Upcoming Topics

December 2, 2008

I haven’t been as prolific in posting the past few weeks, mostly because I’ve got a lot going on at work as well as here at home. Doing a bit of home improvements, spending some time outside to stave off the winter fat, the usual.

But I figured I’d give my readers (both of you!) a preview of what’s to come. Some of the following topics are already simmering in my “Drafts” folder, and others are still swimming around in my holiday-addled brain.

I’ll be discussing food storage tips for small families, individials and couples, as well as pantry planning for those with less-than-stellar culinary skills (or inclinations).

What about bushcraft, you ask? I’m planning a winter backpacking weekend with a few bushcrafty friends, and I’ll be sure to report back in detail. I’ll be testing some equipment, recipes and skills, and if I make it back alive, there’s sure to be a bit of humor involved.

Of course, many of my readers want to know more about firearms, specifically personal defense handguns and concealed carry topics. I’ve got a bit to say about the importance of tactical training, and that will be towards the top of the list of future posts.

I’m really hoping to get some input from readers, including suggestions, comments, corrections and brilliant ideas beyond my personal experience. Maybe even a good joke or two.

So stay tuned!


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!


The Lady’s B.O.B

November 5, 2008
This one could use a few extra MREs in her BOB.

This one could use a few extra MREs in her BOB.

Ever check out a firearms or preparedness forum? Threads abound where members show off or list the contents of their bug out bags. It’s the male equivalent of Ally Sheedy dumping out her purse in The Breakfast Club.

What’s a BOB? Well, it’s pretty much a grab-and-go 72-hour (or so) survival kit that you would take with you into unknown conditions in the case of a major emergency–anything from a house fire to massive evacuation to flat-out armageddon. Assembling a BOB is actually a lot of fun, if you’re into gear, gadgets and doodads.

There are variants on the basic BOB, such as the “Get My Arse Home from Work To My Real Bug Out Bag” bag, which you might carry in your vehicle, or the “I’m At Lockdown At Work” bug-IN bag, or maybe the “I’m Stranded in my Car for Weeks” bag. But the true BOB is equipped to provide warmth, a change of clothing and footwear, personal protection, shelter and the very most basic of survival tools.

When planning your primary BOB, take into consideration the most likely catastrophies that could strike your area. Factor in local climate, and whatever plans you and your family have for rallying in the case you have to bail from your home.

And factor in the fact that each person has his or her own requirements to keep safe and sane in a stressful scenario. Especially if you’re female.

I’m not going to list absolutely everything you should have in your BOB, since you can find that information anywhere. But, true to the mission of this blog, I will add a few things you won’t find in the typical survival blog or forum. That’s right–GIRL STUFF!

Feminine Protection: Well, DUH! Of course you’re going to want to pack along stuff to prepare you for the Invasion of the Red Army, if you get my drift. If you’re not familiar with applicator-free products, give them a test run and seriously consider adding them to your bag. Most brands make a multi-pack. Note in my Welcome post, I celebrate the OB tampon as one of the best survival tools due to the compressed volume of fire-starting cotton and bonus prize of 12″ cord.

For longer-term emergencies, consider reusable pads or cups, but ONLY if you’ve familiarized yourself with their use well in advance. Having to bug out is bad. Having to bug out while on the rag is horrible. Having to bug out and all you have to keep yourself tidy is some weird miniature toilet plunger is a catalyst for a meltdown.

You’ll also want to carry scent-proof baggies, or the more rugged and less-disposable O.P. Sack to transport soiled reusables.

Chocolate: I’m not being divine here, I’m serious. Chocolate has positive neurological effects that would be beneficial in a BOB situation, and it’s also a good energy boost. Problem with chocolate is that it melts, so use caution when packing in a BOB that will be stored in your car, for example.

If you have kids, chocolate is a great motivator. Looking after the psychological well-being of you and yours is often overlooked in emergency preps, and attitude is everything.

Toiletries: Along the same line as chocolate, toiletries will help your sense of morale. I’m not a fan of beauty magazines, but you can always rifle through them for sample packets or perfume strips, which are easy to pack and will help you feel better after a few days away from your shower and Spin Spa. Go easy on the fragrances, as an overdose of eau d’parfume can be more offensive than body odor.

I love witch hazel packets and baby wipes. But lacking these, a steaming hot bandanna rubdown is the best part of waking up to a back-country morning.

If you’re a cheapskate like me, you like free stuff. Save complimentary hotel toiletries, or even better, write to the manufacturers of your favorite products and request free samples. Now, you can pack the stuff that works for YOU. Don’t go overboard, though; you want your bag as light as possible, and in spite of the importance of morale, comfort and hygiene, your favorite hair gel will need to be 86’d if it comes down to that or emergency food rations, water purification or first aid items.

Sports Bra: Do you normally subject yourself to underwire, or otherwise less-than-comfortable undergarments? Get yourself a breathable, moisture-wicking, non-cotton sports bra, like this one, to stash in your BOB. It will help regulate heat, prevent chafing, and provide comfort while carrying a heavy pack.

Self-Defense: Whether you’re bugging out over road or trail, you must have some basic unarmed and armed defensive skills. Don’t rely on pepper spray alone to get you through a rough spot. Get a firearm and learn to use, carry and draw it. Get a good survival knife, and take a class in blade fighting. Contact your local police department, city college or YWCA to find out about effective, affordable women’s defense courses that teach simple physical and verbal techniques. I specify women’s defense courses because some of these offer techniques that are rarely taught to men, and I strongly believe that women-only classes allow participants to focus better on learning.

Train, and practice, and remember that you’re worth fighting for.

MISC: It’s a good idea to pack along pharmaceuticals and herbals that will help you if you’re bugging out with Aunt Flo, in addition to a basic first-aid kit. If you’re menopausal, talk to your doctor or pharmacist about the shelf life of your medications, and have an extra month’s supply on hand to rotate into your preparations.

The necessities for a woman’s survival pack differ than those for a man’s, and there’s no shame in admitting it. Plan to take care of yourself.


Prepping for Pets: An Intro

November 3, 2008

Most of us have at least a rudimentary BOB (Bug Out Bag) or, as I like to call it, a GOODY (Get Out Of Dodge, Yo!) bag for ourselves and other household members. What about our pets?

Regardless of the scenario, you’ll need to make accommodations for your animals, and I’m hammering out a series of posts that will take into consideration the non-human members of your little tribe, focusing primarily on domestic pets rather than livestock.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, The Humane Society of the United States cited a Zogby International poll that found that 49 percent of adults say they would refuse to evacuate if they couldn’t take their pets with them. Those who did leave their pets behind doomed their animals to exposure and starvation, and in the  emergencies of long durations–such as Katrina–even beloved, gentle dogs can pack up and become dangerous marauders.

Should you have to evacuate your home, how will you handle your pets? Think long and hard about this question, because your decision will have an emotional impact on you and your family, as well as an impact on the well-being of your animals and the community at large.

What about longterm “bugging-in” scenarios? You’re probably already working out a longterm food storage program for yourself, but how will you feed your animals?

Whether your pet is a pocket Chihuahua a-la Paris Hilton (erk) or a working breed, you’ll benefit from the topics currently in the pipeline:

1. Dog Packs: Great for hiking trips as well as buggin’ out, a well-fitting pack will let your dog carry a portion of her share of gear. We’ll discuss proper fit, materials and appropriate suggestions for what your dog can carry, as well as conditioning your pet for short and long packing trips.

2. Small Animal Carriers: Need to haul your kitty cross town? Maybe you’ve got a bird, ferret or pocket pet. We’ll discuss carrier options, as well as accomodations that will make your pet more welcome if you end up couch-surfing, camping or–heaven forbid–in a shelter situation.

3. Long-Term Pet Prepping: We’ll discuss alternatives to the relatively short shelf-life of dry kibble, and the importance of vaccinations and current vet records.

4. Common Emergency Preps: We all have a plan to evacuate pets during an earthquake, fire or other more common emergency, right?

Bookmark this blog, and check in soon for more on these topics. In the meantime, be sure to check out my Amazon store, where you can find emergency food rations for dogs and cats, as well as other useful pet supplies.


Welcome!

November 2, 2008

Let’s get something clear: I am, by no means, an expert on survival and preparedness. You’ll probably learn stuff here, but most of what I’ll be sharing will be observations on established techniques, ideas and schwag from the perspective of a female. A female who, as a matter of fact, is too cheap to dish for a fake Prada bag, much less a real one, and who wouldn’t want one anyway. Let’s face it; I prefer Hoppe’s Number 9 to Chanel No. 5.

I was inspired to start this blog after reading post after post on forums exalting the virtues of firestarter kits. Kits that include the ubiquitous wad of cotton dabbed in Vaseline. For crying out loud, I kept thinking to myself. Just use some fluff from an OB Regular and a bit of Chapstick! Everyone carries that in their survival kit, don’t they?

Oh, wait…

Truth is–and here’s your very first tidbit of useful information–I’m convinced that OB tampons rate right up there with multitools for Things You Can’t Leave Home Without. With a Swedish FireSteel purchased from the wonderfully darling and brilliant Ron Fontaine of Survivaltopics.com, a rough metal blade, a bit of oil or wax-based beauty product and a nicely shredded (and absorbent!) OB, you can light a fire that would put Texas A&M to shame. Not to mention the nearly 12 inches of string you’ll have on hand for such things as hanging snares, repairing gear or maybe flossing that chunk of cattail tuber out of your teeth.

(Sigh). OK, so I know that any guys reading this might be a bit shy about carrying feminine products around in their gear. It’s not like you’re going to get sudden urges to get the Hello Kitty AR-15. But most of you already know how sanitary pads make great wound dressings right? Well, they do!

OK. So back to the purpose of this little blog. Which is…

  • To add a little bit of female perspective to the somewhat testosterone-sodden subject of survival.
  • To share what I’ve learned in my research and experience with survival and emergency preparedness.
  • To remind my gentle readers and myself that, as serious as the subjects are, life is what’s happening now…keep a sense of humor, keep your attitude positive, and make it fun.

(If some of you guys happen to find this site handy when introducing your better halves to the sport/hobby/obsession of bushcraft/survival/preparedness/tin foil hats, all the better.)