Thursday, March 31, 2011

Alternate Transportation

Today's post over on Notes from the bunker, Biking Season Approaches, reminded me that I've been meaning to say something about bicycles here for awhile.  This article makes some good points about the utility of bicycles in a post-SHTF scenario, and I covered them briefly in Bug Out: The Complete Plan for Escaping a Catastrophic Disaster Before It's Too Late.  My current book project, Bug Out Vehicles and Shelters: Build and Outfit Your Life-Saving Escape, will have an entire chapter devoted to using bicycles as bug-out vehicles, including how to set them up for the purpose and how to get the engine (your body) fit for the task. 

Whether you ever need to actually use a bicycle to bug-out or not, riding one is a good idea for many reasons, $4.00 per gallon or higher gas being one, as that post points out.  Another excellent reason is for the physical fitness, which you need no matter what your survival plans are.  I read this just as I got in from a two and a half-hour ride today.  I've been trying to put in at least three good rides per week to make up for all the time I'm having to spend at the keyboard working on these book projects.  In my last post, I mentioned an overnight trip on my KLR 650 dual-sport motorcycle.  Here is a photo taken just today of my other favorite two-wheeled transportation during a break in today's ride. 

This one is a Schwinn Voyager that I purchased new in 1994, along with a full set of front and rear Cannondale panniers.  This was one of the last quality Schwinn touring bikes sold here when they were still making them with high-quality lugged Chro-Moly steel frames and decent components.  The Voyager was specifically designed for loaded touring, with relaxed geometry, a triple chain ring for a wide range of gearing, and brazed-on eyelets for front and rear racks and three water bottle cages.  Despite its age, this bicycle has been utterly reliable for many thousands of miles and has the right blend of comfort and speed to make long,  unloaded training rides enjoyable as well.  Schwinn no longer makes a bike like this, but if I had to replace it today, viable touring options with similar build quality would be the Trek 520, Surly Long Haul Trucker, or perhaps the REI Novara Safari. 

A touring bike like this can really eat up the miles day after day, as long as you are in decent shape to ride it. While many other types of bicycles, including mountain bikes can be set up for touring or for bug-out vehicles, I prefer the road touring designs as they make it easier to maintain a decent average speed, especially in hilly or mountainous terrain.  Most touring bikes can be fitted with wider, semi-knobby tires for use on gravel or other rough surfaces.  The extra-strong, but flexible Chro-Moly frame absorbs shocks from bumps well, and holds up to carrying heavy loads. I'll post another photo of this one with the luggage attached next time I load it up. It will easily carry as much or more as you could carry in the largest backpack, yet do so at a speed that allows one to travel 40 to 100 or more miles per day, depending on terrain, fitness, weather, etc.

For a good overview on some things to consider when choosing a bicycle, here's an article that covers the basics of the many different types, as well as some points on frame construction materials: Bicycle Recommendation Short List

Monday, March 21, 2011

Bug-Out Vehicle Test: KLR 650

One of the great things about working on my current book project, Bug Out Vehicles and Shelters: Build and Outfit Your Life-Saving Escape, is getting out there in the real world and using some of the options I am writing about.  I did that this past weekend when a friend and I took a shake-down ride and camping trip on our Kawasaki KLR 650 dual-sport motorcycles.  These bikes can carry a load like a pack mule on the asphalt at freeway speeds, and then venture into the backcountry on gravel or dirt with ease.  We took a 600-loop from south Mississippi north into the Mississippi Delta country.  This particular road below ended in a backwater of the Mississippi River. It would have been a good place to switch to canoes:

Overall, it was a great trip.  We camped in one of the national forest areas in the northern part of the state and explored a lot of backroads I'd never seen despite living here most of my life.  Longer trips on these bikes are definitely in the planning stages for later this year.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Book Review: Will To Live: Dispatches from the Edge of Survival

The title of Les Stroud's new book covers an aspect of survival that I've posted about here several times in the past: the importance of the right mental attitude and the unstoppable determination to make it out of difficult situations in spite of seemingly impossible obstacles. See these posts: On Maintaining a Positive Attitude, and Can't Never CouldIn addition to what I've said about the importance of the mental aspects of survival here on Bug Out Survival, my new book, Getting Out Alive: 13 Deadly Scenarios and How Others Survived, drives home this point in every chapter. In examining the stories of how the most improbable survivors made it through extreme ordeals, we often find that it is attitude that plays a much bigger role in the outcome than learned skills, experience or equipment used.

Ironically, I was writing Getting Out Alive last year at apparently about the same time Stroud was working on his book between his numerous trips all over the world to film his TV series Beyond Survival.  I found out about the book a month or so before it's February 1, 2011 release when the publisher sent me a review copy as I was correcting the final proofs of my own book.  

Obviously, books like Will to Live: Dispatches from the Edge of Survival are of great interest to me, and I've been reading survivor stories like these since I was a kid dreaming of big game hunting trips and jungle adventures. Back in those days I found such stories in the pages of magazines like Sports Afield, Outdoor Life and The Reader's Digest.  I read them all and learned what I could from them.  Later, I began devouring book-length travel narratives written by outdoor adventurers doing their thing in some of the most exotic parts of the world, and such reading fueled the fire that made me have to get out and do the trips that led to my own books.

Les Stroud is best known for his television shows such as Survivorman, but is also the author of Survive!: Essential Skills and Tactics to Get You Out of Anywhere - Alive. I've enjoyed several episodes of Survivorman from time-to-time, but I'm not much of a television watcher and rarely spend time viewing survival shows or anything else on TV. But his extensive travels for his television work have taken him into a wide range of environments and circumstances in which to test and develop his skills, and it shows through in Will To Live.  Much of the book is first-person narrative in which he relates such adventures as his time spent among the Waorani in the Amazon, interwoven with the stories of real-life survivors and what they endured.  In each case study in which an epic account of survival is related, Stroud finds ample opportunity to share his related personal experience and to offer tips and advice in sidebars sprinkled throughout each chapter.   These sidebars also include checklists of gear that should have been carried by participants in some of the activities that got them into trouble, such as a Survival Kit for Rafting, Sea Survival Kit, and Car Survival Kit.

Many of the real-life accounts will be familiar to readers here, as  I have posted in the past and written in my own books about Yossi Ghinsberg's jungle survival ordeal and the death of Chris McCandless who perished in the Alaskan bush during an experiment in living off the land.  Another chapter focuses on the story of Nando Parrado who survived 72 days in the Andes after a famous plane crash in 1972 and later wrote about his epic struggle along with his fellow survivors against cold and hunger in his book, Miracle in the Andes. In each of these chapters examining the accounts of survivors, Stroud points out both the mistakes made and the things that were done right.

If you're looking for an entertaining read that you can also learn from, I highly recommend Will To Live.  Among the various bloggers and forum posters in the survival and prepping community, from time-to-time I run across comments advising readers to pass on books like this because they're not worth the money or would not be a necessary addition to the survival library.  I would suggest that you ignore such advice and consider that a book like Will To Live (currently listed at $11.85 on Amazon) offers a whole lot of entertaining reading with the bonus that you might learn something in the process.  Consider that most magazines these days run around $7.00 an issue and are filled with much more advertising than real articles, not to mention that most people toss them after one reading.  All of us with an interest in survival topics have the usual how-to books on the shelf, and you should make them a priority as well if you're serious about learning.  But make some room for related entertaining reading as well, and you might be surprised when one day you find yourself in an extreme situation and some small bit of knowledge you acquired from something you read about another person's ultimate test resurfaces just when you need it most.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Next Book: Bug Out Vehicles and Shelters

As I've mentioned recently, I'm currently working on another book project that will be a follow-up to Bug Out: The Complete Plan for Escaping a Catastrophic Disaster Before It's Too LateSome of  you may already be aware of the title if you've visited my author's page on Amazon lately, as the new book is now listed on Amazon along with the cover.  Here is the first version of the cover, which will be changed as the vehicle shown is not really representative of the type of vehicles the book describes, but was simply used by the designer to have something to tie the concept together:  

As you know, the original Bug Out covers bug-out vehicles and transportation options in Chapter Four.  I feel this subject easily merits expansion into a full-book, however, as your means of getting out of a danger zone to your safe bug-out location is a large part of any bug-out plan. 

Bug Out Vehicles and Shelters: Build and Outfit Your Life-Saving Escape will cover not only the kinds of vehicles you might chose to make your escape, but also those vehicles that can be set up to become mobile retreats on their own.  These escape vehicles and mobile retreats will include options for overland travel as well as on the water, depending on your particular needs.  In addition, there will be a section on a variety of shelters both movable and fixed that can be set up in advance in your bug-out location.  This sort of pre-planned bug-out retreat will enable you to be even more prepared for a stay away from home than you would be if you were simply carrying everything on your back, and will also make the bug-out option more viable for families.  As was touched on briefly in Chapter Four of Bug Out, there will be a section on additional equipment or back-up alternatives such as bicycles, ATVs, canoes, kayaks, etc. that can be used when conventional vehicles cannot.

The reason I feel a book is needed on this subject is to provide much more detail in how to choose, outfit and use these various options.  It is this kind of knowledge and preparation that will make your bug-out plan work and that will separate you from the refugees who might be haphazardly fleeing a SHTF scenario with no idea where they are are going.

But whether they are ever needed or not, unlike many other forms of prepping, you'll likely find that researching, acquiring and setting up bug-out vehicles and shelters can be an enjoyable form of recreation in an of itself.  Writing about them is equally enjoyable, but it's hard to sit at a computer and do so without wanting to shut it down and bug-out if only for a few hours, as many of these vehicles are also a great means to escape the everyday world and head out into the woods or onto the water.  But since it is scheduled to be published in September this year, I've got a lot of work to do.  Look for updates in the coming weeks and months.


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