Monday, August 30, 2010

Interview on Modern Survival Online

I recently did interview answering questions about Bug Out and related topics for Rourke at  I like these interviews with other survival writers because the questions sometimes put a different angle on topics that I've discussed here and in my book, leading to answers that may cover something I've over-looked before.  You can read the full interview along with Rourke's comments on his latest post today, but I'm also publishing the questions and answers for my readers here:

  • Rourke: What do you think is the biggest myth associated with “bugging out”?
During the course of researching and writing my book I spent a lot of time on various survival forums, blogs and websites to get a feel for the survivalist/prepper community and see what others were doing and how they approach the subject.  I was surprised, to be honest, at how negative most of the discussions and articles were on the viability of bugging out as a survival strategy.  Although the term “bugging out” may be relatively new in common usage, people have been forced to flee their enemies and seek refuge in the countryside or the wilderness for as long as there has been any semblance of civilization.  In many cases it has come down to getting out fast or staying behind and dying.

There’s a difference in becoming a refuge at the mercy of everyone you encounter and having the skills, equipment and advance plans already worked out as to how and where you will bug out.  Bugging out is not the answer for every situation, but to answer the question, I think this is the biggest myth – that you can’t do it and that you can’t survive in the wilderness.  I am always amazed by those who say that a well-prepared and experienced person cannot survive on the land.  I know plenty who can, and they don’t even consider themselves to be survivalists in any shape or form.  Keep in mind that this does not always imply TEOTWAWKI, and in most cases you won’t have to live off the land for extended periods of time.  It’s just that knowing how to travel and live in the wild opens up a lot of options that you otherwise would not have, and it could save your life. 
  • Rourke: I have just started reading Bug Out, and was really taken with your background – specifically your immense traveling. What was your most difficult situation you found yourself in?
It’s kind of hard to pick one, as there have been a few.  Looking back at some of the things I’ve done, I’m amazed that I’m still here sometimes.  Most of my scariest mishaps have been on the water, simply from biting off more than I could chew for my skill level at the time.  But, that’s how you learn, if you don’t die in the process. 
  • Rourke: I see survival & preparedness more and more in mainstream media. From television shows such as Dual Survival, to news reports on urban families that are storing food “just in case”. Why do you think survival is becoming so popular?
I think here in the U.S. there is a lot of fear and uncertainty about stability of the economy and fear of more government control, and loss of individual rights, which in turn could lead to internal strife and disorder.  There is the increasing fear of more widespread terrorism and the possibility of larger-scale war.  All of these things are fueling the fire of interest in survival.  But I think another reason for the popularity of such books and television shows is the disconnect with nature and the basics so many people feel in this high-tech world of easy living, insulated as we are from much of the “real” world.  We have a craving to learn to do simple things, like build a fire, forage for food or navigate across trackless terrain.
  • Rourke: When considering a Bug Out Vehicle (BOV) - what are the top characteristics that should be considered in its selection?
 Whether the “vehicle” is a four-wheel-drive SUV, a motorcycle, bicycle, canoe, motorboat, or whatever – look for simplicity, no-nonsense rugged construction and ease of maintenance and repair in less than optimum circumstances.  My philosophy in choosing every piece of gear or any vehicle or boat is to pick the simplest and most basic one that will do the tasks I require of it. 
  • Rourke: One of the categories of survival & preparedness supplies that I think are often overlooked in survival planning is communication. What kind of equipment do you recommend for bugging out?
 I’ve mentioned marine-band VHF hand-held radios on my blog, as many people may not consider them.  These radios, while technically illegal to use on land during normal times, could be viable in a bug-out situation, because they give you a longer transmitting range than FRS radios or most other hand-held units.  Many of the better ones are also extremely rugged, and can withstand submersion in water and still function.  The best ones have the option of using rechargeable or disposable batteries, making them suitable for long-term off-the-grid use.  There are also many channels available on the VHF band, so finding one that’s not busy should be easy, especially the farther you are from navigable water.
  • Rourke: You favor a machete over a knife – can you explain the reasoning for this?
 Well, actually what I point out in my book is that I favor a machete over an axe or hatchet.  If possible, I would still have a knife, but yes, if I could have only one, I would take the machete because with care and skill it can do practically anything a knife can do, in addition to those much bigger jobs knives can’t do.  I could go on and on about the usefulness of a machete, and I have expanded on it some on my blog and will do so again in the future.  One thing I’ll mention here is that for the purpose of bugging out the machete offers tremendous cutting ability and versatility in a slim, easily carried and lightweight package.  You can slip a sheathed machete down in the bug out bag out of sight of others, and it’s so lightweight you’ll hardly know it’s there either until you need it.
  • Rourke: One of the most talked about aspects of survivalism are firearms with a tremendous amount of varying opinions – What role do firearms play in bugging out?
 The primary roles, of course, are hunting and self-defense – from both human and animal aggressors.  My philosophy of bugging out is to remain as low-key, unnoticed and invisible as possible.  For that reason I don’t plan to carry offensive weapons as there is a limit to the weight and bulk of ammo and all the other essential gear you can take with you in a bug-out situation.  The best firearms for this use should be usable for both hunting and defense.  That’s why I like a matched lever action rifle and revolver in a medium caliber like .357 Magnum.  Sure, a semi-auto battle rifle would be better in an all-out gunfight, but a good lever action is pretty fast to handle as well.  I mainly like the lever guns for the slim profile and light weight, which like machetes, make them easy to pack and easy to carry in hand all day.
  • Rourke: If you had to choose one firearm to Bug Out with – what would your choice be?
It would be hard to give up the short .357 Magnum lever action rifle, but, I would probably take a .22 rifle if I could have nothing else, simply because of the amount of ammo that could be easily carried and the huge variety of game of all sorts that can be taken with it.  I’ve taken various .22 rifles on a number of my trips and feel confident that a good one would be the best all-around firearm for wilderness survival if I couldn’t take a larger caliber rifle to go with it.  As for particular models, I like many of them, including the Ruger 10/22, the Marlin Papoose, the Henry Youth Lever (same length as my Winchester Trapper) and the Marlin Model 60.
  • Rourke: What are the Top 5 items that should be included in Bug Out supplies? 
  1. Clothing and shelter for the expected conditions in the region and the season.
  2. A reliable means of making fire, long-term, for example Fire Steel.
  3. A reliable means of carrying water and purifying water found, for example, sturdy Nalgene bottles and Polar Pure water treatment.
  4. A machete if no other cutting tool, but a  fixed blade knife, folder or multi-tool would be nice to have as well.
  5. A metal pot, as described in my book.  A metal pot that can withstand cooking in a fire will enable you to utilize all sorts of wild foods that must be boiled, for example, a variety of roots, inner bark, leafy greens, etc.
These are the top 5 considerations as far as what cannot be easily found or improvised in the wilderness in a hurry, when you are on the move and hiding out/evading.   
  • Rourke: Is there a particular part of the country that you consider vastly superior than others for bugging out?
 That’s a tough call, because every region has its advantages and disadvantages.  Of course, I’m comfortable with the South, having grown up here.  Some may not like the snakes, bugs and heat, but at least you don’t have to worry about freezing to death and edible plants and a huge variety of animal foods are abundant.  But I’ve spent quality wilderness time in every region and have enjoyed them all.  Part of what makes a region more suitable is the presence of natural features such as rivers, swamps, rugged mountains or deserts that have limited human habitation since the days of early settlement and left large tracts of roadless areas that remain wild to this day.
  • Rourke: From your viewpoint on the world today – what is the likelihood that there could be a major disaster that could create populations to be involved in a mass exodus from heavily populated areas? What might that disaster be in your estimation?
 When a civilization becomes as complex and interdependent as ours is today, there is always the chance of a major disruption, whether from natural causes or man-made causes.  I think war or major unrest from within would be one scenario that would make it unsafe to remain in heavily populated areas, as far as man-caused disasters.  Some kind of unprecedented natural event like solar flares that could take out the power grid would be a plausible natural disaster that could cause such an exodus, as large cities would be untenable in a long-term grid-down event, as we saw in a shorter duration event in  New Orleans after Katrina.
  • Rourke: I see you have a new book coming out – Would You Survive? Please tell us about it.
The new book is intended to be more of an entertaining read than anything else, but it will also get you thinking by putting the reader in each of 13 survival scenarios that each present their own challenges and difficulties.  Some of these scenarios are the kind that you could find yourself in simply by being in the wrong place at the wrong time, like an active shooter situation at a busy shopping mall.. Others could happen through over-confidence in one’s abilities or ignorance of the dangers of a given environment, for example, the desert, tropical rain forest or Alaskan bush.  It’s been an interesting project to work on, as my research has led me to read many books and dig up lots of survivor’s stories from all sorts of related situations. 
  • Rourke: Any other new projects on the horizon you would like to tell my readers?
 I am working on another possible project, but it’s much too early to announce yet until I have time to develop the idea.
  • Rourke: Thank you.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Current Book Project Now Listed on Amazon:

Now that the book I'm currently working on has a page on Amazon complete with the preliminary cover image, I can give you a hint as to what it's about:

There will be a subtle change to the title and sub-title, as discussed with my publisher, but this is close.  Unlike Bug Out, this book will not be a guide or how-to, but should be entertaining reading to anyone interested in the subject of survival.  The scenarios presented here will cover a wide range of predicaments that others have lived through and that you might find yourself in as well, especially if you are the adventurous sort.

Here's a brief description from the publisher:

During a catastrophic event, what separates those who survive from those who are never seen again? In 13 suspenseful adventures, each a story of overcoming impossible odds, the author reveals the three vital ways to cheat death when all seems lost—avoid panic, know your survival skills, and maintain a relentless determination to make it out alive.

A unique combination of fictional scenarios, true accounts, and instructive sidebars,
Would You Survive? educates as it entertains. Readers realize how important it is to suppress the natural panic response that produces bad decisions and often fatal outcomes.

Teaching by example, the characters use real-life survival tactics—including navigating, building shelters, finding water, and signaling for help. Scattered throughout the book, bonus profiles recount true survivor stories that illustrate how the determination to live in the bleakest and most devastating conditions has saved the lives of countless people.

The scenarios range from urban disasters to wilderness ordeals in many different environments.  And of course for the the readers of this blog and Bug Out, one of them will be a "bug-out" situation.  Needless to say, this is a big project and I'm working hard to get it done in time to meet the publication date.  I'll be posting more about it here as publication gets closer, as well as some posts about the types of predicaments that will be discussed in the book and how you could end up in one. 

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Fitting the Ruger 10/22 in the Bug Out Bag

The Ruger 10/22 is an all-time favorite among many rimfire enthusiasts, and for good reason.  It's a reasonably priced, lightweight, reliable and infinitely customizable auto-loading carbine chambered for the .22 Long Rifle cartridge.  The 10/22 has long been one of my personal favorites when it comes to semi-auto .22 rifles, but in its standard configuration, it's not often marketed as a "survival rifle" in the way that purpose-made take down rifles such as the Henry AR-7 and the Marline Papoose are.  I've owned all these various survival rifles at one time or another, and all have gone with me on some of my long wilderness trips. But given the choice, I would take a 10/22 over any of them.  It was never a problem to slide a standard, wood-stocked 10/22 into one of the long storage compartments of my sea kayak or into a duffel bag in the canoe, but how do you fit one in a backpack or bug-out bag?

In my book I make the case for having a take-down .22 survival rifle inside the bug-out bag and away from the prying eyes of the authorities or others who may take an interest in it, especially in an urban bug-out situation, where firearms may be confiscated as they were in New Orleans after Katrina.  There are folding stock options available for the 10/22 that can solve this problem, and I've used them many times, but never really warmed up to them.  I really like the handling of this great little carbine in the standard wooden stock.  And the folding stocks are much heavier and add the bulk of a pistol grip that is really not necessary in a survival .22 rifle.  Once such stock that is still available is the Butler Creek Folding Stock Butler Creek also made a take-down folding stock for the 10/22 that was much more practical, but is no longer in production. 

To keep the look and feel of the carbine stock, I decided to customize mine for my own requirements.  The main criteria regarding fitting it easily in the bug-out bag for me was that the longest part had to be 24-inches or less.  To that end, I took a Ruger 10/22 Compact model, which comes with a 16-inch barrel, and mated it with a cut-down carbine stock from another 10/22 I have that is currently residing in a Butler Creek folder.  The entire barrel and receiver assembly for the 10/22 Compact is just 21 1/2 inches long.  The overall length of the Compact in the factory stock is 34 inches and it weighs just 4.5 lbs. - a good place to start.  Here's what is looks like in factory configuration, the other stock pictured will be explained next:

I didn't want to mess up the nice new stock that came on my new 10/22 Compact, in case I want to sell the rifle later, and besides, I like the traditional buttplate style of the carbine stock anyway.  If you don't have a spare carbine stock like this, you can pick one up on Ebay all day long for about 25 bucks, as so many people take these off to install all sorts of "tactical" stocks on the 10/22, as well as target and precision hunting stocks.  In this photo you can see the difference in the stock lengths, and the piece I cut off the carbine stock.  I cut it to a total length of 23.5 inches, which meets my requirements and still leaves plenty of forearm to grip when shooting.  After all, remember the Marline Papoose and the AR-7 have no forearm forward of the receiver at all, forcing you to grip the front of the receiver or rest the barrel on your hand.  This cut-down carbine stock is comfortable for me and I'm 6'-2" tall.  It's also extremely lightweight. 

After cutting it down, I reshaped the fore end and sanded away all the fake walnut finish on the birch stock.  I then coated it with clear epoxy resin to make it impervious to the elements.

Although the naturally-finished wood looks better than the fake stain (did I ever say how much I hate stained wood - being a professional boatbuilder and yacht carpenter?) I decided to spray a coat of green Krylon Fusion over it to keep in the spirit of a "survival" rifle.  I now have a handy 10/22 that fits within the 24-inch package, which is plenty short enough to disappear inside a decent sized backpack. 

The 10/22 is not meant to be a "take-down" rifle, but the fact is that there is only one screw attaching the receiver to the stock (the Compact model does not have the barrel band).  You can assemble this by tightening down this one screw with a screwdriver blade on your multitool just as fast as you can put together a Papoose or AR-7.  Sure, you have to be careful not to lose the screw, or the take-down pins that hold in the trigger assembly, but for bug-out purposes, the rifle is going to stay disassembled until you get out of Dodge, and then will likely stay assembled and in use for the duration of whatever SHTF event sent you packing in the first place.  I simply slide the receiver end into one of my spare socks inside the pack, the take-down screw threaded in place.  The stock and barrel can be protected inside a sleeve or pants leg of your spare clothing - or you can get fancy and make a custom case for the two parts. 

The main thing is that when you do need it for survival hunting, you'll have a well-made, reliable rifle that is easy to carry and handle in the field.

I'll be posting more about this set-up in the future, as well as some of the other Ruger 10/22 options and other .22 rifles you may not have considered for the bug-out bag. 

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

GPS for the Bug Out Bag

I generally tend to stay away from electronic gadgets and other high-tech devices when it comes to gear for wilderness travel or the bug out bag.  Modern hand-held GPS receivers are a notable exception, however.  Although any electronic device can fail, some of the proven units on the market are tough as nails and not likely to let you down.  When I recently needed a handheld-unit that can handle both road, trail and marine navigation, I chose the well-proven Garmin GPSMAP 60Cx. This unit has all the features I need: waterproof, expandable memory via micro-SD cards, the ability to utilize a wide variety of both Garmin and free maps, and self-contained power via disposable AA batteries.  Although Garmin has recently released a newer version of this unit, called the Garmin GPSMAP 62, it is unproven, more expensive, and doesn't have any features I need that are not on the 60Cx.

For many years all of my handheld GPS needs have been met by the simple Garmin eTrex, and it will still go with me on any significant trips, especially as a back-up on the water.  When sailing or kayaking, I never leave the paper charts behind, and with a simple unit like the eTrex to give you accurate coordinates, you can navigate just fine with paper charts. Where they become a hassle is in bad weather, especially driving rain and high winds.  A chart-enabled GPS eliminates the need to have the paper charts out in the weather.  And in the bug out bag, a hand-held unit pre-loaded with detailed topo maps of the area eliminates a lot of unnecessary weight in maps, though I would still carry a large overview topo map of the main area I planned to bug out to.

As I've mentioned in my book, the real value of a GPS unit in the bug out bag is that it will enable you to go exactly to your pre-planned location or pre-loaded waypoints, even if you are forced to travel at night or under other unfavorable conditions for traditional navigation.  Although the battery life is limited and the number of spares you can carry is as well, used conservatively, the GPS receiver will likely run long enough to get you where you need to go and to move on to other locations if necessary.  Of course this is the reason I prefer a unit like the eTrex or 60Cx that can use disposable batteries, as some units for more civilized use, such as the Nuvi vehicle navigation units, have built-in rechargeable batteries that you won't last long in a bug out situation and will leave you with no way to recharge them.

I plan to use the 60Cx unit for overland navigation on foot, bicycle and on my dual-sport motorcycle, as well as for on-the-water navigation in my kayaks on aboard my catamaran once it's launched.  Garmin's Blue Chart software for all U.S. waters is now available on a single micro-SD card that will work in the unit and cost around $160 (less through some online retailers).  On the KLR 650, loaded with City Navigator and topo maps, it will facilitate exploring remote forest service roads and logging tracks without having to stop the bike and get out a paper map at every unknown intersection.

I'm expecting the 60Cx to arrive today, and after I have a chance to use it I will be posting more about the specifics of navigating with it, as well as sources for some of the free mapping software that is available for it.


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