Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Reasonable Prices for Rifles and Ammo Again

Gabe Suarez recently posted on Warrior Talk News some interesting points about the current prices of rifles and ammo, particularly his favorite weapon, the Kalashnikov.  If you're not familiar with Gabe and his excellent books, DVDs and training courses in the use of Kalashnikov derived rifles I highly recommend you visit his Warrior Talk Forums or his main website, Suarez International

I've found some of the most knowledgeable firearms folks around on the Warrior Talk Forums, and I highly recommend it as a one-stop source for info not only on Gabe's favorite, the AK, but on a wide variety of handguns and rifles suitable for combat and self-defense.  These discussion forums include sub-sections on the AK, the M4/AR-15, Fighting Lever Guns, the SKS, Glocks, Combat Handguns, Bolt-Action Rifles and many others. 

I'm also a big fan of AK rifles, not as something I would carry for a wilderness bug-out situation, but definitely for post-disaster aftermath defensive purposes such as in the wake of Katrina or some similar SHTF situation.  I've mentioned the 7.62 x 39 Saiga here before and will be posting more about it in the future.  The AK has a lot going for it due to simplicity, low-cost, and effectiveness within it's design limits.  Speaking of low-cost, as Gabe points out in his article, you can once again get into the Kalashnikov game for a small investment now that the crazy gun prices of late 2008 and 2009 have settled back down somewhat.  He gives these examples:

Romanian AK-47 GP75 in 7.62x39 - Price about $425
Romanian WASR-10 in 7.62x39 - Price about $370
VZ-2008 (VZ-58 Copy) in 7.62x39 - About $430
Yugoslavian M70 in 7.62x39 - About $465
Bulgarian AK-74 in 5.45x39 - About $330
Polish Tantal in 5.45x39 - About $390 

And ammo:

5.45x39 ammo (7N6) as low as $120 for 1080 rounds
7.62x39 ammo (Wolf) as low as $200 for 1000 rounds

Read the full article here:   How To Get Into The Kalashnikov Game

Amazon Has Crashed

I guess this goes to show nothing online is completely dependable.  Amazon.com, one of the world's biggest Internet retail sites, has crashed and is still down as of this writing.  Apparently, this is the second time this month, though I missed it the other occurrence on June 6.  From what I read about that first incident, they apparently don't know what caused it then either.  Maybe the government is trying out the new Internet kill switch - testing it on Amazon first? 

Most of the books and other products linked to from this site are on Amazon, so the links won't work until this is fixed, which hopefully won't be long.  When it does come back up, I hope all the complex interactive parts of the site are still functional, for example the Wish List feature.  As of now, the Shopping Cart and Wish List are both empty.  The weird thing is that sometimes a product (like my book) will come up, but the page has no details, or shows that the item is not available, or that there are no customer reviews yet.  Maybe it will all be intact again when it's back to normal, who knows?

Monday, June 28, 2010

Trying to Reason with Hurricane Season

The blown-out  BP oil well continues to spew unchecked into the Gulf.  The first named tropical storm of the season has made landfall in Belize and crossed the Yucatan to restrengthen over the Gulf.  While it won't be coming into the area of the oil spill, its outer wind bands are expected to push more oil towards shore.  This will also hamper whatever efforts are being made to contain or clean-up the oil.  Here's an article posted today at the Biloxi Sun Herald:  Tropical Storm Alex Gaining Strength Over the Gulf.

NOAA forecasters have predicted this will be a particularly active season, and I've got a bad feeling about it anyway, not to mention the unthinkable damage to the Gulf that is being caused by the oil spill.  At any rate, whether or not we get a major hit in the Gulf this year or not, the memories of Katrina's destruction in 2005 are still fresh.  Here are a few of my photos from the aftermath:

Nothing but rubble left was left on most of Biloxi's Point Cadet - houses and businesses swept away, boats everywhere left high and dry:

The U.S. Highway 90 bridge that once connected Biloxi's Point Cadet to Ocean Springs was reduced to a broken pile of rubble.

Steel-hulled fishing vessels were scattered all over the woods from where they were trying to take refuge in Bayou Portage.  As it turned out, this area had the worst of the storm surge.

Below: my own cruising sailboat, Intensity.  She was swept into the woods despite all the heavy storm anchors and mooring lines I used to secure her.  When I found her a couple weeks after the storm, she was dismasted, battered, broken and even looted by someone who found her before I did.  I had spent over five years restoring her to immaculate condition, had lived aboard her for a time, and sailed her across the Gulf to the Keys and the East Coast of Florida.

I guess that's enough depressing imagery for one day.  If you live in an area where hurricanes are a threat, now is the time to prepare, not when one is already bearing down on you.  There's an excellent post on JWR's Survival Blog on hurricane preparation, written by a south Florida resident who's been dealing with them for a lifetime.  It also includes a detailed checklist of what you need to be prepared for one of these storms, whether you stay home or leave. Read the full article here:   Hurricane Readiness, by T. in South Florida

Friday, June 25, 2010


One thing I forgot to mention in yesterday's post about an EDC (every day carry) bug-out kit is money. This is because I take it for granted that other people see the need to carry cash, while in fact, this is probably not true.  It's seems that more and more everywhere I look around me, people are using plastic in the form of credit or debit cards, to the point that many people, especially those under age 30, never have any cash on them, and if they do, usually only a few dollars.

Growing up in a mostly rural area and having been in many situations with a car breakdown or some other minor emergency, I've always made it a habit to have enough cash on me to get where I'm going by one means or another.  I can recall many cases where I needed cash to pay a shade-tree mechanic out in the middle of nowhere, or to pay for a tow or a ride.  These people don't accept plastic, by the way. You just never know when you're going to need it if you travel, and that just in the U.S.  This is even more important in many places overseas where you might need to pay bribes or pay for a guide or whatever.

But in everyday life, I can't understand why so few people have any cash on them.  People are so dependent on their plastic and so certain that the ATM will be working that they don't see the need for cash.  It's frustrating to stand in long lines at a store while people fumble for their debit cards and then try to punch in their P.I.N. numbers to purchase some item for $2.95 when they could just whip out a five dollar bill and be on their way - and out of the way of everyone else!  Carry some cash people!  I don't leave the house without at least $100.00 on me, and prefer to have 3 or 4 hundred, especially if I'm going anywhere out of my immediate surroundings.  It doesn't cost a dime more to use cash than it does to use plastic.  I think most people are afraid to carry cash these days for fear of being robbed.  But I'm more afraid of being stuck somewhere without it.

Lucas over at Survival Cache has some very good thoughts on this subject and points out 7 Reasons to Have Money in Your Bug Out Bag.

He also has a related post today on 3 Reasons You Shouldn't Stock Precious Metals.  This post reminds me of a quote I read somewhere:  "I used to invest in silver & gold.... but now I've diversified my portfolio to include brass and lead!"

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Minimal Bug Out Kit for EDC

Bug out bag checklists usually focus on a full-sized kit of everything you would need for at least the first 72-hours after leaving home.  In the case of a long-term bug-out situation, the bag will also include things you will need to sustain yourself for much longer - such as tools and hunting weapons to make shelter and gather food in the wild.  It is this end of the spectrum that is my focus in Bug Out, where I assume circumstances that make you leave in the first place will be so bad you that you won't be able to return in a short time, such as 72-hours.

But what about all those times in everyday life when you will not have your bug-out bag nearby, perhaps when you're at work, or traveling on some form of public transportation, or just out for walk or some other recreational activity?  This is where the extreme minimum bug-out kit comes in.  Such a kit is so small and compact that it can be considered an EDC (Every Day Carry) kit, and will only contain the most basic essentials that could make things easier for you if you suddenly have to run or evade with nothing but what's in your pockets or on your key chain.

The idea is nothing new, really.  Tiny pre-packaged kits and Altoid tin survival kits have been around awhile.  Just as with the larger bug-out bag, I don't care much for pre-packaged survival kits of any kind, as they tend to include things you probably don't need and may leave out other items that could be really important.  Such a kit may be fine for some folks though.  Here are some examples:

Whistle Creek Survival Kit in a Sardine CanCoghlan's Survival Kit-In-A-CanSAS Combat Survival Tin

Many of these kits assume this will be the only gear you have and some people buy them thinking this will be all they need.  Those of us who are prepared are usually never far from our more serious gear and tools, including things like knives, machetes, a tarp, some drinking water, emergency food and a handgun or rifle.

The kind of kit I'm talking about here doesn't try to be a do-everything kit, so I'm not including things like fish hooks or snares - just the basics that you need start a fire, patch up a wound, or treat a minor illness like diarrhea, a bad headache, or an insect sting.  This kit also includes cutting blades and other basic tools like a can opener, as well as needles and thread to fix clothing, footwear, gear or even sew up a wound.  Then there's the means to treat questionable drinking water and something for sun protection or making a tourniquet.  Best of all, it isn't any more bulky than the average wallet, and will fit easily inside a coat pocket or one of the pockets of a pair of cargo pants or shorts.

As you can see, when folded up inside the bandanna, it's hardly any bigger than a cell phone:

So what did I include in such a bare-minimum bug-out kit?  Here's the list:

Swiss Army Knife, a compromise from my larger Leatherman but still usable
Bic lighter (make sure to keep a new one that's full, not one used for lighting your smokes)
One Fire Stick broken in half for compactness
More than a yard of duct tape wrapped tightly around the lighter
Two straight-edge utility razor blades
Assortment of sewing needles
Dacron B50 bowstring thread (about 5 yards) for sewing and lashing
A few feet of Paracord 550 to replace a shoestring or whatever
Assorted Band Aids
Sterile pads, alcohol preps
Sterile liquid bandage sticks
Imodium A-D Anti-Diarrheal tablets
Anti-acid tablets
Ibupropen tablets
Benadryll capsules for stings and allergic reactions
Potable Aqua Purification Iodine Tablets (More compact than my preferred Polar Pure)
1 folded, gallon-sized Ziplock freezer bag for use as a container in which to purify water
1 Power Bar for quick, emergency energy
Small Ziplock bag to contain all of above except Power Bar and Swiss Army Knife
Bandanna - kit wrapped inside, can be used for head protection, a large bandage, or tourniquet

A business card like mine shown below makes a good way to safely carry razor blades and needles.  I use a short length of blue painter's tape to secure the needles and blades to the card.  This tape can be unwrapped and reused multiple times without leaving a sticky residue.  After that's done, the Dacron thread is wrapped around the whole thing:

Here's the Bic lighter wrapped with duct tape, along with the Fire Stick and Swiss Army knife:

And the First Aid supplies:

With the ability to carry so much useful stuff in such a small and lightweight package, it hardly makes sense to be without it.  The good thing about this kind of kit is that you can have it on you no matter what type of attire you're wearing or what activity you will be involved in.  I'm probably missing something you consider necessary for EDC.  I'd love to hear your suggestions and see photos of your own kits.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Bug Out Regions: The Southwest

Whitewater Canyon, Gila Wilderness, New Mexico

In my book, Bug Out, one of my favorites of the eight regions I've broken the lower 48 states into is the Southwest.  In Chapter Eleven, Deserts, Canyons & Mountains of the Southwest, I describe bug-out locations in West Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Southern Nevada, and Southern California.  This part of the country ranks high among my favorite places on earth.  I've returned time and time again to the Southwest region to explore the remote and wide open spaces found there.

In the early stages of writing the book, I planned on interweaving my personal narratives of my trips in many of the bug-out locations described, and had especially looked forward to writing about my experiences in such places as the Gila Wilderness of New Mexico.  As it turned out, there was not enough space to include the narratives in the book and still cover all the necessary details of bug out locations that might be helpful to readers.  So the narratives got left out, but in the future there will be unlimited room to write about them here.  Here's an excerpt from the beginning of the chapter on the Southwest Region:

Like the Rocky Mountains, North America’s Southwest is synonymous with wilderness and rugged independence. This region is the “West” of most people’s imagination and the setting for countless movies, television shows, and novels about the difficulties faced there by early explorers, prospectors, cowboys, and other settlers. In reality, it has not been all that long since the Southwest was still truly wild and untamed, and even today huge areas of this region are uninhabited and roadless. 

Some of the longest and most difficult Indian wars the U.S. Army ever fought during the settling of the West were waged here against the elusive Apaches, who were masters of survival in this tough environment. The Apaches and other Native American tribes in the region adapted to the conditions and were able find resources in places that seemed to European settlers to be unfit for human habitation. They knew where to find the isolated springs and water holes of their territories and moved between various “islands” of wooded mountains and canyons where living by hunting and gathering was possible. Even for people as resourceful and tough as them, the barren wastelands inbetween these islands could not sustain life for long.

Many parts of the Southwest are surprisingly well watered, however, and are teeming with wildlife and a diversity of plant and tree species. Most of these areas are in the various mountain ranges that are sub-ranges of the Rockies and the Sierra Madre, which extends north into this part of the U.S. from Mexico. Other areas that are lush oases of plant and animal life are found in the canyon country that this region is famous for. Several large rivers course through the Southwest, draining both to the Gulf of Mexico and to the Pacific Ocean at the Sea of Cortez. Among them are the Colorado and the Rio Grande, both of which flow through some of the most spectacular canyons on Earth. 

Just as in the Rocky Mountains region covered in the previous chapter, there are far more bug-out locations in this region than I can begin to cover in this limited space, but I’ve picked out a cross-section of some of the Southwest’s most outstanding wild areas to give you an idea of the possibilities. If you live in this region you are lucky to have so many great options to get far away from the crowds in times of trouble, as many of these places receive virtually no human traffic. But
if you plan to bug out in the Southwest, you certainly need to be aware of the region’s unique challenges and be prepared to deal with them.

Recommended Equipment

In the dry Southwest, an adequate supply of drinking water is a top survival priority. A reliable means to carry an adequate supply of water will be of utmost importance when choosing gear for bugging out in this region. As compared to other regions, you will need to carry more water at any given time while traveling in most of the bug-out locations described in this chapter, as resupply opportunities may be few and far between. I would suggest distributing your supply in several separate Nalgene bottles or other containers to decrease the risk of losing your entire supply if a single larger container is punctured or otherwise fails. When traveling in desert areas, you should also carry a means of collecting water from unconventional sources. One of the best such sources is early morning dew found on the blades of grasses and leaves of plants. Although this can be mopped up and squeezed out of a T-shirt or bandana, having a large sponge will make it an easier job. You should also carry some clear plastic and a tube for making a solar still, as well as a copy of a diagram and instructions on how to construct one if you are not familiar with the process. Equally important as your water supply is protection from the sun. A wide-brimmed hat, bandana, and long-sleeved shirt should always be in your bug-out bag here, and a tube of sunscreen is a good idea as well. It’s also important not to overlook clothing and shelter to protect you from the cold, especially at high elevations, where weather can be just as severe as in the Rockies or North Woods. 

In most parts of the Southwest, you will have more travel options than in any other region of the U.S. Wide-open deserts, often devoid of fences, make it possible to drive off-road even where there are no trails in sturdy four-wheel-drive vehicles or on ATVs or off-road motorcycles. Horses, mules, and donkeys are just as practical here today as they were 150 years ago, and mountain bikes can also serve well in many areas. In many parts of the mountains, though, foot travel may be the best option for truly getting to places where you will not easily be found. 

Weapons here should include a .22 rifle for small game as well as a rifle for taking larger game at longer distances. Any caliber sufficient for black bears and mountain lions will suffice for protection. Be aware that some parts of this region, especially close to the Mexican border, have become extremely dangerous due to illegal human and drug trafficking, and you should use extreme caution to avoid being seen by the people carrying out these activities.

Over the years I've made many long combination road trips/backpacking excursions throughout the Southwest.  I would have moved there long ago if not for my addiction to sea kayaking and sailing on the Gulf, which has kept me in the South.  I would like nothing better than to load-up my camping gear on my KLR 650 dual-sport motorcycle right now and leave tomorrow for New Mexico.  But, as it is, I'm in the middle of the manuscript for my next book, which has to be completed by Septermber 1.   After that, there's a possibility....

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Another Book Update

I've had a few inquiries from readers asking about the availability of Bug Out in bookstores, so I wanted to give you an update from what I've found out so far.  First of all, the book may be in your local big chain bookstore, but perhaps not where you would expect to find it shelved.  If you look at the category that it's classified in on Amazon, you'll see that it's in Nonfiction>Current Events>Disaster Relief, rather than in a category such as Outdoor Survival Skills or Wilderness Survival.  This is also true of a few other survival books related to a breakdown or collapse type scenario.

How individual bookstores organize their inventory is mystery to me and probably to anyone else who is not a bookstore manager, so if you are looking for this book or any other related one, the best thing to do is ask an employee or look it up on the self-serve computer system.  Besides, if they don't have it, any bookstore can order practically any book in print, so they can get if for you if you don't want to order it online yourself.  What I found in my local stores is that Barnes & Noble had none in stock, Borders had several copies in the outdoors/hunting/survival/hiking/camping/etc. shelves, but Books-A-Million placed the book up near the front of the store, in the Political and Social Sciences section.  In the same area I noticed several other related titles that are are also on Amazon's Top 100 list in "Current Events" along with Bug Out. 

Speaking of which, I'm delighted with fact that readers are finding the book useful and some are posting reviews around the web in various places.  Two more recent ones are from Mayberry, over at Keep It Simple Survival, and from Scott Finazzo at Lure of the Horizon

Most of you here are familiar with Mayberry's writings and surely know that he is a man who doesn't mind telling us how he really feels about something.  Here's his take on Bug Out, and I'm sure glad he liked it, because if he didn't he would have no problem trashing it, which is a good thing and how it should be.  Note that he's also collecting names for a drawing to give away a free copy of the book tomorrow:


You may not have heard of Lure of the Horizon, but the author, Scott Finazzo, is a fireman and world traveler when he can get the time off, as well as an excellent and insightful writer.  I first connected with Scott when he wrote to tell me that my book,  On Island Time: Kayaking the Caribbean inspired him and some of his firefighter co-workers to  build some kayaks of their own design and take an adventurous voyage in the Virgin Islands.  He chronicles the trip on Lure of the Horizon, and here is how he describes his blog:

"Lure of the Horizon is not only the title of this blog, it is a strong force in my life. As both a blessing and a curse, the restless soul has an affinity for the horizon; for something more, something new. I cannot change it, I can merely attempt to control it."
Here's his take on Bug Out, and he makes it clear he's not a "survivalist," but anyone traveling the way he does could surely find themselves in a survival situation real fast: 


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Simple, Low-Cost Foods For Wilderness Travel

Leon Pantenburg over at Survival Common Sense has just posted a great article about using basic staple foods in a survival situation.  In this article he focuses on flour and the many ways to prepare it that were once in widespread practice by wilderness travelers and explorers, but are seldom used today.  In particular, he discusses bannock, fry bread and hard tack.  Check out the article here:  http://survivalcommonsense.com/2010/06/15/flour-recipesfeed/

I've experimented with these simple flour recipes myself on extended trips where quantities of staples became more important than variety.  Fry bread, or a variation of it made with cornmeal and water, called "hoe cakes," is very simple to make while on the move.  "Hoe cakes" get their name from an old share-cropper's method of cooking them on the flat blade of a hoe while taking a break from working crops.

Another method of making bread from flour if  you don't have a skillet (or a hoe) to fry it on, is simply to bake it right on the coals of a fire.  These are called "ash cakes" and while they may be burnt a bit on the outside and covered with ash, the bread inside is just as good as if you baked it in an oven, once you experiment a bit to get the time and heat levels right.  Tom Brown Jr. describes this method of making bread from natural flours such as acorn flour or cattail flour in his book: Tom Brown's Field Guide to Edible and Medicinal Plants. 

On all of my long-distance sea kayaking trips and many of my backpacking trips, I carried complete pancake mix as a staple rather than plain flour.  You would be surprised how many pancakes you can eat for breakfast when you're living out of a kayak and traveling 8 to 10 hours per day, often against wind or current.  The other morning staple which I prefer now is oatmeal, probably because I ate so many pancakes on those trips I made myself sick of them.  The good thing about oatmeal is that it can be eaten cooked or raw.  You may not realize it, but soaking a bowl of oatmeal in cold water (or milk if you have it) renders it quite palatable without turning it to mush like cooking does.  This makes it a great source of carbohydrates easily eaten on the go.  Of course it's always better if you can supplement it with some wild blackberries, blueberries or crushed nuts.

My main wilderness staple, however, has always been rice - either plain white or natural brown rice.  This is the ingredient at the center of every evening meal, and since it goes well with anything, the possibilities are endless, whether you have some form or wild edible plant or animal food, or something in your pack you brought with you.  For me, the favorite combination for hard travel is brown rice mixed with tuna.  I used to carry the standard sized cans of tuna, but now it is available in more convenient foil packages.  This combination of complex carbs and high-protein fish is real food you can travel on.  I've never had a desire to bother with that expensive, tasteless freeze-dried stuff.

Rice is quick to cook and compact and long-lasting when uncooked, and even keeps for awhile after it's cooked.  While trekking through the jungle in Honduras and Nicaragua with my friend Ernest, our Miskito Indian guides simply cooked rice one time per day in the evening when we made camp, then kept the leftovers in the cooking pot with the lid on, packing the whole thing in a backpack for the day's trek, eating it for breakfast and lunch as well.  For a simple way to cook rice over a fire, see my post on Cooking On a Green Sapling Tripod. (as shown in the photo above).  Note that this method also works great with skillets and that you can use it to make your fry bread, hoe cakes, or pancakes, as well as boil your morning coffee, if you have it.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Dealing with Potential Aggressors in a Bug Out Situation

I just read a couple of very interesting posts by RG Padgett on his blog: Survive the Worst.  The author and his family ran into trouble when their living environment in an urban apartment quickly deteriorated because of a sudden influx of troublemakers into the complex, brought on by the manager's desire to fill a large number of vacant units.  He describes how this situation developed in his post Vote With Your Feet, and then offers some great advice on security and diffusing potential attacks in the follow up: Lessons Learned From a Real World Bug Out.  Padgett makes some good points here that are not often discussed when the subject of bugging out comes up. 

In particular, he stresses awareness of your surroundings and those who live around you, as well as awareness of warning signs such as symbols, graffiti, dress and habits of gang members and other potential criminals who might pose a threat.  He also recommends maintaining a low profile by blending in and not doing anything to stand out, yet also remaining careful not to show any signs of weakness, which is easily detected by human predators who might do you harm just as it is in the predator-prey relationship in the wild. 

These two posts bring back vivid memories to me of my experiences in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, in 2005.  At the time, I owned a small cruising sailboat that I was docking in a real backwater marina in a bayou near the western edge of the Mississippi Gulf Coast.  My brother and his family lived in a house located just a few blocks off the beach in Gulfport.  In the last 24-hours of this monster storm's approach, when it became apparent that we were gonna get nailed by this one, I secured the boat as best I could with every anchor and mooring line I had on board, and my brother and his family took as many of their possesions as they could and left their home as well.  We all waited it out in Jackson, far from the worst of it, but two days later, as soon as enough downed trees were cut off of one lane of U.S. Highway 49 to make it somewhat passable, we were anxious to get back to find out if my brother still had a home, and if I still had a boat.

As far as getting there, we were better off than most, in that I had taken five 6-gallon jerry cans off the boat and had filled them all with gasoline while it was still available.  With my four-cylinder Mazda truck, we had enough range to get there and back with ease, as well and deal with potential contingencies.  We also had plenty of food and drinking water, as well as tools, weapons and ammunition.  I covered the jerry cans that were lashed in the bed of the pickup with a tarp, for concealment.  We had already heard reports filtering in on the news of looting, car-jacking and other craziness, and it made us nervous to be toting so much in the way of supplies when there were people who would do anything to get enough gas to leave the area.  At this stage of the game, a few National Guard troops were just moving into the area, but it would be much longer before security was restored. 

We made it to the slab that was all that remained of my brother's house, after having to park several blocks away and hike through the rubble of his devastated neighborhood.  The we made our way to the  closest point we could drive to the marina where I had kept the boat, and I off-loaded the rowing dinghy I had in the back of the truck and left my brother there to guard our stuff while I made my way down the bayou to see if there was anything left.  The entire area was an apocalyptic scene of 70-foot steel hulled shrimp boats thrown high and dry far into the woods, tangled up with cruising sailboats, vehicles and parts of houses.  I didn't expect much, and sure enough, when I reached the marina, there was no sign of my boat.  It would take much longer than a short foray down the bayou to find out where it had come to rest, but for now, I was nervous about leaving the truck for too long.

As it turned out, it was a good thing there were two of us and that my brother was armed.  While he was waiting, two men approached out of the woods and began asking questions, one trying to circle around behind him while the first attempted to distract him with small talk.  They were from one of the fishing vessels, and had obviously lost everything, but they weren't asking for help, just appraising the truck and looking at the tarp-covered goods in the back.  He had some nervous moments as they sized him up, deterred only by the .45 on his hip that he thought he was going to have to draw.  By the time I got back, they had disappeared into the woods again and we weren't sure if they were watching or not as we quickly  loaded the dinghy and got out of there.  This was certainly one case where a show of strength saved the day, and my brother's cool response diffused a situation that could have gotten ugly fast. 

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Thoughts From a Reader in Florida

John, a reader in Florida, sent me his thoughts on  Bug Out, and brought up a couple of additional points that might be of use to others.  Here's what he had to say:

I especially like the fact that it is a “What and Where” rather than a “How” as there are many books that tell you how without enough “What” to make any sense. There is nothing I don’t like and only a few comments to make. The “where” part is the only case I know of where this has been addressed well enough to actually be of use. 

On page 4 you point out those who could leave ahead of Katrina escaped the worst of the immediate effects. This is true but could use some more points brought out. You have talked about carrying enough fuel but there are two other areas that need to be addressed; security and hygiene. 

Security is simple enough but needs to be considered- lock up, go prepared to defend yourself while helping others so they will be on your side, only stop to refuel where you can spot someone coming up to you, refuel where you can’t be clipped (accidentally or otherwise) by a driver passing by you, have a plan for what to do in any scenario and be ready to improvise according to changing conditions while keeping core goals in mind. Having a second pair of eyes and hands available is very helpful. This is all discussed everywhere in the literature because it is the fun part to fantasize about and the easy part to discuss.

Hygiene, however, is usually ignored. To illustrate- you are driving in bumper-to-bumper 30mph traffic, everyone around you is driving aggressively and seems really angry/scared/hot and crabby/just plain rude. What do you do for bathroom breaks?  A man, even traveling alone, can pee in a bottle without getting out of traffic (it is more difficult than it looks,  even in slow traffic, requiring turning partially onto your side if in bucket seats, while maintaining control of the vehicle).Stop and get out of traffic, never to get back in? Use the floor of your car? Travel astronaut style and wear adult diapers, or maybe use them as flexible bedpans and roll then up to place in a plastic bag until you can dump them? Most people don’t consider this situation.

Some people may not take advantage of your advice because they cannot envision any scenario where they would consider taking off and living in the wild. With that presented as a goal I might not either. What is not as readily apparent is the possibility starting out to evac. by vehicle and being unable to continue because the situation accelerates and overtakes you. If I leave Florida, bound for family in Missouri, I might have to complete the trip by a combination of hitch-hiking, walking and public transport. This is where your approach seems to me to be so valuable. I could be discreetly armed with a pistol for defense without offending or frightening people, with the .22 rifle disassembled in the pack while among others, and still adapt to hiking wild areas and living with wild game to supplement carried food. This adaptability is missing in most other approaches.

There are a couple of things I would like to add for your consideration to carry as listed in the appendix. First, if you are not familiar with it, I would recommend Sarna Skin Lotion (available as a store brand also at Walgreen’s) for basically any skin eruption condition. Rash, poison ivy, insect stings, anything that is not an open cut or deep burn. It is better at reducing the swelling and itching than anything else I have found. The second thing, in the field of hazard mitigation in the wild; in the Gulf Coast away from the salt water, fire ants have become a big enough problem in some areas to preclude using them for base areas to rest up. If you are always stirring up ant hills you will not rest well. I discovered this working as a Scout Master for B.S.A. What I have done is taken to carrying a container of Spectracide or other bait-type fire ant killer. If I stay in one area more than 24 hours it is worth the trouble to poison the hills I come across. It only takes a tiny pinch for each hill as you only need to poison the queen and the rest die, usually overnight. The workers carry the poison in to her as food so you don’t want to disturb the hill and take the chance of getting swarmed.

As I said this is not criticism. I really wish someone had written something like this a generation ago.

                     Grateful for the chance to contribute my thoughts.

I appreciate any and all such feedback, and welcome your contributions of additional material that I may not have thought of or had room to include in the book.  Also, many thanks to those of you who have posted reviews on Amazon and elsewhere.  If you're a member of any survival forums, or related gun forums or other discussion groups that sometimes bring up the subject of bugging out, please let your fellow members know about the book.  Thanks to all the interest, last time I checked, Bug Out was steadily moving up in the sales ranks at Amazon, and was at #3 in it's category (disaster relief) and #38 in "current events."  

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Your Preferred Bug-Out Transportation?

I'd love to hear from readers about your thoughts on bug-out transportation options.  How you will travel in a bug-out scenario is an important consideration and a crucial part of advance planning that is equal in consideration to the bug-out bag and the gear that goes in it.  Your bug-out gear is in fact limited or enhanced by the transportation method, as it is obvious that you can carry more stuff (both gear and supplies) with some options than say the simplest method - which is walking out on foot.

In my book I have a chapter devoted to this topic, and have written my thoughts on the advantages and disadvantages of each option I've included.  They are:

  • Motor Vehicles (cars, trucks, SUVs, dual-sport motorcycles, ATVs)
  • Bicycles (mountain bikes, commuting bikes, road touring bikes with panniers or trailers)
  • Boats (canoes, sea kayaks, rowing vessels, powerboats, sailboats, liveaboard cruisers)
  • Pack Animals (horses, mules, donkeys, llamas, goats)  
  • Last but not least - on foot with a backpack
There are a few other options, such as light planes and ultralight aircraft, but these are much less common and not available to most people.

Obviously, where you live and where you will be bugging out from and to has a lot to do with which transportation option you will likely incorporate into your plan.  Packs animals won't likely be an option if you're an apartment dweller in the city, just as a canoe won't do you much good if your bug-out location is in the high deserts of New Mexico.

For most people, the first choice will probably be some kind of motor vehicle, like a truck or SUV.  But have you considered carrying a back-up on the larger vehicle in case of break-down or an impasse that prevents going any further?  Bicycles, ATVs, dual-sport motorcycles, canoes, kayaks, John boats and other boats can be carried on racks or trailers to open up even more options when you get to where the road ends.  Remember that not only do you have to consider how you will get to your bug-out location, but how you will get around once there.  In the most remote wilderness areas, you will likely be reduced to walking or paddling a canoe. In other areas many of these vehicles will still be viable.

I would love to see photos of your bug-out vehicles/boats, etc., and invite you to send them in, along with your thoughts on the subject.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Recent Reviews of Bug Out:

Quite a few readers who asked to be on the list to receive review copies have written to say that they've received the book and really like it.  Some have already posted reviews on Amazon, and others on their own survival-related blogs.  Here are a couple from two such sites that were posted a few days ago.  The first one is from a new blog written by a wife and mother from the perspective of a family dwelling in an apartment in a large city.  I think The Apartment Prepper's Blog has a lot of potential to be of interest to urban preppers everywhere, and I look forward to seeing it develop.  

When I was writing Bug Out, I knew that a large segment of my audience for the material in the book would be among those who live in cities and suburbs and have few options for staying put and no second homes or land in the country to retreat to.


This second review was written by Leon Pantenburg at the excellent resource site: Survival Common Sense.   Leon is an experienced outdoorsman with a lifetime of hunting, fishing and wilderness travel under his belt.  He's been to many of the wilderness areas described in my book, and he's had plenty of opportunities to try out gear and find out what works and what doesn't. 



Thursday, June 3, 2010

Bug Out Regions: Appalachian Mountain Corridor

Much of my new bug out book deals with specific bug out locations, which is information that I found missing in other survival and prepardness books and is the reason I decided to write this one.  Since my plan was to cover the lower 48 states in as much detail as was reasonable in a 300-page book, I had to first divide the country into distinct regions based on climate, terrain and types of ecosystems found there.  This led to eight distinct regions, each of which has a chapter devoted to it in the book. 

Here on Bug Out Survival, I will be expanding on the details included in the book for specific bug out locations, and eventually will get around to posting photos and narratives from my many trips into some of my favorites.  For those who have not seen the book yet, I want to give some previews on what to expect in the descriptions of each of these regions.  Each regional chapter begins with an overview of the region to give you an idea of what to expect there.  Here's an example in the overview of The Appalachian Mountain Corridor:  

The Appalachian Mountains form the backbone of the eastern United States, dividing the drainages of the Atlantic Ocean to the east from those of the Mississippi River to the west and Hudson Bay to the north. This 1500-mile-long mountain range provides a corridor of rugged wilderness areas stretching from central Alabama and northern Georgia to Maine and the Canadian island of Newfoundland. The Appalachians as a whole are made up of many smaller mountain ranges linked together, including the Blue Ridge Mountains, Smokey Mountains, Allegheny Mountains, and many others. The mountain corridor averages 100 to 300 miles wide, with individual peaks averaging 3000 feet in elevation. The highest peak in the range and in all the eastern United States is 6684-foot Mount Mitchell in North Carolina. 

The Appalachian Mountains are within easy reach of many of the biggest population centers of the nation yet contain extensive tracts of protected wild lands in a variety of national forests and parks throughout their length, including some of the largest virgin forests remaining in the East. The Appalachians create their own weather and are much wetter than much of the surrounding low country around them (as well as the more arid western mountains). This rainfall allows for a lush and diverse ecosystem and the resultant dense forests make it easy to disappear in virtually any valley or on any ridge. A wide variety of edible plants flourish in these mountains, as do healthy populations of deer and other game animals.

Unlike the Gulf Coast Southeast and the Islands and Lowlands of the East Coast discussed in the previous two chapters, the Appalachian Mountain Corridor offers many areas of wild country that can be considered true wilderness and in many cases can only be accessed by rugged foot trails. Boats are of limited use here, except on a few of the rivers and larger man-made lakes. One of America’s longest hiking trails, the 2178-mile Appalachian Trail, runs almost the entire length of the corridor and makes it possible to walk from northern Georgia to Maine almost entirely in the wilderness or  semi-wilderness of the mountains.

In the Appalachian Mountain Corridor Bug-Out Essentials section, I've included a more detailed discussion of weather and climate, land and resources, edible plants, hunting and fishing, wildlife hazards, and recommended equipment. 

Here's the excerpt from the last category, recommended equipment:

The wildest parts of Appalachia can only be accessed on foot. You’ll need good boots and a bug-out backpack as described in Chapter Two, as well as warm, waterproof clothing and sleeping gear. Cold rain that lasts for days on end is common in these mountains, and in the winter, deep snow and even blizzards can catch the unprepared off-guard. It is essential here to have good shelter and a reliable way to make fire. Hunting equipment should include a .22 survival rifle for shooting elusive squirrels and small birds in thick cover, as well as a larger-caliber handgun or rifle that can take deer and double as bear protection. The .357 magnum is a good choice as a minimum caliber for eastern black bear. There are also other transportation alternatives besides hiking in this region, if you’d rather not walk or need to carry more supplies and equipment. Many parts of the various state and national forests in Appalachia can be accessed by four-wheel-drive vehicles, dualpurpose motorcycles, ATVs, mountain bikes, or on horseback.

If you live in the Appalachian Mountain Region, I would love to hear about your experiences in the wild areas there.  Living in Mississippi, this area has been a frequent destination of mine when I want to get away to the mountains for some rugged backpacking.  I can reach some of the best areas of North Carolina and Tennessee in a day's drive.  One of my favorite areas is the Citico Creek Wilderness Area, which I will  post about in more detail in the near future. 


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