Saturday, December 17, 2011

Updated Cold Steel Voyager XL

The new edition of the Cold Steel Voyager XL, one of my favorite large folding knives:

In this post about Three Knives for Everyday Carry, I mentioned the Cold Steel Voyager XL (5-inch blade model), as I have owned and carried one of these since first running across one in a local sporting goods store back in 1996.  I was immediately drawn to the design the first time I handled it, as the size and balance seemed perfect and I could tell it would easily become an extension of my hand when applied with the Kenpo knife fighting techniques I had learned when I was heavily involved in that art.  But beyond its potential as an excellent close-quarters weapon that was large enough to be effective yet easy to conceal, I felt it could also serve well as a general purpose field knife and over the years this has proven true.  I've used it for skinning and dressing large and small game as well as for camp chores and rigging work while aboard my boat. Because of its light weight, smooth contours when closed, and convenient clip for securing inside a pocket or waistline of anything from sweat pants to swimming trunks, I rarely went anywhere without mine - that is until the clips broke off. 

The one pictured in the post referenced above was my second one, as the first version came with an inferior plastic belt clip that once broken, could not be replaced.  This second edition was somewhat improved, with a heavier-duty replaceable metal clip, but the clip was still the weakest point of the knife and eventually I snagged it on something while carrying the knife clipped in a side cargo pocket and broke that one too.  The second version of the Voyager also had an improved gripping surface, but the shape and size was virtually identical, as you can see here in this photo of both knives with broken belt clips: 

Both of my older Voyagers have the plain edge rather than the half-plain, half-serrated option that was available, as I prefer a blade I can easily keep sharpened to my needs when required.  Like the older model, the new Voyager XL can be had with either a plain or 50/50 serrated blade for the same MSRP of $87.99. Changes in the design include a more secure grip, a new Tri-Ad locking mechanism, a flat ground blade rather than the hollow-ground of previous models, and ambidextrous pocket clips that are more discreet than the old design. 

With both of my old voyagers somewhat more difficult to carry and put into action without the pocket clips, I figure it's time to try the new model.  I'll report on it here after I've had time to compare the changes against my old favorites.  You can get one on Amazon for $69.95, and compared to a lot of the competition, that's a bargain for such a versatile folder. If anyone has used the updated model and has some feedback, I'd love to hear from you.

Here's the manufacturer's description of the new Voyagers from the Cold Steel website:

Voyager® Series

Our Voyagers® are, ounce for ounce, far stronger than 99.9% of our competitor's folders. And this is a fact, not an idle boast. Each knife features precision made parts with a stiff spring and our incomparable Tri-Ad® lock mechanism which is arguably the strongest, most reliable, low maintenance lock in the world! 

The thick, extra wide blades are made from Japanese AUS 8A steel and meticulously ground to a thin edge for maximum shearing potential. This thin edge also allows us to hone each blade to astounding sharpness. And, because of the high carbon content of the steel, and their near perfect heat treatment, you'll find this sharpness last a surprisingly long time. 

If you like serrations, you'll really appreciate our exclusive pattern. It features groups of very small, sharply pointed teeth separated by wide, shallow arcs so it will rip smoothly yet very aggressively through a wide variety of tough fibrous materials without snagging or hanging up. 

The Voyager® Series also offers all the other latest refinements in lock-back construction including lightning quick, one-handed opening, state of the art mechanical fasteners, massively oversized pivot pins that are fully adjustable and properly hardened, and dual stainless steel pocket clips for ambidextrous carry and deployment. 

The Grivory handles feature 6061 heat treated aluminum liners for the utmost in strength and stiffness and are ergonomically designed to afford a wide array of grip options including the palm reinforced forward grip for which they are particularly well suited. 

Grivory is unparalleled as a handle material as it is considerably stronger than Zy-Ex and, when deeply textured, offers a terrific non-slip grip. As an added bonus, it's impervious to moisture and won't crack, warp or shrink and remains remarkably resistant to abrasion or discoloration.
As tools these lightweight, super sharp knives are appropriate in almost any environment from hunting and camping to hiking and general utility chores. They can also readily fill specialty functions such as a boat or river knife, chute knife or police/military and survival/rescue applications.

Friday, December 9, 2011

What if You Had to Bug Out in Winter?

I happen to live in a part of the Deep South where winter is rarely a serious consideration when it comes to outdoor activities and even survival scenarios.  Sure, we have some cold snaps around here and especially at night the lows can be uncomfortable if you don't have the right gear, but outright freezing to death is not likely.  Some of my best hiking and paddling trips here in Mississippi have been in the dead of winter, especially just after deer season closes and hardly anyone is in the woods.

But just last month I spent a few days in Tennessee and North Carolina, and while there had a chance to do some hiking in one of my favorite wild places in the East - the Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness Area.  The leaves were mostly in full fall colors in the lower elevations and were already gone above 4,000 feet.  That first week of November, conditions were perfect for exploring and camping and the mountain forests seemed benign and beckoning:

 But I've also hiked this area in December and January in years past, picking my times between winter storms, and as I walked familiar paths on this recent trip, I thought about what it would be like here in a bug-out context.  What would you do if circumstances forced you into prolonged stay in late fall with winter approaching, or perhaps even worse, if you had to suddenly leave the comfort of your home in winter?  The same area could very well look like this:

How would you prepare to operate in such conditions?  Do you have the clothing and shelter you would need to stay warm and dry, and have you tested it on actual trips?  Have you experimented with shelter-building and fire-making in winter conditions?  How much will cold temperatures and snow and ice slow down your rate of travel?  Will you still be able to navigate?  And if you are focused on keeping warm, especially at night, will you still be able to keep a low profile and stay out of sight of any potential threats?  What about staying hydrated and carrying enough food or finding sources to supplement your supplies along the way?  All of these things will become much more difficult in winter, and the consequences of failure could be much swifter.

If you live in a colder region than I do and there's a chance you may need such skills in a real-life survival scenario, now is the time to practice them.  As with any kind of survival training, familiarity gained by experience is the best way to build the confidence you need to know you can prevail if really put to the test.  You might even find, as many people do, that you prefer winter hiking and camping, especially if you love solitude and the challenges of staying comfortable in conditions that keep most people indoors.

For further reading on clothing, gear and logistics of operating in winter, there's an excellent post from earlier this week on the Warrior Talk News site called The Winter Warrior.  Much of what Suarez International Staff Instructor, Eric W. Pfleger discusses could be applicable to anyone considering bug-out strategies, and includes: clothing and footwear selection, hygiene, hydration and first aid considerations, and weapons care, transportation and counter-tracking measures.  It's an article well worth your time to check out.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

What to Do When Help is NOT On the Way

What would you do in a post-SHTF scenario if your partner or a member of your group suffered a severe, deep cut to a leg or arm with a tool such as a machete or axe?  What if the blow was so hard the blade penetrated not only flesh but nearly severed the bone in the limb as well?  It's not far-fetched at all that a person could suffer such a cut by accident or in an intentional attack.

When I was traveling through the Caribbean on my solo sea kayak journey of 1988-90, I met a young man in the town of Samana, in the Dominican Republic, who had suffered just such a horrible wound at the hands of a jealous husband wielding a machete.  He was lucky to have survived, as the attacker meant to split his skull with it.  Using his forearm to block the vicious strike, he almost lost the arm, but absorbed most of the force before it hit his face.  Far more stitches than I could count encircled the forearm that was slashed to the bone and another row extended from the top of his scalp all the way across his forehead, eyebrow, bridge of his nose and cheekbone.  All this just from one strike.  While it is certain he would have been killed instantly if he had not sacrificed his arm to block the blow, if he had been in a situation where he could not get quick medical attention, he probably would have bled out from the cut artery in his arm anyway. 

So what would you do in a case like that if you couldn't get outside help?  I was thinking about this a lot over the last two days as I worked on a scene in my current book project (the post-apocalyptic novel I'm now writing) in which one of the characters is cut almost the same way.  Getting to a hospital or calling for an ambulance is out of the question, so what choices does the person attending the victim have?  Stopping the flow of blood is obviously the first priority, and depending on the severity and location of the wound, you may have only minutes to do so.  Applying a tourniquet used to be the accepted wisdom, but it is now known that doing so almost guarantees the loss of the limb.  Applying direct pressure is much safer, and can be just as effective.  As it happens, just as I was sorting through various references on the correct way to do this, a message came through on my Twitter account informing me of a new follow by James Hubberd@thesurvivalMD, and the timing could not have been better. 

I followed the link back to his website: The Survival Doctor, and found an excellent resource on just the kind of trauma first aid information I was looking for.  Dr. Hubberd's blog posts only go back to September, but all of them are informative, with illustrations and videos that show and explain in simple terms how to deal with some pretty severe medical emergencies in the field.  Dr. Hubberd is a family M.D. with 30 years of experience in the field. What's interesting about his approach, is that as his site title suggests, he's writing this for those interested in medical preparedness in the event of a disaster, social upheaval or other situation where you're isolated and "help is not on the way."  I think this site is going to be a useful resource for all of us and I've added The Survival Doctor to my blogroll so we can all look forward to learning something new from Dr. Hubberd's updates.  And thanks to the quick-thinking actions of his brother who knew just the right thing to do because of this new site, my badly-slashed character will not only live, but may even regain full use of his right arm again.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Roof Racks for Your Bug Out Vehicle

In the first chapter of Bug Out Vehicles and Shelters, I included some modifications and optional equipment to consider in preparing ordinary motor vehicles for bug-out duty.  One of these modifications that is universally useful on every type of vehicle from the smallest compact cars to the most gargantuan trucks and SUVs is the addition of cargo or utility racks, particularly of the roof-top variety.

Such racks can be the general purpose type such as those that are standard equipment on many SUVs and some crossovers, or the more specialized removable systems with purpose-designed components to hold and lock-down sports equipment such as skies, bicycles or kayaks.  The removable systems such as those offered by manufacturers like Thule and Yakima can be purchased for practically any model or style of vehicle, but they can get pricy if you add all the specialized equipment carriers available for them.  Factory-standard or optional racks can also work, but some of these are not rated to carry the loads you may want to carry, while the best of the removable systems are much stronger.

When fitted on smaller vehicles, roof racks free up passenger space inside by allowing you to securely strap your gear and supplies overhead, where it's out of the way.  As a means of carrying back-up vehicles, like bikes, canoes or kayaks, or shelter building materials like poles or lumber, roof racks are invaluable, because even with a large pickup some of these items are awkward to carry securely. A good rack system can often eliminate the need to pull a trailer, which adds its own set of complications when bugging out of a SHTF scenario.

So what kind of rack is best for your vehicle?  One of the most versatile systems I've ever used is this basic set of Thule cross bars that I've owned since 1988.  I have been able to make these work on several vehicles I've owned over the years, from sedans to sports cars and pickup.  These make carrying canoes or 17-foot sea kayaks such as this one easy - even with the smallest compact cars:

I've never bothered with the specialized cradles for kayaks and attachments for other gear, preferring to simply tie down my load directly to the bars, using padding if necessary to protect delicate items - which my kayaks are not - as I build them to use, not look at. 

These simple crossbar racks are rated to carry 165lbs.  That's more than most people will need to strap on top of a vehicle, but I've certainly pushed them over the limit hauling lumber, causing them to flex but with no failures so far.  They are available in lengths from 50 to 96 inches, making them adaptable to a wide range of vehicles.  The mounting systems are sold according to your vehicle, and range from old-style vehicles with rain gutters to the sleekest, aerodynamic roof profiles of today. The bars can also be fitted with adapters to make them work with the fore and aft roof rails that many vehicles come with, but without crossbars  except as an expensive manufacturer's option.  More information about the fitment of these racks can be found on the Thule website.  Amazon stocks the load bars as well and most of the fitment options you might need. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Two Classic Rimfire Handguns

As I've mentioned here many times and in my books, I'm a big fan of the .22 rimfire when it comes to all around hunting and survival weapons.  While there are many circumstances where other, more potent calibers are certainly needed, the lowly .22 rimfire does a good job as an all-around game getter and many experienced hunters and wilderness travelers would agree that if they could only have one gun, they might reach for their trusty .22, especially since so much ammunition can be carried in a small space.  I've always been more of a rifleman than a handgunner myself, and most anyone would have better results putting meat on the table with an accurate long gun than a pistol or revolver, but if one of these two fine rimfire handguns were my own, I think I'd invest the time and effort into getting as proficient as possible with it.

These are not mine, however, but I'm temporarily in possession of them as a friend who is out of the country shipped them to me for safekeeping until he can pick them up.  What you see here is a Ruger Single Six revolver in .22 Magnum, and the classic Colt Woodsman .22 Long Rifle automatic pistol:

Both of these models have long been popular with serious handgun hunters and marksmen, and either would do a fine job of bagging small game in the hands of a competent shooter.  The Colt Woodsman, in particular has a perfectly-balanced feel in the hand and a silky slick action.  Unlike many of today's lightweight .22 automatics, this is a pistol that is built to last and to be handed down through the generations.  The Woodsman is getting harder to find these days, and if you do find one, it won't be cheap.  Both of these came in old school fitted leather holsters, reminding me of the .22 revolver that was the first handgun I ever fired under my dad's watchful eye:

I might get better results with my 10/22 carbine, but I'd sure like to have either one of these in my bug out bag as well if I had to take off to the woods for an extended stay.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Deal on My Books at Costco

My publisher recently received a large order for all three of my survival-related books from Costco Stores.  Since these big chains are able to buy in volume, they negotiate for big discounts which they are able to pass along to the customer.  Generally, Amazon has the best prices on most books, as they too buy and sell in volume, often making very small profits per copy.  But if you live in an area where there are Costco locations and prefer to shop in person rather than online, you may get an even better deal.

I don't have access to a Costco store here, as there are none in Mississippi, but a friend sent me this photo taken with his phone last week from one of the stores in the Los Angeles area.  They had plenty of copies of Bug Out, Bug Out Vehicles and Shelters, and Getting Out Alive, all priced at just $8.99 per copy, which is a significant discount off the cover prices of $14.95 and $15.95:

I don't know if every Costco store has these in stock, but I'm pleased to see them offered by the chain, as they have a limited selection of books to begin with.  The fact that they chose to carry all three of these titles is evidence of the growing popularity of preparedness topics in general.  I'd love to hear from you if you see these in stock in a Costco store near you.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Hydration Technology Innovations: AnyWater AnyWhere

I just received several samples of a product I had not seen before that I think will be of great interest to preppers as well as adventure travelers needing a safe and reliable water source in questionable areas.  A box of these samples was sent to me by the editor of Sea Kayaker magazine, a publication I've been contributing to on an occasional basis since they published an account of my solo Caribbean sea kayak journey back in 1990.  I will be testing and reviewing this product for the magazine, so I can't publish the review here until after it appears in print, but I did want to share some photos and a link to the company website with you, and I'll post a link to the article here when it's available.

The Hydration Technology Innovations HydroPack Water Filter is a self-hydrating drink pouch/emergency water filter that is claimed by the manufacturer to produce a refreshing drink while removing viruses, bacteria, cysts and parasites from the water.  The small pouch on the left contains six individual packets that produce 12 fluid ounces each when hydrated.  The larger package on the right is a 10-day water filtration system that weighs less than 5 pounds in your pack and is claimed to produce up to 8.5 gallons of safe drinking fluid in the field. 

This system, by Hydration Technology Innovations is in use by Marine, Air Force, Army and Special Ops personnel.  If it works as advertised, it could be a useful addition to the bug-out bag in many situations.

Even more interesting to me, the company also manufactures a reverse-osmosis water filtration system that works in a similar way.  Shown below is the Emergency Desalinator foward osmosis membrane filter and the SeaPack Crew Emergency Desalination Pouch

These SeaPack self-hydrating pouches work like the HydroPak pouches for freshwater, but create a clean drink that contains electrolytes and other nutrients from seawater by removing up to 97% of the salt from the water.  All this  comes in a compact package that can easily fit in the storage compartments of a sea kayak or in a life raft or abandon ship bag, without the complication of an expensive reverse-osmosis pump system.  I can't wait to see how it works.

I plan to put all these units to the test in the coming weeks by seeking out the nastiest Mississippi swampwater I can find for the freshwater systems and heading south to the Gulf of Mexico for some salty seawater to sample with the desalination systems.  If they work as advertised, I'll let you know here, and I'm sure I'll be adding some to my gear collection - especially the desalination units.  One can never have too many back-ups when it comes to a freshwater drinking supply when venturing out to sea on small boats.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

A Review of The Prepper's Pocket Guide

I spend a lot of time here talking about my own books, of course, which is part of the reason I started this blog - as a platform upon which to expand on the material covered in those books and to connect with readers.  When I first conceived the idea of my first Bug Out book in 2009, I knew that interest was growing in all aspects of survival topics and I was surprised to see how many new survival books were appearing on bookstore shelves.  Now, two and half years later, this trend has not only continued but has gained tremendous momentum as the survival and prepping community's appetite for this kind of information seems insatiable.  This interest is no longer limited to a small segment of the population, however, but has really started to become mainstream in the last year or so, and for obvious reasons.  

Some of the newer books coming out on the topic are aimed squarely at those mainstream readers who may just now be beginning to realize they need to take a few steps in the direction of disaster and emergency prepardness, as well as address concerns caused by the new economic reality.  My own publisher, Ulysses Press of Berkeley, California, has recently released just such a book: The Prepper's Pocket Guide, by Bernie Carr, and it has been a bestseller from the start.  

I’ve been following the author’s Apartment Prepper blog since she began posting and have enjoyed reading her thoughts on the topic of prepardness from the perspective of an urban apartment dweller rather than the typical wilderness survival guru or retreat survivalist living in an isolated bunker in the middle of nowhere.  She relates to many readers who may not be interested in that kind of hard-core survival by describing her own journey that began with a growing feeling of insecurity in an uncertain world and how she started taking the steps to address her concerns for herself and her family.  I am pleased to see that journey lead to this excellent book that I think will benefit her blog readers and many, many more people who may not have given this topic serious thought because of misconceptions they may have about preppers.  

She dispels many common myths about prepping right in the beginning, such as:   

Prepping is Expensive

Prepping Takes Too Much Time

You Need a Lot of Space for Storage

You Need a Farm or Retreat Location

Prepping Will Turn Me Into One of Those Crackpots Living in a Cabin in the Woods, Dressed in Military Gear and Threatening People with Explosives. 

I really like the format of this book because it is just what the title says it is: a pocket guide packed with useful information that spans just about every aspect of survival and disaster planning.  Each of the 101 tips is solidly researched and clearly presented in a way that is easy to read and easy to understand.  While no pocket guide can go into great depth in any one subject area, the value of this book is that it introduces readers to ideas and concepts they may never have considered, opening the door to further research and reading on the topics they want to know more about.  Some of the major sections include: Financial Readiness, Water Needs, Food Supplies and Personal Health and Safety. 

As the author of this blog and two books on the subject of bugging out, I could especially appreciate Chapter Eight: When You Have to Get Out.  The tips in this section introduce those new to prepping to the concept of bugging out and manage to distill the essential elements of it in a few short pages while still covering the important points like what to pack in a bug-out bag, transportation, safety, exit routes, communication and navigation. 

Whether you plan to bug-in, bug-out or just want to learn more about what this “prepping” movement is all about, I highly recommend ThePrepper’s Pocket Guide as a handy reference and a permanent addition to your library. This little book also makes a great gift for $12.95, if like all of us, you have friends and family that cannot understand what this "prepping" stuff is all about and are looking for the perfect book to help them out. 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Fast Escape Vehicle or Self-Contained Mobile Retreat?

In deciding how to organize the information on various vehicles in Bug Out Vehicles and Shelters, I had to separate the various modes of transportation covered in the book into three major categories:  Escape Vehicles, Mobile Retreats and Alternative or Back-up Vehicles. 

While any vehicle of any type could be classified as an "escape" vehicle because it could be used to make your escape in a bug-out situation, the primary difference as defined in the book is that for the most part an escape vehicle is the type of conveyance that will enable you to make a rapid exit from a danger zone, or perhaps reach your pre-planned bug-out location or retreat or even get home to your family if you are caught out away when the event happens.  The generally means you won't be thinking of the vehicle itself as a shelter and won't be spending any time in it except for travel.  If the situation calls for more than one day of travel, you'll likely be camping out of rather than inside of the vehicle, simply because it won't have accommodations or be set up for self-contained travel.  Examples of escape vehicles include most passenger cars, pickups and SUVs - the sort of vehicle most people use for everyday transportation and already own.  Other escape vehicles for overland travel on highways and roads include many types of motorcycles and escape vehicles for travel on the water include small powerboats and runabouts, as well as some classes of small sailboats and personal watercraft. 

Those utilizing a fast escape vehicle to bug-out of a SHTF situation will likely be doing so specifically because they have planned their bug-out strategy around quickly reaching a specific bug-out location or prepared retreat, or in the worst case, because they were caught totally unprepared and have to quickly throw some gear and supplies into whatever vehicle they have and go.  In either case, there are all sorts of contingencies to consider and anyone planning to bug out in a vehicle that cannot also double as a retreat shelter should have the basic gear and supplies they need to survive without the vehicle if for some reason it has to be abandoned. 

Mobile Retreats, on the other hand, can be defined as those vehicles which offer both transportation and shelter and can provide long-term support for you and your family both while you are on the move and after you reach a safer location.  A key difference as opposed to escape vehicles is that you can live in them rather than relying on a tent or other temporary shelter.  The ability to sleep inside the vehicle means that it can be set up for more comfort as well as more security, and you don't have to stop and unpack everything to set up camp and repack it to get on the move again.  The smallest mobile retreats will have at least as much storage space as the largest escape vehicles, and the larger ones will have many times more.  Some can carry everything you need for months of self-sufficient travel or living.  Examples of mobile retreats covered in the book include a broad range of manufactured RVs from pop-up campers to motorhomes, DIY mobile retreats such as converted buses, house trucks and home-built camper trailers, and liveaboard boats, including motor and sailing cruisers and houseboats.

Mobile retreats, like any other type of vehicle, can certainly have their drawbacks as well, and among these are the fact that larger vehicles will generally require more fuel, be more difficult to maneuver in evacuation traffic and will be more conspicuous and harder to conceal, which could attract unwanted attention and even attempts by those less prepared to take all the gear and supplies you are obviously carrying.  Deciding to utilize a mobile retreat as your bug-out vehicle will require careful planning and tailoring of the vehicle and its gear to your specific situation.

The bottom line is that any sort of travel after the SHTF will present problems and challenges that have to be overcome and risks that have to be assessed and dealt with.  But in some situations, mobility could be the key to survival.  What kind of vehicle options are you considering?  Do you lean more towards fast escape vehicles to Get Out of Dodge in a hurry, or do you plan to hit the road or waterways in a well-stocked mobile retreat and try to stay away from the danger zones for as long as it takes?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Bug Out Vehicles and Shelters Back Cover

I just received the first proof copy of Bug Out Vehicles and Shelters from my publisher and I really like the job the design team at Ulysses Press did on this one.

Here's a view of the back cover with the description: 

As with all these books, don't pay much attention to the cover price, because you can get it on Amazon for around ten bucks (currently $9.72 for pre-orders).  I also discovered just yesterday that the Kindle edition of the book is available now, for those who don't want to wait or prefer their books in electronic format.  Here's the link:  Bug Out Vehicles and Shelters (Kindle Edition).

As an author, it's always exciting to see an idea transformed into a finished book you can hold in your hands and share with others.  That feeling is tempered for me this time by a great sadness, as I lost my father just a month ago today.  He was my best friend, my greatest teacher and a constant source of encouragement and inspiration in my writing and everything else I do.  His childhood years were spent right  in the worst of the Great Depression and he grew up on a self-sufficient farm using the survival skills many of us aspire to learn on an everyday basis as a way of life.  He left the farm at 17 years old to join the Navy at the tail end of WWII, and from his job as a radar technician aboard the light cruiser Astoria, he began his career as a radio communications technician. 

In my childhood years he taught me how to handle guns, how to hunt, how to fish, how to be at home in the woods and how to work the land.  Most importantly, he taught me how to work in general and that no job was beneath me or too menial.  He also taught by example in the way he always selflessly put his family first and in how well he single-handedly cared for my bed-ridden mom in the many years of her illness until her death from Multiple Sclerosis.  In his last years in his eighties, he loved reading the rough drafts of my chapters as I printed them and frequently caught my errors and typos.  He was looking forward to the release of this latest book and was particularly proud that I recently signed a contract for my first novel.  I am missing him more than words can describe, but as I reorganize and adjust to life without him, I hope to get back to posting here on a more frequent basis.

Frank H. Williams Jr.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Bug Out Vehicles Ready for Press

The new book is now ready for the printer.  I've been working with my publisher for the last couple of weeks on things like the photographs inside, the bibliography and all the other final details that wrapping up a book entails.  If things go as planned, it will be available in September as originally planned.  To give you more of an idea of what's inside, here's the back cover blurb:

"A Cataclysmic Natural or Manmade Disaster Has Struck Your Town or City.

How will you evacuate your family to safety?  Do you have a vehicle or alternate means of transportation you can rely on?  Can the vehicle double as a mobile retreat, or do you have a retreat shelter prepared in advance and a plan to reach it?

Bug Out Vehicles and Shelters presents a wide variety of transportation options ranging from fast escape vehicles to self-contained mobile retreats.  Back-up vehicles that can keep going if your main option fails and alternative vehicles for a variety of challenging situations are also examined.  Temporary and long-term retreat shelters that you can set up in advance and stock with supplies are also included as part of a bug out plan that can make you a prepared survivor instead of a refugee. 

Vehicle types included here range from the kinds of cars, pickups and SUVs most people use for everyday transportation to alternative options like motorcycles, powerboats, sailboats, ATVs, and snowmobiles, as well as human powered vehicles such as bicycles, canoes, sea kayaks and rowing craft.  Mobile retreat options include manufactured RV trailers and motorhomes, Do-It-Yourself house trucks, camper trailers and utility vehicle conversions, and of course, liveaboard boats from motor cruisers to houseboats and bluewater sailboats.    Each vehicle and shelter type is examined with regard to the advantages and disadvantages it offers, followed by a number of key considerations and lists of essential equipment to help you chose and optimize it for your bug out needs."

And here is a snapshot of the Table of Contents page:

Friday, July 8, 2011

Bug Out Vehicles and Shelters Update

I finished the actual writing of the new book, Bug Out Vehicles and Shelters last Friday and it is now in the hands of the editors and soon to go into production for a planned release in September. This book covers a lot of ground, which is why it took awhile to put together.  There are nine chapters on specific categories of vehicles and two chapters on fixed shelters that could be assembled or built in place at the bug-out location in advance.  The book is divided into four parts:  Escape Vehicles, Mobile Retreats, Alternative and Back-up Vehicles, and Fixed Retreats.

Some of the categories covered in the first three parts are illustrated in these photos, and while a few pictures may not be worth 78,000 words, they might give you an idea of what to expect.  I'll post more specific details on the content of the book closer to the publication date.  Meanwhile, I'm going to be hard at work on the next book project, which is a work of survival/apocalyptic fiction.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

4x4 Tent Trailers for Hauling Your Stuff Off Road

Here's an interesting product if you're using a Jeep or some kind of off-road capable SUV or pickup as a bug-out vehicle and would like to have a minimalist type of mobile retreat in tow rather than camp in an ordinary tent or under a tarp on the ground.  This rugged trailer converts from its compact folded travel configuration that looks like this:

To this well-equipped backcountry mobile retreat that has many of the comforts of a small RV, including a stove, 12-volt electrical system for lights and fans, built-in water tank and fold out sink, and many other available options: 

It's a 4 x 4 Tent Trailer from Designed to be rugged enough to go anywhere your vehicle can pull it, this trailer can provide extra gear carrying capacity and comfortable camping accommodations in places ordinary pop-up campers could never go. This was brought to my attention just as I was wrapping up the chapters on Mobile Retreats in my book, Bug Out Vehicles and Shelters.  I thought it would be of interest both to readers of the book and this site as an option to consider for those wanting something simpler than a traditional RV, yet with more comforts than an ordinary tent. Here's the description of the 4x4 Tent Trailer by the company owner and builder:   

"This model is our "4x4 Tent Trailer", they  are built to handle extreme off road abuse. The axles are heavy duty and have a 3000 pound rating. With 33-35-37 inch tires, with a dry weight of less than 900 pounds, and a storage capacity of over 43 cubic feet, it will transport all of your gear with ease to your off road destination."

This rig is not cheap when you add up all the options to equip it as shown in the photo above, but if you want to take many of the comforts of home down the roughest roads you can find, it may work for you as an off-road mobile retreat. Or it may inspire you to design and build something similar that meets your particular needs.  More information on all the options and configurations is available at:

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Poling a Canoe Upstream

I've been working on the chapter covering human-powered watercraft this morning for my book project: Bug Out Vehicles and Shelters and one of the topics I am covering are the different methods of propulsion for such watercraft.  Everyone thinks of paddles and oars when it comes to moving small boats, but the simple pole is often forgotten. While poling may be the most primitive way to move a boat known to man, it can also be extremely efficient in certain conditions.

I first began to appreciate the value of poling when my canoeing buddy, Ernest Herndon and I traveled downstream for several days on the Rio Coco, which forms the border between Honduras and Nicaragua.  On that trip, we hired some Miskito Indian guides and one of their long dugout canoes carved from a log to travel downriver, but all along the way we passed other locals poling their dugouts back upstream between the widely scattered villages along the river.  The Rio Coco has a considerable current and some treacherous rapids in some places, but despite this, once they dropped us off at our destination, our three guides would have no way home but to pole their way back up river, staying in the shallows near the bank.  I don't know how many days it took them to get that heavy, 30-something foot canoe back to their home village, but it couldn't have been easy, considering that it was a four-day journey  with all five of us paddling it downstream with the current. 

But in places like Mosquitia, where outboard motors are still rare and gasoline for them is rarer still, if you would use the river as a highway through the jungle, you must be able to travel upstream as well as downstream.  This is also true if you plan to seriously contemplate bugging out into remote wilderness areas where no other boat but a canoe or kayak can go.  On my own long-distance kayak trips, I have had to travel some stretches of river upstream for a few hundred miles in order to reach a divide and cross over to another river where I could go downstream.  It's slow going and a work-out, but an efficient sea kayak can be paddled against the current, especially if you know how to play the eddies.  A canoe is not so easy to paddle against the current as a sea kayak though, and the bow will frequently get swept around when you least expect it, making for frustration as you lose ground you worked so hard to gain.  By standing up and using a long pole to push off the bottom, you are able to put your entire body into the effort and the result is that you can make remarkable progress, even in swift water.  The experts make it look really easy.  I especially like this video I found YouTube, and watching it makes me want to shut down the computer, throw the canoe on the truck racks, cut myself a long pole and go!  Have a look for yourself and see if you don't feel the same way:

Monday, May 16, 2011

Oregon Trip and Interview

The Oregon trip went well and I got to do about everything I'd hoped to during the brief time I was there, including driving more than 500 miles all over the northwestern section of the state and hiking in various locations from Silver Falls State Park to the Mt. Hood area and a rugged section of the coast at Ecola State Park.  Here are a few photos I took, but I still have hundreds to go through and edit, as well as some video footage that will take even more time.

Silver Falls State Park:

Mt. Hood:

Ecola State Park:

Those of you who are familiar with Oregon know that this state has no lack of natural beauty and magnificent scenery to enjoy the outdoors in.  But one thing is for sure: despite the rugged topography of this northwestern part of the state, the human population here is dense compared to the areas east of the Cascades and to other western states like Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.  As I mentioned in my book, Bug Out, Oregon has comparatively few large roadless areas for a western state, but some of those remaining areas that do exist are quite inaccessible and could work as bug-out locations for those prepared to deal with the steep terrain and wet conditions.  Another thing about these dense coniferous forests that was evident even on the relatively short hikes I had time to do, is that game is abundant, evidenced by numerous trails and fresh elk tracks and droppings.  Lots of edible plants abound as well, as these forests are incredible green and lush from all the rainfall they receive.

My interview on AM Northwest, a regional morning show on Portland's ABC station: KATU Channel 2, involved a brief discussion of some of the topics of my book, Getting Out Alive: 13 Deadly Scenarios and How Others Survived.  There's never enough time in an interview to go into depth about the subject matter of a book - much less in an interview of just over 5 minutes in length.  But the two hosts asked some good questions, particularly the very first question, with regard to the Canadian woman who recently survived 7 weeks stranded in a van in a remote Nevada wilderness.  Again, there wasn't enough time to respond with everything I would have liked to talk about, but the point is that most of the scenarios in my book involve people going out for a day or weekend outing and getting into a situation that could become a matter of life or death because they simply did not take into account the possibility that something could happen to delay their return.  This happens with automobiles, boats, motorcycles, ATVs, snowmobiles and any other kind of vehicle that can transport a person rapidly into a remote area, much farther than they would normally be able to travel under human power alone.  The technology then fails them in one way or another - either mechanically or by getting stuck somehow, and then people who only planned to be out for a short time are faced with what could be an ordeal of much longer duration - such as this woman's 7-week stranding that few would have survived. 

The lesson here is prepardness.  If you are always in a state of prepardness wherever you go and whatever you do, you are much less likely to find yourself in one of these situations.  This means having adequate shelter, clothing, food and water to last much longer than your planned adventure.  This is why when I ride my dual sport motorcycle into the woods, paddle a kayak off the coast, or sail away from land on a larger boat, I always have extra supplies for those unexpected delays.  I learned this the hard way many years ago when I first started sea kayaking and paddled 12 miles to a barrier island for an overnight trip.  A strong weather system moved into the area, whipping up seas that made my return impossible, and keeping me stormbound on the island for 4 more days.  I had only taken food for one night, but it was a good island for foraging, so I made out okay until the weather broke and I was able to leave - but it was a lesson I never forgot. 

Here is the interview for those who are interested:


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