we all share.  The problem is we believe in self-reliance, and have lost trust in those around and above us.  So like any relationship, if it is not bound together by trust, it will be shaky from the get-go.  At this point, my personal group is comprised of close friends and family members.  The pro is that my relationships are strong and established.  The con is that they are not exactly a battled hardened military company.  Most believe in survivalism, but don’t share my passion.  The way I handle this, is to do my best to be prepared for those around me, whom I love and trust.  You can find groups out there or you can start your own.  Here is a link to a site that can help you with that.  Ultimately I believe that instead of looking for survivalist groups, you should look for like minded individuals in your daily life.  Then you can try naturally building a relationship through similar interests and passions.  As you prove with this e-mail, the internet is a great way to share ideas and interests with like minded people, and can be an invaluable tool.

     Thanks for sharing your tip by the way.  I love stuff like that from other cultures.  We need to keep the knowledge of the past alive because it may be needed to save us once again in the future.  What I really like about that tip is we can use it in our everyday world.  I will be doing a post soon on food I suggest for backpacking trips and B.O.B.’s, and that tip ties right into it.  I am a big fan of stock piling freeze dried foods in our small NYC apartments because they are lightweight, and take up very little space.  With these supplies I can make many nutritious meals and snacks that only require water to prepare.  Food that is dehydrated, or freeze dried still retain most of their nutritional value, while shrinking in volume, allowing you to carry large quantities of food.  Not to mention that the freeze drying process can up the shelf life of some products by 30 years!

     Thanks again for taking the time to touch base, feel free to send more tips and experiences you have gone through in your journey thus far.

Be well, 
JV “The NYCSurvivalist”


Monday, January 10, 2011

Stay Vigilant!

     I found this post the other day and wanted to draw more attention to this issue.  It is still unclear what happened, but we must remain aware of our few remaining liberties here in NY.  The first step to saving ourselves from an over-intrusive, over-protective government is to stay vigilant and speak up when our liberties and rights are challenged.  When you do find laws starting to infringe raise awareness, speak up!  Send an e-mail, or a letter to your local legislation, tell like minded friends and acquaintances.  Start a blog, like this one.  The people still have a voice, albeit a smaller more medicated one, but all is not lost.  Or at least all is not lost yet...        


Sunday, January 9, 2011

Quick Pick: Volcano II Collapsible Stove

     I found this gem recently on a great website for preppers/survivalists called Emergency Essentials.  It can be a great addition to your apartment preps as it is relatively small and can be fueled by three different fuel sources; charcoal, wood, and propane.  If you read the previous post I did on portable stoves (link), you would understand why having a stove that can burn propane or wood would be so handy in a disaster.  Having a way to heat up food, and maybe a nice hot drink for you or your loved ones during a power outage can really boost the moral of the family.  A quick note about using propane to fuel this bad boy is that it only works with 20lb. tanks.  As I've mentioned before, 20lb. propane tanks are illegal to keep in your apartment here in the apple.  *Authors Edit: watching the YouTube video below shows the stove attached to a 16 oz. propane canister.  I have to do a bit more research, or buy the product to give you a definitive answer on what sized propane tank it can be used with.* This stove could have useful applications for mid- to long-term disaster though, and can also make a great portable camping, and bug-out location stove. 

     I have not been able to purchase it yet to give it a full review, but after reading some of the comments it seems like it is very well received.  I am currently in the process of making Emergency Essentials a sponsor of NYC Survival as they are a great company, and offer very useful survival gear.  Here again is the link to the stove, if you did not see it above.  The first Amazon link below for less money is the stove without the propane attachment.

Here is a YouTube review from Emergency Essentials:

Here is a review I just found on  He got his hands on one and did a review in November.  I just found his article, I guess great minds think alike.


Saturday, January 8, 2011

      The lack of posts recently has been due to my helping a close friend deal with some business issues.  I don’t have many friends, and consider most people acquaintances.  Those I do consider “close” become more like a family member to me.  So to get a better understanding of why I have been working 12+ hour days for the last two weeks without pay (no time for food, just stress filled sleep), I will use the terminology; “helping my brother deal with some business issues.”  I am not trying to toot my own horn here, just giving an example of an alternate form of charity that can benefit people in your daily life.  Sacrificing my time and health (STRESS is a killer) allowed him to get very time consuming, labor intensive work done for free.  Thus, alleviating much of his work load/stress.  It is also helping the business get off the ground successfully.  Working hard for someone while not expecting anything in return is a liberating experience, and I can’t think of a better way to give to someone I love.