A Handy Tool for Gun Nuts on the Go

June 14, 2010

Screenshot from StateLines iPhone app

Just wanted to pop in to share a tip for those of you who travel frequently–over the road, in particular–and worry about concealed carry laws as you venture from one state to another.

Technomads Chris Dunphy & Cherie Ve Ard live full-time on the road in a high-tech, self-contained, propane-and-solar-powered fiberglass travel trailer. They realized the need for a reference that would inform them of various laws as they traveled throughout North America, including:

  • Leash Laws
  • Concealed Carry Laws
  • Traffic Laws
  • Cell Phone Laws
  • Trailer & Load Laws
  • And More!!!

StateLines was born in the form of an iPhone application, and hopefully they’ll expand their app to the Android platform.

By the way, I’d like to thank the lady behind THIS BLOG for making the connection between many of the issues in this blog and the independence of  modern nomadic living.

I’ve been geeking out on nomadic bloggers for a while, in part because I’m striving for a simpler life. Having many loved ones scattered hither and thither, I’d love to be able to spend time as “temporary neighbors”, as the Technomads put it, as I work on writing projects.

There’s a lot to be learned about self-reliance from the growing community of younger full-time RVers. Techniques that might otherwise not make it past our own fashionable tinfoil chapeaus and into our inquiring minds. I hope not to be away so long, and upon my return, I’ll likely revisit this topic and share some of the links and resources I’ve hoarded…in the meantime, thanks for reading! Keep yer powder dry, be it Max Factor or Hodgdon!

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Learn Skills for Cheap Thrills

November 9, 2008
Learn to use a real field compass, and to read a topo map.

Learn to use a real field compass, and to read a topo map.

Bored, but too broke to hit up the latest chick flick? Challenge yourself to learn a new skill each week. Pick something that will save you money, augment your fitness goals, aid in survival or preparedness, or all of the above. Bring a friend on board, or even plan an outing with friends to attend a workshop or simply learn together.

Skills I’ve really enjoyed, especially in the company of friends, include knot tying (get your mind out of the gutter), survival fishing, making snares, identifying and preparing wild edibles, survival signaling and old-school orienteering.

Geocaching with a GPS unit is another great way to get friends and family out of the house and on the trail.

Household frugality skills that have become rusty for many of us include bread baking, intensive gardening, soapmaking, candlemaking, knitting, basic home improvement & maintenance, and medicinal herbs.

Many community colleges or county recreation departments offer inexpensive classes on the above topics. Online resources and printed guidebooks can allow you to learn a new skill in the time it takes to drink your morning coffee.

Learning with friends is the way to go. In my old home city, my girlfriends and I took turns planning outings in which we’d either learn something new, or attend a lecture or reading that broadened our own horizons. In addition to learning something new, you learn more about the people in your immediate lives. A favorite activity was an outing to a rock climbing gym, when one buddy earned my respect for the hard-earned skills she’d built in a few short months of training.

Another was a CPR class I took with my family before we embarked on a three-month boating trip through Alaska’s inland passage, by way of Canada’s San Juan Islands. (After that, I learned to suture pickled pigs’ feet and administer insulin injections into oranges, woo hoo).

My general philosophy is to make preparedness and self-reliance a natural part of my life. Never be ashamed to admit you know how to field dress a rabbit, make glue from pine pitch or change the oil on your Subaru.

Building good skillsets benefits your self-confidence as well as your self-reliance, and makes you more interesting at social gatherings. You may be tempted to demonstrate bushcraft firestarting at your cousin’s wedding reception next summer, and I’m here to let you know that that’s a bad idea. Knowing how to use your emergency suture/fishing kit to fix the bride’s bussle, on the other hand, will make you the belle of the ball.


Hey girls, be road savvy!

November 9, 2008
Don't just stand there, girlfriend!

There's more to a good roadside emergency kit than outstanding cleavage.

One of my favorite memories of my Dad was his endearing ritual whenever I left for a considerable road trip. Returns to college after visits, or weekend expeditions to the Sierras, for example. I’d be raiding the fridge for last-minute snacks, and he’d be circling my Blazer with a  bottle of Windex and tire gauge, making sure The Beast was ready to go. He’d check my oil and antifreeze, wash my headlights and scrape the dead bugs off my windshield, and more often than not he’d tuck a $20 where I’d find it, just in case.

I miss him a ton, and think of him every time I call AAA…even though he made sure I knew how to change a tire before I got my license, and insisted I carry a good emergency kit that includes the following essentials:

  • flares
  • first aid kit
  • flashlight
  • folding shovel
  • Thomas guide
  • Matches/Fire starting Supplies (note, if you have fresh flares, you’ve got a backup)
  • snow scraper (in winter)
  • tire chains (in winter)
  • Rain-X Wipes (in case you lose your windshield wipers)
  • Duct Tape
  • 2 quarts motor oil
  • $20+ cash
  • water
  • blanket
  • raincoat or poncho
  • Wool cap
  • Work Gloves
  • paper towels
  • tarp
  • jumper cable
  • Red Bandanna (tie to antennae as a signal, also handy for carting around lumber or oversized stuff in everyday situations)
  • Tow Strap and/or Come-Along

No wonder I had to drive a full-sized truck! Nowadays I keep most of this stuff in waterproof river bags in my car-top carrier, along with a couple old sleeping bags and a few extras I’ll mention below.

I always made sure I had something to eat; crappy snack food is the highlight of any road trip. When portable cellular phones became somewhat affordable later in my college career, he was thrilled when I added a clunky bag phone to my car kit, and even offered to foot the bill.

Today, I’ve modified my kit a bit to include a Garmin GPS system with tons of road maps, Rain-X wipes, cell phone car charger and in addition to old-fashioned jumper cables, a combo power source/jump starter/compressor. I use it all the time, and in fact used it last week when I discovered a flat tire while on break from work.

Good thing, too. It occurs to me that, in spite of years of off-roading, I personally haven’t changed a tire since I was 16 and my dad was there to coach me. I’ve been lucky; my flats–infrequent as they were–occurred on well-traveled public road, either in the company of a strapping beau or within range of AAA.

Looks like it’s time for me to get familiar with the flimsy portable jack in the back of my sports wagon. I still spend a lot of time on rural or unpaved roads (with or without my dear and capable beau) but no self-respecting, self reliant woman’s gonna sit and cry if her tire blows out 20 miles from civilization because she can’t remember how to do this simple deed.

I’m not going to give you a tutorial, since this page will do it better than I can, with video, and anyway I have to go let my dog out. She’s had cataclysmic diarrhea and I’m afraid she’s in for another round. Note to tin-foil hat-wearing, emergency-prep-minded self: This is a reminder that switching a dog’s food too suddenly is NOTHING you want to mess with when there’s no good supply of water, and your patience/paper towel supply is limited.

But before I (and my dog) go, I want to remind you to make sure you have the above basic necessities in your vehicle at all times. Before heading out for a major road trip, you might want to augment your kit with an indoor-safe portable car heater (or make your own, as per Ron Fontaine of SurvivalTopics) additional food for you and your passengers, plastic baggies and toilet paper and–this is important–stuff to keep you or your kids entertained in case of breakdowns or long

(we interrupt this program to let the dog out. We now return to our regular programming.)

road-closures, such as one I encountered over the Christmas holiday one year when, for four hours, my dog (thankfully, her intestinal fortitude was in its prime) and I sat on the side of the highway several miles outside Weed, California among hundreds of truckers and other holiday travelers because there were three inches of new snow on the Siskyou Pass, and everyone knows that Californians don’t know how to drive in snow. That was an experience. Out of the blue, a buddy of mine loaned me a hand-held CB radio he’d found at The Bins, and I was able to monitor the chatter of the truckers down the line–fine entertainment, especially since I got few stations on the car stereo, and I was bored to tears by my own CD collection.

This non-survival situation DID challenge my supplies, and since there were no roadside amenities–not even concealment on this flat, barren plateu–I was forced to contemplate means of relieving myself away from the view of all the other roadsters who were just as devoid of entertainment as I. Perhaps carrying all these supplies in a gamma-seal bucket might be an option for shy travellers? (Don’t forget the baby wipes and trash bags!)

A bright bandanna or reflective tape, with a note, is better.

A bright bandanna or reflective tape, with a note, is better.

Here are a few more tips that might help you get out of a tricky traveling situation:

  • Stuck in mud or snow? Use a floor mat under your tire to provide traction. Might not work on the first try, but in most cases, you’ll succeed!
  • If you’re stranded in deep snow, make sure your tailpipe is clear so you don’t get a backup of carbon monoxide. Check it frequently if you’re staying put. Otherwise, snow on your car will provide added insulation. A tarp and shovel/spade will improve any wet weather dig-out or chain-up situation, trust me.
  • In really harsh winter emergencies, the foam in your car seats can provide excellent insulation for your clothing. You can use a tire, worst-case-scenario, or siphoned gasoline to light an effective and very toxic signal fire. (Stay away from the smoke, and don’t start a grass or forest fire!). Bring all your emergency essentials from the trunk or car topper into the main compartment to reduce trips outside.
  • If you leave your vehicle for any reason, be sure to leave a note where rescuers will see it. Tell them when you left, when you were stranded, where you went and when you expect to be back. I suggest writing a short note on reflective tape with permanent ink affixed to your antennae, with another on your dash.
  • Inform a friend of your intended travel route before you leave, and plan to check in with this person upon arrival. Which leads to…
  • If you tend to take unexpected or scenic routes on a whim, take the time to text or call a reliable friend with as much information as you can. Include mile markers, road numbers or names, even GPS or map coordinates.
  • If you use any type of portable indoor-safe heater, you’ll still want to crack your windows for cross-ventilation. NEVER burn anything inside your car unless you’re sure the fumes won’t hurt you; you may be better off making shelter and a warming fire outside of your car.
  • ALWAYS CARRY STURDY WALKING SHOES in your vehicle.
  • Always carry water in your car, and rotate your supplies regularly.
  • Consider carrying easy-to-prepare meals and snacks in your car, such as Mountain House, Mainstay, candy bars or trail mix bars.
  • Bring along a food-safe metal container in which to boil water or melt snow.
  • Bring along extra prescription meds if you require them, and keep an extra pair of prescription glasses on hand and/or a spare set of contact lenses. Bring along saline fluid if you wear lenses!
  • Got kids? Bring spare formula, bottles, diapers, wipes and maybe some extra disposable gloves.
  • Oh yeah. Hand sanitizer!

Another important tip. If you are stuck on the side of the road, trust your instincts. Unless you’re completely convinced otherwise, only allow the assistance of a stranger if you cannot raise help on your cell phone, and even then, simply ask the stranger to put in a call for you when THEY can get phone service.

Here’s a story that explains the exception: Once, my engine blew out along a major highway, and a family of three pulling a tow dolly were right behind me. As it happens, they had just delivered a vehicle to their son, and were heading home. They offered to tow me 300 miles back to my home, since it was on their way, and after careful assessment of the situation, and after calling a friend of mine to give him their plate numbers, truck model and the given names of the family, I agreed. I bought them dinner after they cheerfully unhitched my car in front of my house, and promised them I’d do something soon to “pay it forward,” the theme of a movie that we’d discussed on part of our shared journey.

I regret losing the contact info for this family, but they’re up in Seattle, and I think of them often.

Now, for more tips:

  • Keep your vehicles in the best condition possible, and be prepared for the worst.
  • Never let your fuel tank get below a quarter tank, and fill up more frequently if possible. This will also let you stretch your legs and prevent road-weariness. It’s also a good time to give your car a quick once-over, too; tires properly inflated? Chains on right? Oil, antifreeze and caffeine levels up? CHECK!
  • Practice changing your tires on an annual basis, and consider carrying a full-size spare in your vehicle. Regular spare tires tend to be rated only for a few miles.
  • Always budget for an extra night’s stay in a motel room when traveling. If you’re stuck with a really shady motel, insist on viewing the room before you pay for it. BELIEVE ME. I’ve rejected motel rooms with broken door locks, broken windows and horrible sanitary situations. I’ve often opted for car-camping in public forests or maintained campgrounds because I honestly felt more secure.
  • Be VERY wary of highway rest stops, especially at night. Opt for a well-illuminated service station for pit-stops or quick naps.
  • Keep a basic survival kit, similar to any you’d take with you in the woods, in your car. This should include a FireSteel, signal mirror, emergency blanket, basic first aid, hand saw and multi-tool. These items are available at my Amazon store in the BOB categories! Shopping through my Amazon portal helps support this site, as well as my own preparedness budget, so thanks in advance if you choose to stock up with me!

Happy Traveling!


Buggin’ Out with Fido

November 3, 2008
Palisades Pack by Ruff Gear

Palisades Pack by Ruff Gear

If you’re a dog lover like me, you probably take your pooch hiking, camping and even skijoring whenever you can. If you (and your dog) need a little inspiration to spend more time on the rough and rugged trails together or to pursue your bushcraft skills, the following tips are excellent for both adventure and emergency purposes.

Quality of gear is important to prevent injury to your dog, and wasteful loss of cash due to shoddy workmanship. I tend to avoid the national chain dog supply stores for this reason. The best places to get your dog’s trail gear is from specialty purveyors of working dog equipment. You can also check with your local search and rescue or police canine units for recommendations in your area or online. I personally like Wolf Packs (who made my own dog’s pack nearly 10 years ago) and Ruff Wear products.

Booties: Your dog may encounter rocky trails, hot asphalt, broken glass, sharp rocks and long roads in any bug-out situation. Booties will prevent injury, and also keep your pup’s pads in good condition on regular hikes. Make sure your dog is accustomed to his or her booties, and correctly fit with a set that are durable. Ruff Wear makes some of the sturdiest boots, worthy of checking out.

Dog Pack: A dog in good health should be able to carry up to 25% of his body weight. It’s imperative to distribute weight evenly between packs, as they can slip quite easily. Make sure the pack you purchase can be easily removed if your dog becomes caught up, and that it’s equipped with adequate padding at potential pressure points or where fasteners could pose a chafing problem.

My advice is to keep all contents in two large Ziploc baggies or small dry bags, and keep a lightweight fishing scale on hand to weigh loads. Watch out for high-volume bags: You don’t want to be tempted to overload your dog, nor do you want your dog’s lateral profile to protrude more than necessary.

Portable Dog Bowl: You’ll want to be sure your dog is hydrated, and collapsible dog bowls ensure that your dog’s slobber doesn’t get into your squirrel stew.

Vet & Vaccination Records: You never know when you’ll need to drop your dog off at a boarding kennel or FEMA/HSUS evacuation shelter. Keep a waterproofed copy of your vet’s business card and current vaccination records in your dog’s pack at all times, and additional copies in your emergency file folder.

Pet First Aid: A basic pet first aid kit would include elastic vet wrap, sutures, a blood clotting agent (cornstarch works in a pinch), nail clippers, vet-prescribed sedative tablets and gauze. It’s not a bad idea to keep a good broad-spectrum wormer in your dog’s longterm kit, as your dog will be more prone to picking up parasites. Packets of electrolyte powders never hurt, nor do cold packs. Talk to your vet about other items you might include; he or she may even give you some supplies for a nominal fee.

Here’s something else you should SERIOUSLY consider: A muzzle. Dogs that are injured or under extreme stress are more likely to bite. Yes, even YOUR dog. The Mikki Muzzle is a compact, lightweight muzzle that has worked well for my aggressive dog, and it can also reduce barking. Even better–it’s super cheap, usually less than $5.

Leashes, Collars & Harnesses: How well trained is your dog? Is he or she prone to pulling? Seriously evaluate your dog’s restraint needs, and consider upgrading to a pinch collar or a harness if your dog strains at the collar. Pack an extra leash, and be sure your dog’s ID tags are updated with rabies info and perhaps an additional contact person, such as your out-of-state contact.

Ruff Wear has a harness that can double as a working harness, by the way. You wouldn’t want to use it to pull carts, but it has been known to be popular among skijoring fans.

Food: You should always keep a supply of quality canned dog food on hand for long-term pet food storage, since oily kibble goes rancid after a short time. You’ll also need to consider the effects suddend dietary changes might have on your dog’s digestive system For bug-out situations. My own dog is on a mix of kibble and canned foods. In her bug out stash, I keep 5 days’ food (about 10 cups kibble) at the ready. Each time I buy a 50lb sack of kibble, I rotate out the stash. I also recommend keeping freeze-dried dog food on hand, such as Stella & Chewy’s Lamb Steaks or ZiwiPeak products. Mix familiar with new foods gradually, to reduce gastrointestinal problems. Speaking of….

Water: Last thing your pet needs is a case of giardia, so be sure you treat your pet’s water as well as your own. Some dogs and cats are finicky about water that tastes different than their home tapwater supply, and sometimes adding something like RescueRemedy will assist with the transition, as well as act as a calming agent.

For Small Dogs: If you have a pocket pooch or a small dog that won’t be able to cover long distances, shop carefully for a carrier that will be comfortable for both you and your pet. Sherpa soft-sided carriers are fantastic, and most of their models are airline-approved.

Other Considerations: If you have the means, take along a hard-sided, sturdy crate for your dog. It should be large enough for him to turn around, stretch, and lie down comfortably, and should have a decal with contact information, dog’s name, vet’s name and number, and any dietary or medical requirements. Depending on the scenario, you may need to leave the dog with a shelter or friend, you’ll want to be sure he or she is well-equipped. Shelters will be overcrowded, and you don’t want your dog stuffed in with strange animals.

Whatever you do, do NOT plan to simply turn your pets loose in an emergency situation. Not only is this cruel to your animals, it leaves them as a danger to rescue workers and others.

I’ll continue to post about prepping for your pets. In the meantime, here’s a tearjerker to get you motivated…


Concealed Carry Accessories

November 3, 2008

An important factor in selecting your carry firearm–or when deciding whether or not to carry at all–is how and where you will secure your firearm to your person. I’m hoping this post will save you the time and hassle many women have gone through in the search for the best carry method for their own personal style.

Following are a few options, and the pros and cons as I see them.

Purse Carry: Purse carry is among the least secure means of carrying your firearm. Unless your purse is specially designed for carry, your gun will be jumbled in with the rest of your urban survival items, and possibly covered in lint and Junior Mint crumbles. (Well, that last part is just me). Second, consider how easy it might be for you to “flash” your firearm when rummaging around looking for change, your library card, or your wallet. Honestly, people freak out when they see guns, and in many places here in the States, you could get into legal trouble for “flashing” a gun even if it’s barely visible from your handbag.

Of course, purses are easily ripped off or left behind. If you do insist on purse carry, look into the type that has a reinforced shoulder strap that can’t be cut by a passing pickpocket, and think carefully about your tendency to leave stuff behind.

Have nosy teens or young kids? If you think for a heartbeat that your purse could be accessed by kids without proper firearms safety training, don’t take this route. You may think your teenager is an angel, but I know of a lot of angelic teenagers (and pre-teens) that have fished a few bucks out of their mom’s coinpurse for one reason or another when Mom wasn’t looking. Just food for thought.

Last, but certainly not least, I have yet to find a concealed carry purse that wasn’t butt-ugly.

The Fanny Pack: There’s a saying among gun nuts. Any guy carrying a fanny pack is either gay or carrying a gun. Nothing wrong with either in my opinion, but it’s not a good idea to wave that flag if it’s the latter. Now, for women, we might be able to get away with a fanny pack, as long as we remember that if we say “fanny pack” among our British friends, we should expect gales of hysterical laughter. I’ll let you figure it out.

Fanny packs are a great option for women while running, hiking or doing that ridiculous speed-walking thing. (Wogging?). There are great packs out there that incorporate an interior holster to secure your firearm while leaving room for other essentials, such as a basic survival kit (necessary on any off-road jaunt) or a light jacket. Make sure you get a pack that has smooth, ergonomic access, and practice drawing your firearm. Don’t forget to take your CHL and another photo ID with you on your wogs!

Belt Holsters: Holsters come in all shapes and sizes, in leather, Kydex or nylon, to be worn inside or outside the waistband, with or without a belt, with or without pouches for magazines or moon clips. When I was a noob, my friend told me that it wouldn’t be long before I’d accumulated a huge box of tried-and-discarded holsters, but with a bit of research and trying-on, I found options that worked for me. You’ll have to do the same. But to be quick, I really like the Blade-Tech Ultimate Concealment Holster for my Kahr P9, and I’ll likely get one for my S&W 642 as well. For now, I’m carrying my S&W in a simple, cheap Uncle Mike’s IWB holster, and for this little pistol, it works great for pocket carry as well.

Shoulder Holsters: Ladies, you’re on your own here. I have no experience with shoulder holsters, as they require a jacket to keep concealment. A bit too “Barney Miller” for me. But they might work great for you, so suss it out and please comment on your findings!

Ankle/thigh holsters: Sexy, sure! But come on. No respectable or effective firearm can be worn on the feminine ankle, though it might be considered as a place for your “back up gun” (aka “bug gun”, “mouse gun”). My thinking is that if you’re planning on daily carry of more than one firearm, you need to move, change jobs, stop hooking, or do whatever you need to do to get yourself out of that necessity. Carry one firearm plus additional clips/mags, and learn to shoot well. Ankle/thigh holsters can, however, make good options for accessorizing formal gowns. For example, on your wedding day, you might want to wear a custom garter holster. Track down Lou Alessi and see if he’ll do something up for you in blue!

Belly Bands: I have one of these, and I’ll probably hold onto it. There are a few brands out there, and they have their place, but not for general everyday carry. Why? Well, some are itchy and can make you sweat; the more comfortable belts don’t accomodate larger handguns. You have to pull your shirt up or aside to reach or reholster your gun. Great if you’re good at those Girls Gone Wild moves; bad if you’re wearing lots of layers.

Some of these bands require “cross-draw” action, which–unless practiced diligently–increases your chances of self-injury or snagging of your firearm mid-draw.

None of these reasons should keep you from doing a bit of research. I’ve heard really good things about Smartcarry, and think they’d be a good fit for the compact 9mm or S&W Airweights with which I am most familiar in carry situations. Another one to look at is Thunderware, and you’ll find tons of forum threads comparing the two brands. (Note: Check out the hilarious pics on the Thunderware site. It looks like the wearer is about to whip something out of his pants, and “hard steel” isn’t what comes to mind)

The most important thing is to find something that works with your familiar style, without you having to go out and revamp your wardrobe to accomodate reinforced leather belts, suit jackets, fugly vests and nasty handbags. There is a balance between safety and fashion, and I’m not afraid to admit that if our gun rig makes us look like we’re hiding junk in the trunk, we won’t wear it.


Throwing the Perfect Quarry Shoot Party!

November 2, 2008

We’ve all been there. The dingy, littered quarry range on public land. Admit it, there are some things you just can’t do at your posh and tony Rifle Club, so once in a while, we slum it.

That’s not to say we can’t enjoy ourselves in fine style, of course, while we’re there!

If Martha Stewart were a Hoppes-huffing gun nut, she’d have a lot of fantastic ideas on throwing the perfect Quarry party. But she’s not, so you’ll have to settle for mine. Lucky you!

First thing you’ll need is shelter. You have many choices, from the ubiquitous EZ-UP 10×10 shade to the 10×20 Costco carport. A few folding tables and camp chairs (twinkle lights and hanging baskets of fuscia optional) will make your staging area an inviting one. Shelter will keep you and your equipment (and nummies!) dry or out of the sun. Some of us opt to have a shelter and shooting bench at the firing line for sighting in rifles or getting noobs started from a stable, supported position, as well as a “staging area” shelter.

Don’t forget refreshments! Since you’ll have lead-coated fingers, you might want to pass on the delicate finger canapes that might be served at your favorite polo field picnic, but by all means, bring along your fondue set! You know you have one somewhere. If you’re married, you probably got three as wedding presents. Now is your chance to show them off! Fondue forks allow your guests to fulfill their culinary cravings without the pesky risks of (further) brain damage from lead poisoning. Fondue, as frou-frou as it is, is a fun and easy way to fulfill your munchies in between trips to the firing line. The forks keep grimy paws out of the food, and on cold days, it’s easy for bundled fingers to stab and dip chunks of meat, bread, fruit or veggies.

Of course, you’ll want to bring along fondue pots that require gel or liquid fuels, unless you plan on firing up your portable generator…which might not be a bad idea, especially if you plan on setting up a smoothie bar and zombie-war simulating fog machine.

It’s also a good idea to keep food and drink away from firearms and ammunition. Have disposable wipes (at a minimum) for guests to use in between firearm handling and horking out on the food table.

What to drink…how about Hot toddies? Ok, ok, save the alcohol for the apres shoot celebration, and keep the chillies at bay with hot apple cider or cocoa. A big pot on top of a propane camping stove will keep your crew from constantly running off to ogle the fine furniture on that AR15 on the other end of the firing line, not to mention the babe manning the trigger.

Many quarries are on public lands with restrictions on open fires, so be sure to check the regulations before you head out. If you do build a fire, be sure it’s not in the way of through-traffic or your fellow shooters, and for heaven’s sake, don’t burn any plastics such as spent shotgun shells or cartridge trays. Go ahead and burn paper litter, such as discarded cartons and paper targets, but avoid the smoke, due to lead residue.

Oh dear, I nearly forgot! Make sure all your guests arrive safely and with proper directions. You might want to assign a rally point if the road to the quarry is confusing, or provide GPS waypoints or Google Earth KMZ files so they can identify your planned route. Inform new-to-shooting guests of certain expectations beforehand, such as the rules of gun safety and your own range rules, and be sure to tell everyone what types of ammo to bring along. Remind all to bring eye and ear protection, and perhaps bring along some extra yourself, just in case.

Another must-have accessory for every quarry shooter is a handful of heavy-duty garbage bags. Try to haul home more garbage than you generate, because polluted, littered quarries give us gun nuts a bad rap.

Planning a day at the quarry is a fantastic way to introduce non-shooters to our sport, and give them a bit of perspective on the importance of the Second Amendment. Whether your plan is to go down-and-dirty or highbrow, the important thing is to set a good example on the firing line as well as make the day and informative.


Shaking the Dust Off

November 1, 2008

Admit it. As much as we all know that any situation requiring the “for reals!” use of all the gear and preps we gather would be quite dire, and that none of us is actually looking forward to NEEDING our bug out bags, food stores or hard-earned skills, from time to time we all fantasize about SH-ingTF.

If you’re like me, you picture yourself prevailing against all odds with nary a bead of sweat. In our dreams, we’re all gods and goddesses of fitness and backwoods wisdom. We already know that if the excrement hits the oscillator, we’re better off than the vast majority of the population, right? We have mad firestarting skilz, we know how to secure clean, potable water, and we’ve trained our gag reflexes against the evils of MREs…but the truth is, if all our armchair survivalism remains just that…we’ll have to add Rascal Scooters to our Bug Out manifests. Not good, kids.

Today, I actually went outside, and learned just how much I’ve neglected the most important part of preparation: Fitness.

The beau and I shut down the computers, shut off our cell phones and headed to Multnomah Falls in the Columbia River Gorge. We figured we’d take a quick scramble up the 2+ mile trail to the top of the 620-foot falls, take some photos and enjoy the fall colors. No problem, right?

Oh my.

Let’s just say that I saw really old ladies in houseslippers on that trail, doing better than we did. I saw a man in a SUIT on the trail, doing better than we did.

But we did it, and we felt fantastic for pushing to the top, where a couple happily obese women chatted about how easy this trail was. We sat there wheezing, shaking our heads at each other, probably because we couldn’t catch our breath enough to tell them to take a flying leap off the observation deck.

OK, so it wasn’t THAT bad, but I for one felt the strain. It’s been a couple years since my last obsession with weight training, and I think it’s time I became reacquainted with the local hiking and biking trails. Both weight and cardio training are important for overall fitness, and I’m a firm believer that when you’re in decent shape, you can handle psychological stress better, too.

Testing gear is a fantastic way of making preps an integral, healthy part of your life. While I wasn’t going to build a fire bed or set rabbit snares along this high-traffic sightseeing trail, I got the chance to shake the dust off my hiking boots and day pack, and to give some attention to trail clothing. I was given a reminder of why I’d always carried moleskin, and on my many stops to gasp for air, I got to examine the various edible plants along the way, including some very nice boletes.

We’re also planning a winter weekend trip to the Oregon Coast Range with another whack-job survivalist friend of ours, where we’ll spend 72 hours with nothing but our very basic “goody bags.” (As in, “Get Out Of Dodge, Yo!” Bags)

And tomorrow, I get to go shoot a bunch of evil pumpkins, and simultaneously initiate a bunch of gun virgins.

So if you’re still reading this, get off your butt and get outside. You’ll get more value out of your bags if you use them in the good times as well as the bad, and you’ll help fend off the preparation burnout that hits all of us at one time or another.