Archive for the ‘Survival’ Category

If you are noticing the prices of your usual grocery items are creeping up, you are right.  Commodity prices for such items as wheat, corn, coffee, sugar, etc. continue to increase; we will soon see even higher prices at the grocery store than we are already seeing now.   At the same time, incomes are either getting slashed or staying flat, causing more pain in the pocketbook.  Just look at a few of these links:  Global Food Crisis Sweeps Commodity Markets http://www.shtfplan.com/commodities/global-food-crisis-sweeps-commodity-markets_10112010; Spill the Beans:  Coffee Prices on the Rise http://www.htrnews.com/article/20101006/MAN04/10060629/Spill-the-Beans-Coffee-prices-on-the-rise; This is Starting to Get Very Real http://endoftheamericandream.com/archives/this-is-starting-to-get-very-real-agricultural-commodity-prices-have-exploded-and-now-the-price-of-food-is-beginning-to-rise-substantially-in-the-united-states-and-all-over-the-world

What shall we do to deal with this?  We wanted to increase our food storage for staples such as rice, beans and sugar while prices are still fairly reasonable and not out of control.  We checked out the food storage stores online and there are some deals, but the budget is limited.  I did some calculations and figured it would be cheaper to buy in bulk and pack it ourselves.  So this week we are going to try our hand at “do it yourself” long-term food storage.  We will buy rice, beans and sugar in bulk and purchase five gallon buckets, mylar bags, oxygen absorbers, for storage.

Once I’ve actually done it, I will post about the process in a later article.

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Last week we heard the Great Recession which began in 2007 actually ended in June 2009.  Just a few days before that declaration, we also read that 1 in 7 Americans lives in poverty.  I am not an economist and don’t claim to be an expert in these matters, but this sure does not feel like a recovery to me.

I have a feeling it can still get worse.  These are already happening (in no particular order) and are likely to continue:

  • Commercial real estate foreclosures
  • Increased unemployment
  • Continued residential foreclosures
  • Increased homelessness
  • Increasing food prices
  • Increase in crime
  • Bank closures
  • Store closures
  • States slashing funding for public programs

Which got my husband and I having a conversation about:  “How bad can it get for us personally if the economy gets even worse?

I had not actually thought about the nitty-gritty details.

First a definition of what is “worse?”  Worse to us would be if we both lost our jobs at the same time, and could not find new jobs right away.  We rent, so there is no house to lose.  We do still need to pay rent on time, or we would get evicted.  So, let’s say we’re both out of a job, that would mean cutting all expenses except food and utilities.  That means no more cell phones or basic cable; our budget would be bare bones.  If we get unemployment checks, we may be able to continue living in our current apartment, but what happens when unemployment runs out too?  We don’t have a lot of family in the area.  If there were no jobs out there, and unemployment benefits are no longer available, we would have to sell everything we own, and move to a one room apartment.  We’d be cramped, but have a roof over our head.  But once the money runs out, then what is left?  That is how families become homeless.

I don’t think I had ever considered the possibility that we could become homeless if things got bad.  But homelessness is happening to many families who have already had the bottom fall out from under them, so I have to think it can happen to anyone.

All the more reason to continue prepping for an uncertain future:  continue to save, store food, water and other necessities, take care of security and acquire a few skills like canning, fishing, etc.  I am grateful we are able to prepare now, to hopefully protect us from this possible worse case scenario in the future.

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Living in an apartment in the middle of a big city, there is always a chance a situation will arise that will require us to bug out in a hurry.  We need to be able to bug out of our home at a moment’s notice, just in case we ever need to leave.  I will address what situation might cause us to leave in another post; for now, I am just focusing on the bug out bag.

I have read enough survival and emergency websites to know you would need some basic items in your bug out bag to last you until you reach your destination.  Being new at this, I started reading up on all the essentials and found it can be quite overwhelming.

Depending on the situation,bugging out may entail a lot of walking, carrying the pack and maybe camping out.  I have limited camping experience, and have never gone backpacking in my life.

To get more information about what to pack, my husband and I decided to check out a class called Backpacking 101, offered for free at our local REI store.  Surprisingly, the class was packed full of families, couples and Boy Scout troops.   We figured an experienced backpacker would be knowledgeable about the best items to consider bringing with you.  If you are an experienced backpacker then you likely will know all this, but what I learned was all good information for a beginner like me.  Naturally the real purpose of our attending the class was to learn tips that we can apply to packing our bug out bag.

When considering the contents of your bug out bag, you will need to consider the five survival necessities as follows:

  • Food
  • Water
  • Fire
  • Shelter
  • Security

Once these basic needs are covered, you will also want additional items to stay comfortable in a difficult situation.


The backpack should be of good quality, sturdy and as lightweight as possible.  It should also fit comfortably to your size and body type.  A good backpack will have a hip belt so most of weight sits on your hip and not your shoulders.  It should have also have enough space, and reasonably priced.   To avoid back strain, a rule of thumb is, a person should carry a pack weighing no more than 30% of his or her weight.

Security Guy has a good article about choosing your bug out bag, aptly titled “Bug Out Bag” at http://www.securitywhip.com/


Depending on the weather, you would want to dress appropriately and in layers if possible.  You may start out walking in the cool morning air, but will eventually get hot as the day progresses.  You will want to remove layers as you go.

Wool socks or synthetic fiber socks are better than cotton, as cotton retains moisture and will take a long time to dry if you sweat or get wet.

Synthetic fibers like fleece are good, as they draw moisture away from the skin.


Hiking shoes are the best kind of shoes for walking long distances, and you will want to “break them in” before you have to bug out.

It is a good idea to carry moleskin pads which are self sticking cotton flannel pads to place over sensitive areas before blisters can develop.

I now understand you must take care of your feet, as they could potentially be your only transportation.

Map and compass

Even if you have a GPS device, it is a good idea to keep a map and compass as backup, as there are certain areas where a GPS will not work well, such as valleys, or in bad weather.

First Aid

Personalize your first aid kit according to your needs.  I personally would want pain reliever, acid and diarrhea medicine, antibiotic cream for burns and insect bites, allergy medicine, wound care materials, etc.   I could write a whole separate article just on first aid supplies, so I will save this for another entry.


You would want the tent to be as lightweight as possible.   If it is too bulky or heavy for one person, you can split and pieces among your group to spread out the weight, as long as you stay together.  You would want a ground sheet inside your tent to keep water away from you.

Sleeping Bag

The sleeping bag should be lightweight and versatile for various types of weather, and go down to around 20 degrees if possible.  Down is good and comfortable, but it must not get wet; while synthetic fill bags are not as comfy, but will dry well if  the sleeping bag gets wet.

Water Purifier

There are many water bottles that will purify water; I also wrote a previous article https://apartmentprepper.wordpress.com/2010/06/07/insuring-against-3-days-without-water/ on water purification techniques.  I may also considering getting a Steri-pen which can purify with UV light, but you would still need to filter out pebbles and impurities with a cloth or bandanna before using.


Dehydrated or freeze-dried food is highly recommended; as all you need to do is add hot water to the pack and you are done.  I bought a few samples for the family to try out, and I will publish our review at another post.

Cooking and Eating Utensils

The lighter the better, since you have to carry these things as well.  I will need to investigate the aluminum and titanium choices.

Stove and  Firestarting materials

A means of cooking your food and boiling water are necessities.  We have multiple ways to start a fire and keep it going and I plan to experiment on various methods as soon as I gather up the materials.  We saw the Jet Boil canister which runs on butane, which looked very light and compact, but for now, we have our propane camp stove, which does weigh a lot more, but will do in an emergency.

Toilet Paper

The Charmin camping toilet paper would be nice and compact, but in an emergency, there are other choices.  I covered this subject in another article:  Not for the Squeamish:  Toilet Paper Substitutes https://apartmentprepper.wordpress.com/?s=Toilet+paper


You will need to be able to protect yourself in a bug out situation.  Guns, crossbows, slingshot, pepper spray–there is a variety of options and will vary according to your personal choice.


We recently assembled our grab and go binder, containing important personal documents, as described in this article https://apartmentprepper.wordpress.com/2010/07/06/the-grab-and-go-binder/.

Pocketknife and Other Tools

We already carry a pocketknife in the car, but need one for the bug out bag.  Other good tools include camp shovel,  ax, saw, pick, machete, etc.  There is so much detail and choices, whole posts can be written on each one. Since we are covering the basics, I won’t go into much detail.


Depending on the emergency situation, your cell phone/ solar charger, crank radio will help you stay connected.

Other useful items that will make life bearable:

  • Sunglasses, sunscreen, and wide-brimmed hat are all useful sun protection.
  • Multi-towel – this is a nifty little towel that takes the place of several bath towels and will dry quickly.  It is not absolutely necessary but nice to have if the budget allows.
  • Headlamp – Easier than a flashlight, as you can keep your hands free to do other chores while in the dark.
  • Insect repellant – this is a must have here in Texas, with all the large bugs and mosquitoes.  The brands with the most Deet are very effective, but must be used sparingly, as they are also corrosive and may be harmful.  There are also natural alternatives such as lemon-eucalyptus herbal formulas, but may not be as effective as Deet.
  • Soap, toothbrush, and other toiletries such as deodorant are not life saving, but advisable for personal hygiene and morale.
  • Rain gear such as jackets and ponchos; backpack cover since most backpacks are not waterproof
  • Rope
  • Plastic bags
  • Deck of cards for entertainment

I know this list does not cover absolutely everything needed to bug out; this is only a basic starter list.  I also did not include individual situation items such as baby items if there is a baby in the family, pet items if you have pets with you, etc.   A concern that occurred to me as I was making this list is, this could get expensive and we don’t have all the funds to buy all this stuff.  But I realize you have to start somewhere and we can assemble these items slowly as we have the funds.  I will also check close-out sales and scour garage sales or Craigslist for used quality items.  Building a bug out bag is very personal and the contents will vary greatly according to each person’s needs.  As apartment preppers, we would have to balance needs versus space and budget constraints while making our choices.

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I started watching the new show Man Woman Wild on Discovery Channel.  The show features a couple:  the man, Mykel Hawke is a trained survivalist who used to be in the Special Forces and his wife, Ruth who is a TV journalist.  At each episode, they are featured in a remote part of the world, where they survive for a few days with minimal tools.  Normally they carry a knife and they try to scavenge items they find around them.  The second episode showed them in Botswana, in the African bush.  They had a couple of water bottles, and a broken down jeep.  They discussed the best way to survive in their situation would be to stay put and wait for help, rather than wander around and possibly get attacked by predators.  They then scavenge what they can use from the broken down jeep and take care of the basic necessities such as water, food, fire, shelter and security.   They do have a camera crew that follows them as they search for water, hunt for food etc.  They describe their survival techniques along the way, such as boiling water for 10 minutes to make it safe to drink, they collect sage branches that they added to the fire to keep insects away and their decision to stay together for protection from predators.

I think the show has a good premise, following a husband and wife team as they try to survive in wild places.  Because of his survival experience, Mykel provides most of the knowledge, but Ruth does show a lot of courage in dealing with the hardships of surviving in the wild.  They seem to react as most normal couples would, with some disagreements and bickering along the way.   This is the first survival show that I have seen that has a female involved, and it is fascinating to me as I can relate to some of her reactions.  There was a scene in the show where they found a freshly killed antelope and she had to slice off the leg for food while her husband stood guard.    She had to do it quickly before the lion who killed it came back, and she did seem very pressured during the ordeal.   I know that situation would stress me out!  She  had some trouble getting the knife to cut properly at first, but in spite of the difficulty, she succeeds in cutting off the leg.  Later in the show, they cook the meat over the fire, and save some of it tied to a tree.  Unfortunately, some hyenas make off with the meat in the middle of the night, forcing them to hunt for more food the next day.

This show makes me think how I myself would react in such a predicament.   Here are some thoughts on what I have seen so far:

–  The couple is able to succeed to a large extent due to the husband’s survival expertise; without this knowledge, they would be in big trouble.  Therefore, it is best to learn basic survival before you actually need it.

–  You may be forced to deal with unpleasantness, such as snakes, insects, predators, so you might as well expect it.  Being mentally prepared is important factor to survival.

–  Survival activities such as hunting for food, searching for water or wood for the fire etc. are strenuous activities so you need to be in shape.  I try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise daily but this seems like nothing compared to walking for miles collecting wood and dragging it back to make a fire.

–  When in survival mode, it helps to “think outside the box” so you can figure out uses for things than they were originally intended for.  They used parts of the jeep such as a drip pan to collect and boil water.  I hope we can be just as resourceful if faced with a survival situation.  I should have paid attention to those Macgyver episodes and absorbed some ideas!

–  Teamwork is essential in any survival situation.  In spite of some minor disagreements and arguing, the couple manages to work together and succeed in difficult situations.

The show illustrates that surviving in the wild without any of the conveniences we take for granted seems like hard work but it is doable with enough patience and determination and a whole lot of cooperation.

So far I like the show and will continue to see it.

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Today we checked our emergency equipment to make sure they will work when we need them.

Emergency lighting

We gathered all the battery-powered flashlights and tap lights from all the rooms and tested them to make sure they work.  Found that several of the batteries had drained and replaced them.  We had bought a crank flashlight a while ago; cranked it a while and found that it works well.


We had bought a hand crank radio and retested it to make sure it functions–it works.  Checked the other battery powered radios in the house that we hadn’t used since since Hurricane Ike and found that the batteries need replacing.

Battery chargers

Plugged in the battery chargers with rechargeable batteries and found they are working well.  We would like to buy a solar battery charger, so we added it to the “To buy” list.


My husband’s and my compass worked fine, but found my son’s compass had a crack in it, so now we need a new compass for him.

Camp stove and propane

We had not used the camp stove in a while, so we dug it up, reassembled it and hooked it up with a portable propane tank.  It works just fine.  Checked the other propane cylinders and found some that did not work at all.  These were brand new from Lowes, so they now need to be returned.


My husband made sure all the guns were cleaned and oiled, also checked the ammunition supply to make sure there is no corrosion or moisture.   Once every two months, he test fires them in a firing range.  Also, he makes sure no ammunition is left in the magazines as this reduces the tension of the spring.  There was a temporary ammo shortage in our area earlier this year so we are low on .380 bullets.  Now is the time to replenish the supply since stocks have been restored.

Checking the equipment today was an eye-opening exercise for me.   A disaster situation would be the wrong time to find out your equipment doesn’t work or you are low on something essential like batteries.  Buying supplies is not enough, they need to be maintained as well.

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One of the challenges of building up food storage is just getting started and taking action. Just thinking about collecting all that food can scare someone into putting it off. It is easy to come up with excuses, like:
“It cost too much money.”
“We don’t have storage space.”
“It too much time,” OR
“What if nothing happens?”
Unfortunately, there is no denying the need to get started storing up some food, if only for practical reasons such as possible unemployment, not having to run to the market for common ingredients, and short-term emergencies such as a hurricane or a bout with the flu.

I think the easiest way to get started is to start buying multiples of things that family likes to eat. Canned food seems to be a painless way to start: just buy an extra can of a few items such as canned corn, canned peaches or tuna each time you shop. Also buy extra breakfast items such as oatmeal, or cereal to get started.  Before you know it, you have a week’s worth of food. Later, as space and budget allow, other forms of emergency supplies can be added such as MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) and dehydrated food. Just remember to only buy foods that the family will eat to avoid waste. Examine the expiration dates while at the store, and reach in the shelves to find the packages with the latest expiration dates. Rotate the items and use the ones whose expiration dates are approaching.  Once you have a week’s worth of food, then move up to two weeks, then a month, then go from there.

Mark over at Everydaysurvivalguy came up with a good system for building up a year’s worth of emergency supplies, including food storage.   Follow the link on my blog roll.  The series is called “Must Have Preps for the New or Less Committed.”

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Being prepared and becoming self-sufficient is not only about buying emergency supplies.  Learning survival skills if a big aspect of the preparedness mindset.  Since we started our plan to prepare for emergencies, I’ve acquired some new skills:

  • Plant a garden – We have a small balcony garden.   I first planted seedlings bought from Lowe’s, then moved on to growing plants from seed.  NEXT STEP:  acquire heritage seeds and grow a larger variety of plants.
  • Use a gun – My husband has owned a gun for a while; we recently bought a gun for me then went to the shooting range so I can learn to load and fire the new gun.  NEXT STEP: obtain a concealed carry permit
  • Bake cakes and muffins from scratch – I previously used baking mixes, but now bake muffins and cakes from flour, butter, sugar etc. instead of relying on pre-made mixes.  NEXT STEP: Bake bread from scratch
  • Basic sewing – I previously took clothes to the tailor for sewing needs, now I can sew buttons, shorten or lengthen hems, repair a tear, etc.  NEXT STEP: Create an article of clothing.
  • Change a tire – Watched my husband change a tire and practiced doing it after.   NEXT STEP: Change the oil
  • Cut up a raw chicken into serving sizes – I used to be intimidated by those whole chickens and only bought pre-cut pieces.  Now I buy the whole chicken and cut it up myself.   NEXT STEP: Kill and skin a chicken.  I watched my Dad do it, but need hands on practice.
  • Read a map – I previously relied on the GPS, but have since learned to read a map. NEXT STEP: Learn how to use a compass

This is a very small list since we just started our journey.  There are a lot more survival skills we still need to acquire such as building a fire without matches, hunting, fishing, building a shelter, just to name a few.   Learning about survival has shown me how much we take for granted and rely on others to do basic living activities.  It is not easy to give up old habits, but I did find that you save a lot of money by doing things yourself.  Another benefit is I found out that it is fun!

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Today I  am gathering up important documents to place in the “grab and go binder”.  Normally we keep all our important documents in a fire-proof safe.  The previous idea was to grab the entire safe and run out the door in the event of an emergency.  Based upon what I’ve learned reading various survival sites regarding lightening your load when bugging out, I have revisited that idea and feel we need to keep the items in a binder in case we run out on foot.  The safe would be too heavy to carry!

I found a sturdy binder in the school supply drawer and added plastic sleeves to protect the documents.   I am adding the following documents into the binder:

  • birth certificates
  • passports
  • marriage certificate
  • personal records such as baptism, confirmation records
  • social security cards
  • school records-diplomas, report cards
  • vaccination records
  • vehicle ownership record/ “pink slip”
  • credit card statements and other bills
  • printout of address book
  • insurance policies
  • checking and saving account statement
  • retirement account statements
  • apartment lease

You will need to personalize this list according to your own situation.    For example, homeowners would need copies of deeds and home loan documents etc.  Needless to say, guard this binder in a secure place:  loss of this binder will lead to identity theft, since it contains all your personal and financial information.

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Yesterday an incident occurred that bothered me so I took some precautions.  I went to the bank at lunch to withdraw cash for the following week.   I use cash rather than debit or credit so I take out the budgeted amount each payday.  I normally go the small bank branch at the grocery store in a nice downtown location not far from work.  I do my errands before the lunch traffic starts, between 10:30-11 a.m.  I did notice that the parking lot is no longer patrolled as it was earlier this year.

I went to the first available teller.  She looked like she just started working there, as I am familiar with the staff.  I try to be quick and discreet at the bank; speak in low tones and have the teller count the bills behind the counter instead of on top where everyone can see.  Unfortunately, the new teller was not quite so discreet.  I asked to withdraw $450 and she loudly asked, “Would you like your $450 in large bills, Ma’am?”  First I thought, gee, why’d she have to be so loud, and I hope to get out of here quickly, then I got this odd feeling of someone staring at me.  I looked over and this guy at the next teller was staring intently at me.  I don’t mean glancing or curiously looking, I mean a deep, unflinching stare. He did not even look away when I looked over at him.  Of course he heard every word.  I thought to myself, I do not like the way that man was listening in and looking at me.  It was a very strange feeling that made me uneasy.  So I told the lady to cancel my transaction.  I told her, “On second thought, cancel it and I will come back later.” I took back my withdrawal slip and walked away.

I went to the adjoining grocery store, got a shopping cart even though I did not need anything and started looking around the store.  I did not want anyone following me to my car.   I wandered around the aisles for a while until I felt safe enough to go back to my car.  I left the bank errand for later.

Today as I run though the incident in my mind, I wonder if I did the right thing.   After all, the guy could have been harmless, and I may have been “profiling” him because he was dressed in baggy gang type attire, young, etc.  On the other hand,  I have heard a lot of crime victims who describe getting that strange feeling but for some reason did not listen to their gut, or did not want to seem rude and ended up as victims of crime.   I do not want to end up as a crime victim.  Part of having a survival mindset is to evaluate your environment and trust your own instinct.  I don’t care if anyone calls me paranoid–I do not regret beating a hasty exit.

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