Prepper Ponderings

Park Poachers

Here's an article out of Brooklyn, NY, about a group of vagrants getting busted in a city park for trapping and eating ducks, squirrels and pigeons.  There is also information about them using makeshift poles to catch fish, and having the audacity to keep them, in spite of a city ordinance that mandates catch & release.

Now, I'm not going to comment on the right or wrong of this, there are several different viewpoints for that, and the article does not give a complete story.  But it does make me think of a few things.  If/when the economy has a complete crash, how many urban dwellers will have the know how or skills to get their own food?  For those that do, how long will city squirrels and pigeons last before they are gone?

Another interesting thing was the reader comments.  One actually said, "Anyone who feels they have to eat wildlife has an agenda. They should be in prison or in a mental hospital."  That is really a scary sentiment. 

Garbage City

There's a recent article going around that some links lead one to believe that Cairo was overflowing with garbage in the aftermath of this summer's riots.  However, reading the article, one sees that it shows a segment of Cairo occupied by a Christian minority that has, for generations, been the trash pickers and recyclers of Cairo.  Again, this got me thinking...  What would you do for garbage is your local trash service stopped?  I take my trash to the county landfill... what would I do if it closed? 

We'd have to increase out contributions to the compost pile; set up a burn barrel for things that will burn; and collect all types of metal for the scrap yard.  It would take increased storage, and there would be best and odor control concerns.

I also thought back to stories from a friend's cousin, who grew up in a row house in Richmond during the Depression.  He does not remember having a trash can in the house... everything got used or reused, and there was little packaging to deal with.  Meat and bread came wrapped in paper which fed the wood stove oven.  The few cans and jars continued to serve the family after their contents were consumed.  Food scraps fed the chickens out back.  And then there was the Sears' catalog...  we know what that went for.

Whether economic collapse, a strike, or just a long-term weather emergency, it's probably a good idea to have a plan B for your trash.

The Big Announcement!

We now have the If It Hits The Fan Gear Shop!  Right now, we just have it stocked with some t-shirts featuring our new logo (my wife came up with the concept, but it was executed by a reader, Kyle at Quality Promotions - check him out if you need any promotional items made).  In the next few days, I'll be adding the If It Hits The Fan Paracord Wristband in a multitude of colors and a limited lifetime replacement promise.  I'll also use the shop to sell some excess gear that I've acquired over the years.  If you're in the market for some used, but good condition gear, maybe I'll have just what you're looking for.  And best of all, shipping is always FREE!  Unfortunately, that means that right now, we can only sell to US addresses, including APO and FPO.

Please check out the gear shop to help support and promote If It Hits The Fan, and get yourself some cool stuff!


I just got my latest payment from my Amazon affiliate program.  I really appreciate you going through the If It Hits The Fan Amazon store to make purchases on Amazon.  I get a small commission off the sale, it doesn't add at all to your cost, and those little commissions add up.  It's an easy and effective way for you to support If It Hits The Fan and it helps me buy books and gear to review for you.

Sponsor Of The Week

Our Sponsor of the Week is Essential Packs.  Essential Packs has everything from complete emergency kits for home, office, car or school, to pet emergency kits and individual components... All at fair prices with great customer service.  Tonight I noticed their Fire Resistant Document Bag - On sale right now for $10.99.  I was going through some papers in my safe the other day and think this might be a good way to help further protect them.  Check out Essential Packs and please tell them that you heard about them here at If It Hits The Fan.


Avenge Meeee!!!!

Red Dawn Remade

In 1984, I saw Red Dawn in the theater... several times.  It instantly became a favorite and lead me to become serious about being a survivalist.  Like a many high school boys of the era, I fancied myself an honorary Wolverine, keeping my 94 Winchester and Mossberg 500 with a pistol grip under my bed with my canvas GI surplus pack filled with ammo, my Ka-bar knife, a few cans of tuna and pork & beans, and a canteen with iodine tablets.  I daydreamed through my classes looking for Soviet and Cuban troops to parachute over the football field.  I've watched that movie many times since those days, and still enjoy it, and drop quotes into casual conversation on a regular basis.  If you haven't seen it, you really should.  It's a modern classic that inspired a whole generation of survivalists.

The rumors of a remake of Red Dawn have floated around for the last 10 years or so.  In 2008, at Cannes, the announcement was made that a remake was indeed in the works.  Filming began in 2009, with the invaders being the Chinese this time around.  In 2010, MGM announced that the release would be delayed due to their financial problems.  MGM is coming out of their restructuring, and it is anticipated that the movie will be released late in 2011 or early 2012... but...

It seems that the Chinese were offended by the premise that they would be the invaders.  There were numerous mentions in the Chinese press to that effect.  It also seems that MGM now has a great deal of their financial backing coming from the Chinese.  Hmmm.

In March of this year, it came out that MGM had gone back and changed the invaders.  They reshot the introduction, and digitally changed all the Chinese symbols, patches, flags, etc... to... get this... North Korea.

The producer said, "We were initially very reluctant to make any changes, but after careful consideration we constructed a way to make a scarier, smarter and more dangerous 'Red Dawn' that we believe improves the movie."

I'll go see the new Red Dawn, and I'm still looking forward to it, but I'm going to be incredulous about the whole North Korea thing.  "A billion screaming Chinamen..." sure, I can believe that.  A nuclear superpower, imperialistic growth across Africa and South America to gain natural resources, they even own a major US port thanks to Bill Clinton.  But North Korea?  It is a poverty stricken nation of only 24 million; famine has been recurrent since the mid-90s.  The navy has no blue water capability, and they only have 50 some cargo ships in their civil marine transport organization.  The air force is equally deficient, and they have only a dozen or so trans-oceanic aircraft.  They do have the suspected capabilities to build up to nine nuclear warheads, and have the technology to launch them to the US west coast, but you can't invade America with a couple of nukes.

We'll have to see how the movie turns out.  I think it would be much better with the Chinese being the invaders.  Survivalism is very "in" these days.  Will the release of this new version have a similar affect to an even bigger increase in practicing survivalists as the original produced?


String 'Em Up


When you talk about cordage, if you are like most folks, you talk about military type 550 cord, aka paracord.  Paracord has some great properties... it's very strong, you can get it most anywhere that sells gear, surplus, camping supplies, etc...  You can make some really cool things out of it.  It's available in a myriad of colors.  You can strip out the seven inner cords for fishing line, sutures, or other needs.

It has a couple of shortcomings as well.  It tangles easily.  It stretches.  It's bulky.  But it's some good stuff.

I've recently learned of another great cordage material.  Not necessarily a replacement, but surely an addition.  That is Bank Line.  Some folks call it Mariner's Tarred Line.  It's a three-ply nylon twine, that is waxed or tarred for longevity.  It can be used as is for about 165# test, separated into the three plies for 55# test, or doubled or tripled up for additional strength.  It can be used for snares, trot lines, lashing, nets, sewing or repairing gear, bow drills, or any number of other uses.  It takes up much less space than an equal length of paracord, and if you drop a 250' spool in your pack, you can use a cork or duct tape to use the spool cylinder for an additional storage container, perhaps some fishing hooks or something else small.

I've been wanting to build a snare trap in the front yard for a skunk we've been seeing out there, so I figured I'd run up to the local Bass Pro Shop and pick up a spool.  They have it on their website.  Well, the folks in the fishing department had never heard of it, and didn't seem too interested in looking for it.  That's ok, I went about a mile away to Green Top Sporting Goods, a local fishing and guns landmark that is known for great customer service, and knowledgeable staff.  Turns out they had never heard of it either, but at least they had the interest to ask around the store to other staff.

So, I came on home and looked around on line.  Wouldn't you know it, I found it easy.  My buddy Mitch, up at Native Survival has it in stock.  A 250' spool for only $12, including shipping.  I've placed my order, and as soon as it comes in, I'll make my snare and put up some pictures.  I think Mitch is teaching a primitive wilderness survival class this weekend, so I'm looking forward to getting my bank line after he gets back in from the field.


Free Training

Hazard Training in Hampton

Now, this will only be of interest to those in the Tidewater region of Virginia, but I know there are several reading.  Also, for those in other areas, keep your eyes out for similar session in your locales since September is National Preparedness Month, and I'd imagine a lot of places will have these classes.

Anyway, this is from yesterday's Daily Press newspaper:

"The Hampton sheriff's office will host a free community awareness training session for disaster preparedness at the Hampton Roads Convention Center on Sat. Aug. 20 from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.  The trainers are members of the National Sheriff's Association's Homeland Security Initiatives.  Topics include how to create a family disaster plan, what to include in a family disaster kit, crisis response and terrorism.  To reserve a seat call 757-926-2540."

Now, if you are already doing things like reading this blog, you are probably ahead of the curve on what they are going to teach, but if you have a session like this near you, it might be a great, non-threatening way to get a friend or family member keen to the idea of prepping.  Even if they don't know that you have an interest in prepping, "Hey Bill, did you see this class they are doing in a couple weekends?  It's free, and it might be important with all the trouble going on the world.  Want to go?"

I'd like to go to this, but I am in a wedding that day.  If you go to this, or any similar class in your area, if you'd write up a guest post about the class, I'd love to have it.  I'll even send you an official If It Hits The Fan paracord wristband as a thank you if I use your post.

Big Announcement

Keep checking back over the next couple of days... I'll have a big announcement.  Those of you who have liked us on Facebook already know ;-)


Whips & Chaps

Get Your Mind Out Of The Gutter

I recently visited my old prepper buddy, Mark.  He's a gear guy and always got something new and cool.  Mark has about 30 years of martial arts training and has been a police defensive tactics instructor for about the last 10 years.  Today he showed me his bull whips.

Unbeknownst to me, Mark took up bull whips about a year ago.  He's had some one-on-one training with a whip master in North Carolina and regularly practices.  His three whips are all made of 550 cord, and cost between $125 and $250.  They are 4.5, 6 and 8 feet long (past the handle).  Mark has been buying his whips from Noreast Whips

Whips have a 3,000 year history, and are still in use today around the world.  Aside from the traditional cattle drive, in skilled hands, they have a number of uses, which include being used in a fitness regimen.
The main point of today though, is the 4.5 foot martial arts whip, called the MA Bull.  Mark gave me a very cool demonstration of its potential use.  It is short enough to be very maneuverable, and then the weighted handle can be reversed and used as a nun chuk, or slung out like a Chinese dart.  Naturally, a person would probably not choose a whip as a primary weapon, but Mark gave me examples of being on his morning jog and being approached by a threatening dog.  Whips are not used to strike an animal, but to crack or pop just away from the animal's head.  He also showed how it could be used to strike a venomous snake that was in your path.

Obviously, a bullwhip is not for everyone, and there is a pretty good chance of injury if you don't know what you're doing, but it has its uses, and might have a role in your preps.  I'm trying to talk Mark into making a demonstration video for me.  Let me know if you think that would be interesting to see.

Do You Have Chaps?

I got an email not too long ago from a friend in Texas who almost had a tragedy from his chainsaw.  It dug into his leg, and only his knee cap kept the blade from taking off his leg.  He's going to have his leg in a cast for a while, but he's thankful to still have a leg to put in a cast.  Over 40 years of using a chainsaw and he had never been hurt before.  I told him I'd been thinking about getting some chaps and asked him if he thought they would have made a difference in his case.  He said that he usually wore chaps, but he was in a hurry and didn't take the time to get them... to his regret.  So yes, chaps can save you from serious injury with a chainsaw.  I don't use mine much in the summer, but will definitely get some before fall gets here.  I'm looking at this particular model.


Rifle For Sale

Nice Remington 700P

An old friend from my Marine Corps days is selling the following:

Remington 700P .308, tactical heavy barrel in Stainless Steel and sent away to have a coat of black Cerakote put on it. It has a Bell and Carlson Medalist Tactical Adjustable Stock, a Badger Ordnance Thruster Tactical Compensator and Bolt Knob, Harris Bipod, with a Leupold scope. $1,500.00

It's a pretty sweet piece, wish I could swing if myself.  He's in Central Virginia if you are looking for a face-to-face purchase.  I don't know if he's interested in shipping to an FFL in another state or not.  It you are interested, email me with your contact information, and I'll pass it on to him.

It Almost Hit The Fan

This morning, sometime between 5:30 and 6, about 8 miles from our house, an airplane crashed into a backyard. The homeowners only heard their dogs barking, and didn't know what happened until they finally answered one of many phone calls they got.  Seems the pilot had flown down from New England and missed his first approach to the airport, but ran out of fuel coming back in.  He was heading for a field, but clipped some trees.  It's fortunate that he missed any houses.

Where do you have your preps stored?  Are they all in one part of the house or garage?  This is a prime example for the benefits for spreading them around different locations.  A tornado could take out the work shop, a tree could fall on the garage, or a plane could land on your house.  "Don't keep all your eggs in one basket," our ancestors used to say, and it wasn't just a folksy saying, it's a good idea.


Bright vs. Subdued

What Color?

I wear a lot of earth tones.  Back in my misspent youth I was a Marine and wore woodland and desert camouflage.  I wasn't SWAT, but I did some tactical operations as a cop.  I've prepped for foreign invaders and civil war.  But does any of that matter if I'm at the bottom of a tree stand with a broken ankle and I need to get found?

I've always used a lot of military surplus for my survival gear.  I've bought red packs and bright blue tents for camping, but I grumbled about it because it didn't look cool and made me too visible.  As I've aged in so many different ways, I've come to realize that needing to be seen is a whole lot more likely than needing to stay hidden.  But I think there is a place for both.

I mentioned that my wife has started making paracord bracelets.  My initial thought was to buy OD, black, desert tan, and even some blaze orange cord.  She has since had me order purple, pink, bright blue, and several other bright colors to add to the selection.

A couple months ago, I poked fun at a friend when he pulled his hot pink Bic lighter out of day pack.  I then pulled out my black one.  He pointed out that 1. if the flame is lit, color of the Bic doesn't matter, and 2. if you are rooting around a pack, what's going to be easier to find - hot pink or black?

Knives, fire starting toolsduct tape, water bottles, sporks... all come in bright colors.  Not only does bright color make it easier for rescuers to find you if you are lost, it also makes it easier for you to find gear if you drop it in the leaves.

So, long story short, I'm still going to wear my earth tones and keep a few sets of BDUs handy, but I'm also going to try and embrace color. 

Media Suggestions

I've found a new (to me) podcast.  Check out The Prepper Podcast at www.PrepCast.info.  It's a periodic 20 minute webcast done by a rotating announcer from a group of what I think is three guys.  They also have a blog and a small, but active forum.  I've caught the last four or five podcasts, and find them informative and entertaining.  I get a chuckle out of the prerecorded intros that sound almost like it belongs on NPR.  Whichever guy is up in the rotation has a basic topic for each show, then goes on with a well thought out, but unscripted, monologue.  I'm a big fan of The Survival Podcast, and that usually fills my commute in to work in the morning.  Now that I've found The Prepper Podcast, I have a shorter piece to listen to on the way home.  Give The Prepper Podcast a try, they have some good information to share.

My wife recently found a show on the Home & Garden channel called Extreme Living.  Each show features a unique home, many of which would be awesome survival retreats.  Recent shows have featured a New England coastal home that is made from six shipping container or CONEX boxes around a common open area.  It sounds awful but looked luxurious, and very secure.  The show we watched tonight showed a guy in West Texas who built an underground home made of blown concrete domes.  Super efficient, super secure, and pretty darn cool looking.


Prepping For Random Violence

Today's Headlines

Kent, Washington - At a La Raza low-rider car show at a strip mall in this Seattle suburb, several fights broke out which resulted in indiscriminate shootings that injured 10 people.  This one especially caught my eye as the headline just referred to a Seattle-area car show, and several of my cousins were planning to be at the huge Good Guys hot rod show there this weekend.

Grand Prairie, Texas - At a roller rink in this bedroom community for Ft. Worth, a family had it rented for a birthday party.  A man and a woman had a domestic disturbance and the man started shooting, killing five, wounding several, then killing himself.

Norway - A Norwegian man used an ammonium nitrate car bomb to attack some government buildings in Oslo, killing nine.  Two hours later, dressed as a policeman, he conducted an armed assault on a Labour Party youth summer camp, killing over 80.

Can You Prep For This?

Can you prepare specifically for mass violence?  I honestly don't know.  "I've got me a .45 strapped to my hip at all times and I'll plug any dude that wants to kill innocents" sounds mighty tough, and actually is an admirable goal, but how realistic is it in this circumstance?  Certainly, being armed can be a very effective tool in the tool box, but it's useless against a car bomb.

So what are some things we can do?

Practice situational awareness.  Col. Jeff Cooper used color codes to describe different levels of awareness.  We need to train ourselves to maintain a condition yellow as much as possible.  Look around you and see how many people are seemingly in condition white.  Pay attention to your own awareness level, and I'll bet most of us often slip into white.

Don't go to stupid places with stupid people and do stupid things.  That quote comes from Frank Sharpe, Jr., via Jack Spirko.  Going to a low rider car show is probably not a stupid place.  Staying there while you watch two men fight, or staying late if you see folk starting to get drunk or feel tensions rising, are all stupid things.  Going with a guy from work who wants to wear his "ICE Agent In Training" shirt and walk around saying "green cards?" covers the stupid people part.  The recent case of the couple arrested for having sex in a public pool is a non-violent similar situation.  While the couple had sex for a half hour, parents kept their children in the far side of the pool and one guy tried to block the view so kids wouldn't see it.  What about packing up the kids and going the heck home?!?!?  People these days are so afraid of being "judgemental" or offending someone that they allow themselves to be uncomfortable or even unsafe.

Pay attention to the news.  Know if a part of your city has seen unrest lately.  If you're going to the family reunion, find out if your third cousin's felon ex-husband has been around lately.  Pay attention to world events and such information as the Homeland Security National Terrorism Advisory System.

Carry some gear.  Carry a 72 hour kit in your car.  Have specific kits for specific locations or threats, perhaps for mass transit or airplane situations.  Keep an EDC kit suitable for your specific needs on you at all times.

We can't prevent or avoid all mass violence, but we can take mitigation steps to lessen its impact on us.  Remember, hope is not a plan.

Sponsor Of The Week

The Sponsor of the Week is Directive21.com, home of The Berkey Guy and the great line of Berkey water filter systems. Directive 21 has Wise Food Storage, emergency seed banks, the complete line of Berkey systems, and with the best price on the net, the Berkey Light system is $231 with FREE shipping.  I just saw that Directive 21 is now offering the superb Country Living grain mill.  If you store whole grains, this grain mill is the Cadillac of grain mills.  Please check out Directive 21 and tell them that you heard about them here at If It Hits The Fan.


Is Operational Security a Real Concern?

There has been a lot going on lately that has made me think about OpSec.  Some comments on other blogs and podcasts, things in the news, and people that I know.

In the past, I've done different levels of OpSec.  I've had a nom de plume and a post office box to subscribe to survival-related magazines; I shopped at grocery stores on the other side of town; I've had gear delivered through the mail room at work; and I've gone through phases (pre-Y2K) where everyone at work knew what I was all about - in some ways it was my way of encouraging others to prepare themselves, in other ways it was to cultivate my image - I've outgrown that stage.

There are four main categories for which we need to consider OpSec: total strangers; loose acquaintances/distant family; close friends and family; and nearby neighbors.  There are some other considerations such as government and corporate interests, but those will be a topic for another day.  Let's look at each of the four main categories.

Total Strangers

Some of the comments around the recent Doomsday Preppers show on National Geographic concerned worries that folks on the show have given out too much information about their locations and that if it hits the fan, people from all over will remember seeing the show and track them down.  Similar comments have been made about folks who appear on local news or write blogs and host podcasts.

In my mind, total strangers are the least of our worries when it comes to OpSec. A whole lot of "ifs" need to happen for them to become a risk, and if all those ifs come together, other precautions you've taken should suffice.  If the stranger happens to see the show, article, etc... If the stranger remembers it... If things go bad... If the stranger has a malevolent streak... If the stranger has the resources to track you down... If the stranger doesn't have easier or or more convenient targets... If the stranger can make it to your area of operations without becoming a victim himself...  I think the odds of a total stranger becoming a threat because of your lack of OpSec while building preps is pretty slim.

Loose Acquaintances/Distant Family

I think this could be one of the most hazardous groups where loose OpSec could cause troubles, and not only if it hits the fan. 

That ne'er do well cousin who runs with a rough crowd... he overheard you talking at the last family reunion about your silver bullion and guns... now he owes some money to his bookie or drug dealer but doesn't have it... wonder what information about you would be worth. 

How about your brother-in-law and his 3rd wife, and their four obnoxious, spoiled kids... they are mortgaged to the hilt and live on maxed out credit cards to keep up the payments on matching his & hers Rolexes, SUVs, private schools, dance classes, little league teams, family ski trips, beach condo time share...  He doesn't understand how his sister can stand to be married to you and live in that tiny house with all that garden to take care of and how you "make" her slave over the sewing machine like she is some sort of pioneer or something... When you give them the gift basket of home canned fruit, stews and spaghetti sauce at Christmas, they fake appreciation, then toss it in the dumpster because they know it can't be as good as what they get at Williams-Sonoma...  If it hits the fan, you know they are going to show up at your doorstep with nothing constructive to offer.  In their minds, you owe it to them to take them in. 

You know that loudmouth at work, the guy that you are up against for a promotion?  He overheard you talking to your friend in the lunch room about your new gun and taking him out to learn to shoot it last weekend... His wife saw you at Costco with three cases of toilet paper, six cases of bottled water, four 20 pound propane cans, and three cases of granola bars... He recognized your voice when you called in to the local radio home improvement show and asked about adding solar panels to your power supplies... He knows you are competition for the promotion... Next thing you know, rumors are flying about you being a paranoid wacko who is building a compound and starting a doomsday cult... Promotion interview, or being "down sized" and escorted out by security?

Close Friends and Family

These are the folks that most of us actually want to know what we are doing... not so much so that they will show up on our door steps, but so that they will take the steps to prepare themselves.  I have three of four good friends who are preppers.  We help each other prepare, learn from each other, and know that we can depend on each other if it hits the fan.  Other old friends know what I do and believe... They may not be doing anything to prepare their families, but they know two things... If they ever want me to help them prepare or share information, they only have to ask... and if it does hit the fan, they know not to come here because then it is too late to help them.  They understand the parable of the ant and the grasshopper, even if they do nothing right now to become an ant.

Close family is similar... they may not be ready to adopt the prepper lifestyle completely, but they know where to turn for information and help before things get bad.  Some of them are getting closer to at least having some basic preps set up for a major disaster.  I pray frequently that they will all take precautions and be ready before something major happens becuase then it would be too late for us to help them.

Nearby Neighbors

As demonstrated in yesterday's Twilight Zone posting, these can be the most dangerous.  They see the frequent UPS trucks... they hear the target shooting in the backyard... their kids talk to your kids in school... During the last ice storm, they saw that your lights were on, your chimney was belching smoke 24/7, and your generator never stopped running for the whole week... this can lead to an angry suburbanite mob beating down your door demanding thier right to share in your preps, or furtive calls to the local authorities complaining of your "hoarding" while others suffer.

Or, they can be your best allies.  If they have a garden, go hunting, can and store food, and fired up their own generator during the last storm, even if you are not close friends, you can still help each other... Have an extra set of two-way radios and mutual understandings of defense... Coordinate with the local church (even if neither of you actually attends that particular one) to set up a program to anonymously distribute some charity during a breakdown...  Develop a trust to watch each other's houses and pets while away from home...

There Are No Answers

How much do your need to worry about Operational Security?  There is no set answer.  The best advice I can offer is that you must be aware of OpSec and the various risks and rewards of lowering it.  You need to look at your environment and circumstances, and it needs to flexible to adjust as needed.

Don't let a fear of OpSec concerns keep you from discussing preparedness with others, just know who your are talking to, and don't divulge more than the conversation is worth.

I hope this convinces you to evaluate OpSec and consider if you need to increase it or if you have been too tight lipped about your preps.

I'd be really interested in feedback on this, either as a comments below or through email.

Scheduling Update

This blog entry is actually yesterday's.  We got in too late last night for me to get one out, so this is it.  I'll get out the regular Sunday one later on this afternoon or evening.  Sorry for any confusion!


OpSec - Preview

Operational Security

Tomorrow I plan to discuss Operational Security when it comes to preps.

To get you thinking about it, watch this old episode of The Twilight Zone.


Bombs & IEDs

Good Training Class Today

Today I had a class put on by the Department of Homeland Security, Office of Bombing Prevention.  Very odd name, but a good class, nonetheless.  It was geared toward getting the police to increase awareness of bomb precursors among retailers, and suspicious activity from local businesses such as motels and rental storage places.

I know that many in the prepper community have very tight tin foil hats and might think that I've just put myself on a watchlist that Janet Napolitano checks like Santa Clause.  They also believe that DHS is completely avoiding the topic of Islamist radicals and casting all suspicions on libertarians, veterans, gun owners, etc...  Honestly, I have a touch of tin foiledness myself, and it bothers me a great deal that some police officers believe that crap.  But, this class presented good, factual information and made no bones about the fact that the vast majority of US bombing incidents in the past 30 years have been done by Islamist radicals... some native born, some naturalized or on visas, and some illegal.

They gave us some literature and break room posters to use when working with local merchants.  The posters dealt with suspicious household chemical combinations and information about how some common household chemicals and products might be suspicious if bought in quantity or combinations.  Now, not being a cop anymore, I don't have any merchants, but I am going to share this information with the science teachers in my school district.  It won't do much in the war on terror, but it could keep a student from losing a hand or an eye.

It's Hot

Much of the country is experiencing a scorcher of a heat wave (although it is in the 50s-70s at our land in Wyoming and my cousin's in Northern Idaho - just another reason we want to go West).  It was 101 when I left the city to come home this evening.  You know what to do during times like this... drink plenty of water (if your urine is yellow or darker, you need to drink more), limit outside activity, dress in light colored and loose fabrics.  Be alert to the symptoms of heat illness in yourself and others.


Great Customer Service

Pathfinder Store

At the risk of sounding like a late night infomercial guy pushing all things Pathfinder all the time, I have to tell you about the amazing customer service I just got from the Pathfinder store.  On Monday night I ordered the waterproof book, Survivability for the Common Man; back issues of Self Reliance Illustrated; 800 feet of various colored paracord; buckles; and a jig for making paracord bracelets.  My wife is starting to make them and we'll start selling them here soon.

Anyway, note that I ordered that stuff on Monday night.  Today is Wednesday, and when I got home from work, I found that the post office had delivered them today.  I don't know when I've gotten anything bought and shipped that fast.  If you buy anything from Dave's store, expect amazing service, and I don't think you'll be disappointed.


The Original Off-Road Vehicle

Feet Don't Fail Me Now

Let's face it...  your feet are one of your lifelines.  If you can't walk, your ability to survive many situations is severely compromised.  A character in Rawles' book Patriots describes using his "Shank's Mare" to hike home after he runs out of gas leaving the collapse.

My feet have been jacked up ever since Desert Storm some 20 years ago.  In the Marine Corps, we were issued some awful green wool socks that were rough and uncomfortable, so I took to wearing cotton socks.  For the ground war, we were in MOPP level 2 (charcoal suit and rubber overboots) for 5 or 6 straight days.  Not removing those overboots, combined with cotton socks, lead to rotten feet.  Fast forward a year, and I was a cop, wearing "tactical" boots, again with cotton socks, much of the time on hot summer asphalt.  For the past five years, I've been a suit guy, wearing dress shoes with polyester dress socks.  My feet have never really had time to heal, and I've been pretty lazy about taking care of them.

Before going to Pathfinder School the other week, I bought some Smartwool  lightweight outdoor socks.  This new breed of wool kept my feet cool, dry (due to the wicking action) and comfortable, despite tromping though the creek and 90+ degree days.  When I got home, my feet were actually in better shape than when I left.  I am a convert.

The other day, I went to REI and bought some store brand 65% wool dress socks, a pair in khaki and a pair in black, to wear to work.  They really work.  I'm going back this weekend to buy some more outdoor socks and a few more pair of each color dress socks.  I'm getting rid of all my cotton, polyester, and other socks.

About a year ago, I started hearing the phrase, "cotton kills."  I thought it was just hype, but I think it is really the truth, especially with socks.  You only get two feet, take care of them with the best materials that you can afford.

Poison Ivy Prevention 

I've always been very sensitive to poison ivy.  It seemed to jump out at me and spread everywhere if I just walked close to it.  I broke my arm in the cleanup from Hurricane Isabel and ended up with poison ivy under my temporary cast... not fun!  The past couple years, it hasn't seemed to really affect me much.  Maybe just a spot of it here and there.  I was pretty much expecting to get eaten up with it at Pathfinder school.  Dave's property has it everywhere.  But I only ended up with one tiny blister of it on one finger.  I got to thinking about what could be the cause of my new found immunity.

I think I've found it.  For the past few years, I've been taking Loratadine tablets for hay fever, and to help keep my nasal passages open while I sleep with my CPAP machine.  It is a non-drowsy antihistamine.  I've done a little research, and I've seen references to it as easing and shortening the effects of poison ivy, but I think that I've got a high level of it in my blood, and it has had a prophylactic affect.  It's the only rational thing I can come up with.  This is not medical advice, just my inexpert observations.  But if you are sensitive to poison ivy, it might be good to talk to your doctor about going on a Loratadine regimen, at least during the spring and summer if you will be out in the woods a lot.


Prepper Ponderings


Readership has jumped a bit in the past few days, I'm guessing from folks coming to read my reviews of Pathfinder Basic School.  So, to those of you who are new, Welcome!  Here's a link to my first post back in May of 2010 to find out some of my background and where I come from as a survivalist.  I hope you stick around and come back every day.  Leave comments to the blog posts, engage on Facebook, and email me with questions, comments or suggestions.  Thanks!

Hungry Jack Hashbrowns

I'm always on the look for regular grocery store items that can become a part of a long term storage food rotation program.  Today I say what looked like a 1/2 quart milk carton that has Hungry Jack Premium Hashbrowns in it.  It has 4.2 ounces of shredded "dry" Idaho potatoes, salt, dextrose and sodium bisulfite and BHT for preservatives.  Fill to the line with hot water, let stand for 12 minutes, drain will, then pan fry in a skillet.  You've got a pound (6 1/2 cup servings) of hashbrowns that will do the scattered, smothered and covered at the Waffle House proud... or will they?  I'll try them out this weekend and let you know how they are.

I paid $1.69 for this carton.  On Amazon, they come in a 9-pack at $1.85 each.  If you do the "subscribe and save" program, and get scheduled delivery, they come down to $1.57 each.

I called the toll free number on the pack and asked the nice lady who answered if they were freeze dried or dehydrated.  She didn't know, but took my number and said she'd have someone get back to me.  They have a "best by" date of Dec. 2, 2011, so I asked her how long they had from the pack date.  She said nine months.  No promises here, but I'd guess it's probably closer to a year, and if you kept the cartons protected from any humidity, they'd probably go longer... but if you're rotating your stock, that shouldn't be a problem.

Tactical Knives Magazine

At the grocery store checkout rack this evening, right up there with National Enquirer, People and Women's Week, was a copy of Tactical Knives magazine.  I hadn't looked at a copy in probably 10 years or so, but it must have been providence that put it there in front of me.  There's a Q&A column from Gunny R. Lee Ermey, a how-to pictorial on popping Champagne with a sabre (that'll get used around the New Year's Eve bonfire heh heh heh), and most importantly for our purposes here, a review of the Ontario Knife Company Blackbird SR-5, a good looking custom sheath from Hedgehog Leatherworks, and the Gerber/Bear Grylls Ultimate Knife.  I'm going to contact each of these companies to try and get samples to test and review for you.


Pathfinder School Review - Conclusion

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

The Final Day

Monday dawned bright, and I was well rested from my night on the creek side sand bank.  We got right into signalling for help.  Signals can be visual (smoke, light); audible (whistle, yelling, beating on something), or scent (smoke, cooking odors).  What ever form of signal you might use, anything in threes is considered a universal signal for help.  Dave encouraged everyone to know SOS in Morse code (... --- ... or dit dit dit, dah dah dah, dit dit dit if you did not already know).

We then did an experiment with mirrors and whistles.  We looked at the flashes from several sized mirrors ranging from dog tag, to wallet, to 5x7 pilot size.  From 100 or so yards away with a large tree in the way, only the 5x7 was easily noticeable.  We then did the same experiment with 8 or 9 whistles.  As a group, we determined that the Storm All-Weather Safety Whistle was the best, but none of them were really good at a distance, and yelling would probably be more effective.  In a heavily wooded area, it might be good if you were down with a broken ankle or something and could hear rescuers in the distance, but you had yelled yourself horse already.

Dave then covered thinking like Search & Rescue.  Dave is professionally certified in SAR, so he has a great insight into the way they go about their operations.  Among some of the takeaways were: to leave clues on the ground, not at eye level; don't take a dangerous "shortcut" as SAR will bypass it completely; and clues can be anything that are alien to the environment.

That pretty much wrapped up the class.  We had a series of class and individual photos, plus received our patches and certificates. 

So ultimately, would I recommend this class to anyone else?  Heck yeah!  This class was designed to help a person stay alive for 3 day to a week or so in a wilderness environment if lost or stranded.  Anyone who does any outdoor activities such as hiking, hunting, canoeing, camping, or even driving through remote areas would really benefit from the information in this class.  It also is a great confidence builder and stretches your comfort zones to challenge yourself in new tasks.  The knowledge gained can also give you a greater appreciation and awareness of your local environment.  Dave and his cadre of instructors are all very skilled and are able to present the information in an entertaining and informative manner.

I really want to thank Dave, Chance, Laura, Mitch, Iris and Justin for providing such an outstanding experience and encourage all my readers to visit www.ThePathfinderSchoolLLC.com to look for a class that might fit their needs and schedule.

Sponsor Of The Week

Our Sponsor of the Week is Shelf Reliance and Thrive Food Storage.  From their really cool can rotation systems scalable to fit your needs to the amazing Thrive brand freeze dried foods to fill those rotation systems, and a wide variety of emergency and outdoors gear, the folks at Shelf Reliance have great products and fantastic customer service to help stock your preparedness or every day pantry.  Please give them a visit and tell them you heard about them here at If It Hits The Fan.


Pathfinder School Review - Part 4

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Night Ops

So, it's Saturday evening, dusk is setting in, and I'm looking forward to getting an early start to some sleep...  But nope, the learning continues...

Dave gathered us back together for a class on night navigation.  We learned a very simple, rough way to tell basic directions, and a more intricate method to determine a more accurate direction.

But before we could go out to the field and practice our directions, we had a drill to do in the dark without any lighting equipment.  I won't tell you what it was, but it always pays to keep your gear organized.  The top three in the class with the drill won a nice prize pack of gear, and a 12 (Oops) 13 year old boy was one of the winners.  When someone said it looked like he had been watching some of Dave's videos, he said, "only every single one, at least five times!"

We then went out in the field and did two night navigation exercises.  Contrary to popular belief, the North Star is not necessarily what a person wants to use to determine direction of travel.

After completing our tasks for the evening, I hiked up the hillside to my new shelter, looking forward to a restful sleep.  Once again, I found out too late that I had it on an angle... this time to the side.  It wasn't too steep, so I thought it would be OK.  I tossed and turned throughout the night, and when I finally arose at day break, I found that my bag had actually slid a foot or so down hill.  As I was getting ready to head to class, I realized that I had a crushing headache.  It wasn't dehydration - I had been drinking plenty of water.  As the day wore on, I realized it was from a lack of sleep and probably some caffeine withdrawal from a shortage of Diet Cokes (that's a problem I need to get kicked).  I spent much of the day with my shemagh soaked in creek water and wrapped either around my neck or over my head trying to ease the pain.

The first class of the day was on hunting tools.  We looked at the rabbit stick, gigs, spears, and sling shot.  Then, we each found and formed a rabbit stick.  That was followed by a rabbit stick course with several water and milk jugs set up as targets.  It's a lot harder than it looks, and will take practice to become proficient.

Next up, the adults went with Laura for a tour of the property to learn about wild medicinals while the kids stayed with Dave and built Swedish Spears.  The medicinals class was very informative.  It covered many of the same plants that we learned about in the edibles class the day before, but with multiple uses.

Back in the class area, we learned more about improvised weapons for hunting, places to look for animals, and seven types of animal sign.  We learned two types of traps, deadfall with a breakaway trigger and a spring trap with a toggle trigger. 

We broke for a working lunch with several deliverables...  Each team had to make both traps, and each individual had to find and explain three wild medicinals and complete the magnifying glass fire if it hadn't already been done.

My team split up so that one part worked on the toggle trigger spring trap, and the rest did the deadfall with breakaway trigger.  I worked with one other adult and two kids on the deadfall.  It took us well over an hour to get it so it would collapse reliably.  After that, I went and quickly gathered my medicinals, and was able to borrow a magnifying glass with just a few minutes left.  I got a nice big ember quickly, but couldn't get the fire.  I asked Dave if I could complete it on my own at home and send him proof, and he said that was fine.

Today I completed that task and posted this video (please check out the IfItHitsTheFan YouTube Channel for all of my videos).

Chance then gave us a class on the compass, and sent us out in small groups on a 10 point compass course through the property that they had laid out.  It was pretty challenging distances and terrain, but a great learning experience.

Before sending us out, Chance and Mitch noticed that I was not at a hundred percent and made sure I wasn't becoming a heat casualty.  I really appreciated their concern.  I told them of my sleeping problems and Chance suggested a location on a small sandbank beside the creek at the class area.  After my group finished the compass course, I hiked up the hill to collect my gear and then built a new shelter in that location.

When all the groups came in, Mitch went over a couple of alternative methods of finding direction that included using your watch and building a solar compass.

We closed out the day with a class from Mitch on making cordage.  There are quite a few yucca plants on Dave's property, so everyone went out and gathered materials to make 2 feet of cordage.  I really did not get it, and fumbled around just twisting the strands together, when all of a sudden it hit me and I came out with a nice looking, and pretty strong piece of cordage.  There is some yucca at my mother-in-law's house, so I'll definitely be keeping up this skill.  I'll also try other materials like some inner barks or grasses.

The last project of the day was dinner.  Dave brought out two big, fat rabbits.  He demonstrated killing one with a solid blow to the back of the head, then Mitch (Oops) Chance skinned and butchered it.  He then got a student who had never killed anything before to kill the second rabbit, and a couple others skinned and butchered it.  One rabbit went in a Dutch oven to become a stew and the other went on a spit over the fire.  Both tasted delicious.

I made another trip into town to WalMart to pick up some aspirin and two Diet Cokes... one to take the edge off right then, and the other for breakfast.  I felt like a million bucks after that, and bedded down in my creekside shelter to a soft, level bedroll and the sounds of a babbling rapid in my ears.  I finally slept like a log.

Monday morning dawned bright and I was well rested.  I'll tell you about the last day of school tomorrow.


Pathfinder School Review - Part 3

Part 1

Part 2

Day 2

After a rough night of little sleep, I was up and about a little before 7.  I got myself freshened up and made my way to the class area to eat my Mountain House granola with milk and blueberries (pretty darned tasty) and await the start of the day.

First up, we learned about water purification.  As one of the 5 Cs, a container should be stainless steel so that water can be boiled in it for purification.  Also, the container should be one quart because chemical purification methods such as tincture of iodine, bleach, and Aqua Mira all base their measurements on that amount of water.

I'm sure you've all seen or heard the advice (sometimes as a municipal water advisory) to biol contaminated water for 5 minutes.  Turns out, that the CDC says that you only need to bring it to a boil, not maintain it for any length of time.  When water is at 165 degrees, it starts to kill pathogens.  In the time that it takes to go from 165 to 212, all the pathogens will get killed.

Next, we learned about shelter construction, starting with natural material shelters.  Just like when buying a home, among the most important things to consider are Location, Location, Location... after a night of sliding down hill in my bag, don't I know it.

We covered several types of shelters that can be built with debris and other natural materials, with the type of shelter you might choose depending on the environment.  We the learned about different techniques for building emergency shelters... remember the Cordage and Cover from the 5 Cs?  Here's where they come in.

We then had three group deliverables.  An emergency rain shelter, and emergency cold weather shelter, and a natural debris shelter.  Our group looked at the materials that several of us had handy, and first built a rain shelter out of nothing more than a 55 gallon trash bag, some bank line, some 550 cord and a disposable space blanket.  We cut open the bag on two sides; tied small, round river rocks into the four corners, and used 550 cord to stake it out in a "wedge" form.  We realized that there was some give to it that would cause it to droop under a heavy rain, so we ran a length of bank line from one end to the other to support the peak more.  Then, the space blanket was placed inside it to provide some insulation.  It would have been cramped, but in poor weather, it would have provided some basic protection from the elements to all but the largest of person.  For our cold weather shelter, we used a higher quality space blanket, one of the two-sided ones.  We found a large rock that we could build a fire in front of to reflect its heat back into the shelter, then suspended the space blanket as a lean-to.  Next, we staked some branches on either end of the lean-to and wove other branches through them with leaves and debris as insulation and a wind break.

Our group then hiked to the top of the hill side to construct our primitive shelter.  We found an area with a fairly level floor, a lack of poison ivy, and enough building materials.  There we constructed a lean-to with all debris that we found... no materials that we brought with us.  We set up a long branch between two forked trees for the peak.  Against that we placed a number of small branches, then placed smaller branches on those branches as a latticework.  On top of the lattice, we piled dozens of armloads of leaves to provide insulation and rain proofing.  At one end that was slightly up hill, we dug a trench to channel any water runoff so that it would go around the shelter rather than into it.

During the lunch break, I moved and rebuilt my shelter on the hill to a spot that I thought would be more comfortable.  I simply strung a tarp among some trees and placed my bedroll under it.  It looked flat and clear.

To start the afternoon, Dave gave us a demonstration of making a magnifying glass fire.  He then assigned a deliverable of for each of us to accomplish the same by the end of the course.  Only a few folks in class had magnifying glasses, so I needed to borrow one.  It turned out that I didn't get my hands on one until late the next day, and only had about five minutes of time to do it.  I got a nice ember, but couldn't get the flame.  Tomorrow, I'll be doing a video of me accomplishing this, and to show you the technique we were taught.  I'll send the link to Dave to get credit for the deliverable.

Next up, Mitch took us on a wild edibles tour of the property.  He concentrated on plants that were common, had no poison look-a-likes, and were useful in an emergency.  I'm not going to go into them, because a person really needs to get the information first hand from an expert to be safe, but suffice it to say that I was amazed at the variety of wild plants that are readily available to provide nutrition, and in many cases, great flavor.  Since getting home, I've already found four of the plants we learned about and have enjoyed snacking on them in my yard.  If you haven't learned about wild edibles in your area, you really ought to do so.

After another delicious MRE and a fine cigar by the campfire, I was looking forward to crawling in the sack early... but it was not to be yet.

Check us out tomorrow for my report on a couple of night exercises and Day 3.


Pathfinder School Review - Part 2

Part 1

The Rest of Day 1

After building my shelter the rain had stopped, and I was getting ready to head down the hill to the class area when I noticed a bird's nest in one of the branches that made up my shelter roof.  Thinking it might come in handy, I pocketed it to save it for later.

We gathered back in the class area, and wouldn't you know it, I had forgotten to bring my folding camp chair.  I sat on a flat rock, perched on a small log.  It was better than sitting flat on the ground, but I frequently had to stand to get feeling back in my legs.

Dave began teaching about the three aspects of survivability.  I'm not going to give away too much here, you'll have to get his book or go through the class yourself.  He then went into thermoregulation and discussed different types and layers of clothes to wear for different temperature ranges.

He next taught his Five Cs of survivability...  those five items that you should have in every emergency kit to get you through the first 72 hours, that are also hard to replicate or replace in the field.  I'll go ahead and tell you what they are, as he shares the information in this Discovery Channel video too.
The items are: Cutting Tool, Combustion Device, Covering Device, Container and Cordage.

In interesting item that I picked up when he was going over the combustion device was when he told us that Wet Fire works great, but only when freshly unwrapped from it's sealed package.  If you remember back a couple weeks, I tested some Wet Fire and it worked great.  I had some leftover in my kit while I was at the school, and sure enough, during a night exercise, I found that it failed on me.  I definitely need to get some more.

Next he covered five more Cs.  These are not so much needed for survival, but they add to comfort and convenience. 

Chance was up next with knife and axe use and safety.  Among some good information was a recommendation for the Bahco Laplander Folding Saw.  Several of these were in use around the camp, and all performed flawlessly.  He didn't recommend a particular knife, but gave us some features to look for.  Those included: high carbon steel blade (easy to keep sharp); 90 deg. angle on the spine (to get the best scrape on a ferro rod); no coating, at least at the point where you'd scrape it; 5+ inch blade at least 3/16th inch thick.  Swedish Mora knives and USMC Ka-Bars seemed to be the most represented in class.

Next up was fire starting.  A key is that the initial goal is to create an ember, not a fire... that comes later.  Another thing is that as soon as you get a fire going, you need to start preparing for the NEXT fire.  Among the ways to do that is to ensure you have dry tinder, and something to start the ember.  Char cloth is a great way to do that.  And, that was our first deliverable project... Char cloth and a fire in our tinder.  Remember that bird's nest I found?  Yep... it came in handy.  Everyone started making char cloth and gathering grass and twigs to dry out.  I got my char cloth made, and my bird's nest had dried out.  I'm happy to say that I was the first in the class to get my fire.

Mitch then gave a demonstration of a bow drill fire.  If you've never made one (and I haven't), it is not as easy as it looks on TV.  Mitch went to town with his kit and sure enough got one going.  We didn't have to make a bow drill fire in the basic class, but those who go for the advanced class must.  I'm going to work on making one this summer.

By this time, evening was approaching, and we broke class.  Dave gave us directions to town for those who needed a dose of civilization.  Another student and I headed in to Wal Mart to pick up camp chairs.  We were the only two without.  Back at camp, I enjoyed a nice MRE (a complete review of the MREs that I had over the weekend will come after I finish this series), a cigar, and climbed the hill to my shelter...  which I found had sagged so bad that I couldn't get in my bedroll.

I dragged my bedroll out a bit so that my legs were still under cover, and the rest of me was sticking out.  Luckily, the rain was long gone.  I crawled in, soaking in sweat, and found that I was on an incline.  Tired, and unwilling to tromp around in the brush in my bare feet, I determined to suck it up.  Between the heat, coyote howls, buzzing mosquitoes, and the short track race cars in the distance, sleep was hard coming... and hard keeping as I kept sliding down hill inside my bag.  A miserable night, but worth it. 

Day two comes tomorrow!


Pathfinder School Review, Part 1

Getting Started

Last December, I found that Dave Canterbury had a $50 off sale on early sign ups for his Pathfinder Basic School for July.  Not being able to resist such a good deal and great opportunity, I casually mentioned to my wife how cool it would be to go.  She took the hint, and got it for me for my birthday.  I really didn't do much to prepare for quite a while since I started writing this blog daily at about the same time.

By late June, the school was right around the corner, and I had gotten the syllabus and recommended gear list, so I took a few trips to Dick's, Bass Pro, REI, and even Wal Mart for a few things that I needed.  My wife made me a bedroll out of canvas duck, and I rented a Jeep Cherokee for the trip.

Last Thursday afternoon rolled around, and I hit the road to Jackson, Ohio.  It only took me about 5 and a half hours to get there, and I scouted out the meeting location for the next morning.  I checked in at the Day's Inn and hit the local Bob Evans (his original farm was just right down the road) restaurant for a late dinner.

Friday morning arrived rainy and nasty, and I made my way back to the meeting site.  As we gathered there, most folks were keeping to themselves, not much more than a head tilt or a "mornin'" as a greeting...  That really changed by the time we go into the training.  And then, Dave Canterbury rolled up with his wife, Iris.  Not some Hollywood hotshot in a Cadillac Escalade or Eddie Bauer package Ford Excursion, but a regular guy in a regular 4x4.  He looked and sounded just like he does on TV, and was extremely personable.  We waited a little bit, then convoyed to the training location...  A small farm house surrounded by acres and acres of thick woods, streams, mining caves, and some steep darn hills.

As we arrived, we gathered in the class area that had been strung with a variety of tarps.  There, we met the other instructors, Chance Sanders, a former Marine with a growing YouTube channel; Chance's wife, Laura, the first female to complete the Pathfinder Advanced school; and Dave "Mitch" Mitchell, a primitive backwoodsman with the Native Survival website, training school and YouTube channel.  Also on hand for the week were Dave's wife, Iris (a wonderful lady who was the chief photographer and super nice); his son, Justin (who Dave had running gear and supplies back and forth); and Pearl, the local stray dog who stays for every Pathfinder class, mooching food and testing out shelters and sleeping bags.

We started off with 30 students.  Nine were kids, three were ladies, and the rest adult men.  One fellow had some medical issues and couldn't stay past the first day.  Of the rest of the group, we ranged in age from 9 to 60, with me being probably in the oldest 5 or 6.  Two of the ladies were moms there with their sons, the other was a newcomer to camping and being outside, but her fiance is a big time outdoorsy guy in to rock climbing and hiking, so she came to learn the skills to accompany him.  She was so hard core that she is already signed up for the Pathfinder Advanced course coming up in a week or so.  Of the kids, quite a few were Cub or Boy Scouts, and the men covered every occupation including engineers and cops, with quite a few former military.  The group came from California, Las Vegas, Arizona, Detroit, Indiana, Ohio, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, Georgia, Florida and Louisiana... just off the top of my head.

After introductions, we hiked up a tall, steep, wooded hillside to see some of the primitive shelters built by other classes, and stake out our own sites.  Some of the parents with young kids and a couple other folks set up tents in the clearing between the cars and the class area, but I had to go up high to see what I could come up with.

That's enough of an introduction, I'll give you more stories over the next few days.  I'll put my photos on a YouTube video this weekend, but you can also check out the Pathfinder School FB photo albums.


Pathfinder School & A New BOV

Pathfinder Basic School

Well, I made it back in one piece.  Going to the Pathfinder Basic class was an amazing experience.  I learned a ton of great information and practiced some really cool skills.  Dave Canterbury is a great guy and extremely knowledgeable.  The assistant instructors were also great.  We had a big class, with ages from 9 to 60, and it couldn't have been a better group of folks.  Today has been a day of cleaning up and catching up to get ready for work tomorrow, but over the next few days, I'll be sharing some pictures and things that I learned.


Today we bought a late model, low mileage Honda Element for me.  I've wanted an Element since they came out in 2003, and finally was able to do it.  This will become my daily driver, and over the next couple weeks, I'll write about my process of turning it into the ultimate long-distance commuter GHV/BOV (Get Home Vehicle/Bug Out Vehicle).  And yes, I'll be changing up my bags and kits using information that I got from Pathfinder School.

Sponsor Of The Week

Our Sponsor of the Week is Survival Gear Bags.  They have some really great sales going on right now, including $30 off the regular price for Blast Boxers.  Whether you need a ready made BOB, or the materials to custom build your own, the folks at Survival Gear Bags can make it happen for you.  At Pathfinder School this weekend, I carried my Venturer Excursion Organizer Bag everywhere I went, loaded up with my 10 C's of survival.  And, it happens to be on sale right now.  Check out Survival Gear Bags, and please tell them that you heard about them at If It Hits The Fan!


I'm Packing Up

Heading To Ohio

The last gear is bought, the car (Jeep Grand Cherokee) is rented (my truck has 165K on it and the AC doesn't work, so I think an out of state trip is asking for trouble in it), and I'm packing up right now to leave in the morning.

My wonderful wife finished the canvas bedroll last night.  It looks really cool!  I'm really looking forward to crawling in with my GI wool blanket and sleeping under the stars (or rain as the weather looks for the next couple days).

I went out to the shop and got a few more pieces of old camping gear to take.  Remember how I said a few days ago that I had rolled up my self-inflating air pad the last time I went winter camping in about 1998 or so?  Well, it looks like that was also the last time I used my old GI mess kit... yeah.  Twelve year old bacon grease... yuck!  But, a quick soak in hot dishwater and a green scrubby pad and it looks as good as new.  Those green scrubby pads are fantastic.  In the past I've used them to clean rust off of second hand cast iron cookware, and off of yard sale knives.

I may get out a brief post tomorrow before I shove off, but it depends.  There will not be a post on Friday, Saturday or Sunday.  If I get back Monday, I'll get a short post up.  A multi-part full report on the class will start Tuesday.  If I have a cell phone signal out there, I'll try to put up a couple Facebook posts each day, so please "Like" us on FB if you haven't already done so.


It Hit The Fan... Again

Glad We Have A Generator

If you've been a reader for a while, you know that we lose power around here if someone sneezes in the direction of a power line.

We had a heck of storm come through again last night.  My dad lives about 10 miles away and they lost their power about 8:30.  We still had power as the storm faded away before we went to bed.  About 2 a.m., I awakened when my CPAP machine shut off.  I had to get up at 5 a.m., and we were hoping it would come back on before then. 

I went to try and sleep in the living room since I snore so loud.  Needless to say, by the time the alarm went off at 5, I hadn't gotten much sleep and the power was still off.  I slipped on my Petzl headlamp (that I reviewed a couple months ago) and went out to fire up the generator.  Outside, I heard work going on down the road, so I walked on down to the church where the linemen were cutting up a large tree that had fallen across the road, taking out the power lines.  When asked, he told me that I ought to go ahead and fire it up because it would be a while.

I hooked up and started the generator, then topped off the gas tank.  I tell you, if you have ever messed with a generator while trying to hold a flashlight or having your spouse standing in the rain/snow with you holding it, you need to get a headlamp.  It was the first time I tried it, and I'll never hold a flashlight in a storm again!  It made it so much easier having a bright light with both hands free.

Anyway, I got the genny started and powered up the refrigerator, freezer, water heater, well pump, and a couple of lights and outlets.  I quick email to the boss, and I was back in bed to get a two hour power nap with my CPAP.  I wouldn't have made it other wise.

After waking, I topped off the tank again, showered, and went on to work.  My wife works late on Tuesdays, so she got a little sewing done (do you think I can get her to go to an old foot powered machine?) before getting ready for work.  Before she left, she powered down and shut off the generator.  I left work a little early and got home ready to fire back up, but the power was on and the we were back in business.

Countdown to Pathfinder

Today I stopped at a surplus store for my last items for school later this week.  I got two pair of BDU trousers, made by Propper, which by all accounts are the best standard BDUs you can get, all to military spec.  I got one in tri-color desert and one in black.  They were the only two in my size.

I also got a half dozen MREs, apparently marked as DOD.  When I was in, I actually loved MREs.  I haven't had any since the early 90's vintage, and the ones I got are of newer stock.  I'll take notes on them and do a review of the various menus.


Fire Starter Test Reports

New Video Is Up

I've got the new video up on the IfItHitsTheFan YouTube channel now.  We did a multi-part product review looking at two different types of pocket sized fire starters, along with how they compared on five different types of starting tinder - three store bought and two home made.  The tests really surprised me.

Please check it out and consider subscribing to our YouTube channel.

Hope you had a great Independence Day!

Post Delayed Due To Rain

Heck Of A Storm

Well, I didn't get a post up last night.  We went out to the local horse track for my dad's Rotary Club annual fundraiser.  We had a nice buffet up in the suites, so we got to watch the races and great fireworks show in air conditioned comfort.  They also had a silent auction, and I scored a $100 REI gift card for only $45.  Wish I had it earlier in the week when I was getting gear for next week.

Anyway, when we left, the sky was alive with heat lightning.  As we got closer to home, the wind really picked up. I checked the weather alert on the cell phone, and sure enough, we were under a severe storm warning.  Even closer to home, the heavy rains kicked in and the roads were covered with debris and branches.

We made it in the house as heavy thunder and lightning came into the area, and the trees were swaying ominously.  I fired up the computer to do a quick post and blam... the power shut off.  It came back on a moment later, but I took it as an omen not to do anything on the computer.  Everything ended up fine in the end, but it sure was a big old gully washer.

Anyway, have a happy Independence Day.  Remember what it took to get and keep our freedom, and do what you can to ensure it isn't squandered.

I'm heading out now to video the firestarting videos to get them posted up this evening.

Sponsor of the Week

Our Sponsor of the Week is Wise Food Storage from The Berkey Guy.  The Berkey Guy has several grab & go packs in stock: 56 serving breakfasts and entrees; 60 serving entrees; and 84 serving breakfasts and entrees.  There is free shipping on all orders in the Continental US.  Of course, being the Berkey Guy, Jeff also has the wonderful Berkey water purification systems.  Right now, until July 15th, when you buy any Berkey system, you'll get a free Pelican 2360 LED Tactical Flashlight.


Going High Tech

iPhone As Survival Gear

Well, I went and did it.  After years of being somewhat of a Luddite when it comes to cell phones (I still have a yearning for a Jitterbug with only the "home" "911" and "Operator" buttons), I went ahead and upgraded my old flip phone for the iPhone4 today.  Verizon is ending its unlimited data plan next week, so I had to get in now to be grandfathered.

In addition to replacing my flip phone, I'm also replacing my iPod Touch.  I hadn't had that a week when I dropped it and it fell flat on a sidewalk, cracking the screen in several places.  Scotch tape has worked wonders holding it together, and hasn't interfered with the functioning at all... but I wanted to protect my new phone, so I got the Griffin Survivor military-grade case for it.  The Griffin has a two part "unbreakable" polycarbonate shell and a rubber frame case.  The touch screen is still perfectly usable, and the rubber case has flip out openings for the charging port, rear camera, and earphone port.  It is supposed to be protective for up to a 6' drop onto concrete, and also protects from water, dust and shock.  Plus, it looks pretty cool.

I've started adding some apps to it.  So far I've got Survival Guide - based on the military's FM 21-76 manual; Emergency Radio Free; and the iHandy Flashlight.

Survival Guide has 19 chapters, including shelters, water and fire, animals and plants, and survival in different environments.  It also has 8 appendices with lists and identifying information for poisonous plants and animals, ropes and knots, and other topics.  All-in-all, it seems easily navigable, and some good useful information.

Emergency Radio Free has real-time access to police, fire, rescue, and other emergency radios around the US and in several foreign countries.  Not every agency is accessible, but it is easy to scroll by state, then alphabetically by city or county.  I'm not much on listening to a scanner for fun, but it would be good to have during an emergency, or even in a heavy traffic situation.

iHandy Flashlight allows the use of the camera flash as a pretty bright flashlight.  It can also, with a choice of buttons, display like a glow stick, flash SOS in Morse code, flash as a strobe, plus a number of more useless styles of light.  The flashlight is bright enough to check a breaker box, find a pistol in the dark, or get through the woods without tripping on a root.  I'm not sure how much of a battery drain it is, but I can't see using it for an extended period of time anyway.  I had to move the rubber flap over the camera lens/light aside to use the flashlight, but it was no big deal.

I'm going to do my best to add only useful, survival-oriented apps to the phone.  I'm not much of a video game guy.  As I find good apps (or ones that aren't so great), especially free ones, I'll let you know.  If you have any good suggestions, please pass them on.


First Of The Month

It's the first of the month, have you...

Test run your generator?
Rotated you gasoline stores?
Tested your smoke and/or carbon monoxide detectors?
Checked your household and vehicle fire extinguishers?
Given your dog his heart worm pill and flea/tick treatment?
Changed your HVAC filters?
Test run all your small engine equipment?

I forgot to post this list for June 1st, and wouldn't you know it, I also forgot to do a few of the tasks myself.  I hope some of you use the reminders, but they are just as much to remind me.

More Gear For Pathfinder School

We went out to Blue Ridge Mountain Sports, back to REI, and to Bass Pro Shops to get the last bit of gear for school next week.  Here's what I got:
Suunto MCB-B compass with a sighting mirror
Peterson Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants (Eastern)
Smartwool PhD socks
Mountain House Scrambled Eggs w/ Bacon
Mountain House Granola w/ Milk & Blueberries
Cliff CRUNCH Granola Bars Chocolate Chip - 10 pack
Cliff CRUNCH Granola Bars Peanut Butter - 10 pack

I also picked up a cool tan 550 cord bracelet.  I have no idea how much cord is woven on it, but I'd guess about 10-12 feet that I can have with me at all times.

A reader asked if I could put out the gear list...  Here's the basic recommended list:
Two cutting tools
Ferro cerium rod
Stainless steel water bottle or a canteen & canteen cup
Tarp or poncho, at least 8x8
Two 55 gallon drum liners
Sleeping bag or blanket (I'll have the bedroll my wife's making me)
100' of 550 cord
Two 36" bungee cords
A 3'x3' cotton material or bandanna (I'll use a GI sling from a FA kit and a square of muslin)
Headlamp with spare batteries
Compass with bezel ring and sighting mirror
50' of 2" duct tape
Repair needle
Dry bag with a 5 to 10 liter capacity
Journal and 3 carpenter pencils
Bottle of 2% tincture of iodine
Clothes appropriate for weather
Medications for personal use or allergies including poison ivy (I got a bottle of Benedryl gel for the PI)
Food for meals and snacks

Should be fun!