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Monthly Archives: October 2013

  • Everyday Carry: 6 Things You Should Never Be Without

    A major disaster can strike at anytime—yet, everyone experiences mini-emergencies as well (usually more often) that require being just as prepared. There are certain items you can carry throughout your daily routine that can serve a useful purpose when you need help.

    Always carrying a full-blown bug-out-bag may be a little too bulky. Even though you should always have an emergency kit in your car and at home, take the following items with you the next time you are out and about (you’ll be glad you have them):


    Everyday Carry Suggestion: Gerber Suspension Multi-Plier

    The first item you should carry is the Gerber® Suspension Multi-Plier. With its nylon sheath, it can easily hang from a belt, sit in a backpack, or slip into a pocket in a purse. It has 11 functions ranging from spring-loaded pliers to a locking blade, scissors to screwdrivers, and more. The Suspension weighs less than 10 ounces and is a great price for a Gerber product at only $30.

    [Picture of a Gerber Shard Keychain Tool (CU T125) and 11 Function Survival Tool (CU T120) side by side]

    Everyday Carry Suggestion:Gerber Shard Keychain ToolEveryday Carry Suggestion:11 Function Survival Tool

    The next item you will want to have is either the Gerber® Shard Keychain tool or the 11 Function Survival Tool. Both of these tools are a lot more basic than the Multi-plier, but they are smaller, lightweight, and easy to carry. The Shard is a simple, yet useful tool that fits perfectly on your keychain. It has 7 functions ranging from a mini pry bar (my favorite part) to screwdrivers and even a bottle opener. It weighs less than an ounce and features a Titanium nitride coating for durability.

    The 11 Function Survival Tool is a metal “card” that can slide right in your wallet. It serves as a knife-edge, a 4-position wrench, a saw blade, and more. It comes with a protective sheath and weighs just one ounce.

    Everyday Carry Suggestion: Katadyn Mybottle MicroFilter

    Water is always a primary concern when getting prepared. The Katadyn® Mybottle Microfilter serves as a water bottle that can turn into a MicroFilter (kind of like a water filter superhero). The filter insert can be kept separate in a backpack or purse while the beautifully designed bottle can be filled with clean water for drinking. If the need arises, the filter fits inside the bottle and you can drink from a dirty water source like a river or a stream. The filter will block Giardia, Cryptosporidium, and bacteria like E. coli. It even improves the water’s taste. You’ll probably carry a water bottle with you anyways, why not carry this one?

    Everyday Carry Suggestion: Paracord BraceletsEveryday Carry Suggestion: Paracord BraceletsEveryday Carry Suggestion: Paracord Bracelets

    Another recommended item, the paracord bracelet, can double as a preparedness item and a fashion statement. This bracelet is made from 7+ feet of woven, military-spec 550 Paracord rope (an easy-to-use rope that is strong and versatile). If you need to, just take the bracelet apart and you’ll have a solid strand of cord to use in a variety of ways.

    Everyday Carry Suggestion: Switch 8 Recharger

    Being able to communicate with loved ones is important while you are out running errands, on a hike, or on the road. The Switch 8 Recharger by Goal Zero® is a great way to have a back-up power source for your cell phone or other small electronics. Without fail, right when you get a flat tire or your car won’t start, you’ll notice you only have 5% battery left on your phone—great. By having your small Switch 8 in your purse or backpack, you can quickly plug in your phone and make the calls you need. It works great with smartphones—even the new iPhone.

    Everyday Carry Suggestions: New Millennium Bars

    What about the possible need for food? Of course you could carry an extra granola bar or bag of chips, but one of the fruit Millennium Calorie Bars would be a better option. With the consistency of a sugar cookie, each bar provides 400 calories of energy. There are nine different fruit flavors and one bar will easily fit in a pocket in a purse. They store for 5 years, even in a car during the summer months—you can’t beat that (especially not with a greasy bag of chips).

    Everyday Carry Suggestion: SHIELD Kit

    Let’s not forget about your kids while they are at school. The Shield School Emergency Kit is a compact group of essentials that fits perfectly in a school backpack as an everyday carry. Each item in this kit can store for several years and provides needed comfort and nourishment during an emergency event. This portable kit isn’t just for your kids. It is small enough to be carried in a backpack or left in a desk drawer at work.

    These are just a few ideas for an everyday carry that can serve as tools, water supply, power, or food when a need arises. Of course, there are several other items that work just as well, including portable survival kits. Take a look at what you carry with you everyday and ask yourself—will this stuff help me in an emergency? If not, it might be time to add a few items to your everyday carry.

    What are some items you carry with you to be ready? If you don’t carry anything yet, what items do you think you’ll start carrying?


  • How to Build a Fire

     How to build and Start a Fire

    Like so many ancestral skills, the ability to start and maintain a fire has been nearly eliminated by modern technology. Electric heaters, ovens and stoves, and hot water heaters all do the jobs once performed by fire. So, unless you’re a Boy Scout merit badge counselor, you could probably use a refresher course.

    Whether you’re planning a marshmallow roast or trying to stay alive in the woods, the process is fairly universal. In fact, the biggest variable is probably going to be whether or not you’ve got matches on hand. Assuming either circumstance (and a couple others, just for good measure), here are the basic steps to building an effective fire.


    Preparing to Build a Fire

    Before you can even think about that roaring blaze, gather all the materials you’ll need.

    1. Bed – If your main objective is the perfect s’more, chances are fair that you’re operating in a dedicated fire container—a backyard grill or campsite fire pit. If you’re roughing it, however, you’ll need to clear a safe space for your fire. Always build on bare ground—never grass!—and give yourself six feet of clearance from trees or other flammable vegetation. Dirt, rocks, or sand can all be used to line a fire pit.

    2. Tinder – Think of fire in three stages, starting with the smallest, finest fuel and ending with the bulkiest. The first is tinder. Tinder should be the most easily consumed, as it’s the material that’s going to help get the fire started. Dry leaves or grass, bark, thin twigs, paper, or wood shavings all work well, assuming conditions are nice and dry. Of course, assumptions like that tend to be what get us into trouble in the first place. You can’t always be sure that the weather will work in your favor or that you’ll be able to find dry material to use as tinder for a fire. Store dryer lint, utility flame, or FiredUp! with camping gear or emergency packs to make sure you have something to work as dry tinder if you can’t find any from natural materials.

    3. Kindling – Step two is kindling. Your tinder will burn up before the fuel can catch fire; kindling is the bridge between the two that extends the life of your flame. Kindling should be thicker than tinder, but much smaller than a log (thumb’s breadth is a conventional maximum). And even if the day is dry, a thicker stick may be wet or green inside. Good kindling snaps easily when broken.

     How to build a fire with kindling

    4. Fuel – This is the meat of your fire and what will keep it burning long after the tinder and the kindling have turned to ash. Remember, the bigger it is, the longer it will take to light. Small to medium-sized logs or branches are ideal.


    Laying a Fire

    “Laying” a fire refers to the arrangement of the materials. Variations may be better for specific uses (at camp, I was taught to make a log cabin for foil dinners and a star for tripod cooking), but if the idea is just to get warm, any of the following arrangements work.

    Teepee – Just like it sounds, a teepee fire is cone-shaped, with tinder in the center, then kindling. Position your fuel so that each log or branch stands on one of its ends, leaning so that they touch at the center, creating a teepee over the tinder and kindling. Be sure to leave a space to light the tinder and let air in to keep the fire burning.

    Building a Teepee Fire

    Log cabin – A log cabin fire starts like a teepee, with tinder in the center, surrounded by a cone of kindling. Two larger pieces of fuel, parallel to each other, flank the teepee. Lay medium-sized pieces crosswise across the larger two, then smaller pieces crosswise on those, and so on.

    Star – Start with a teepee once again, but instead of building a structure around it with fuel, arrange your logs in a radiating pattern around the center. This is the easiest formation, allowing you to simply push fuel in toward the center or pull it out to control the size and duration of the fire.


    Starting a Fire

    Alright, this is where it gets tricky. Though there are lots of ways to start a fire, some are unequivocally easier than others. With each of these, the idea is to ignite the tinder, then blow softly on the flame to increase the burn. Let’s look at them in order from least to most difficult.

    Lighter – This one’s pretty much a sure bet. Just be careful about long-term storage (lighters can leak), and keep fingers out of the way when lighting.

    Matches – Waterproofed strike-anywhere matches are a favorite for camping and emergency packs. (These stormproof matches are the best ones we’ve seen.)

    Flint and steel – This old standard works in a pinch, and technically, any hard rock and metal striker can work, but your better bet is to carry the right materials in preparation. For flint and steel to work best, you may need something even finer than your tinder to catch the spark (dryer lint, char cloth). Make a nest of the spark catching material and surround that with tinder. Then strike the flint to the steel until it sparks.

    Lens – In the absence of any of the above materials, a magnifying glass, eyeglasses, binoculars, or the bottom of a glass bottle can be adapted as a fire starter. It’s as simple as focusing the beam of light on your pile of tinder or spark catcher and waiting till it smolders. The catch: it only works on a sunny day. If it’s after dark or in inclement (or even just overcast) weather, you’re out of luck.

    Friction –Yes, you can make a fire with friction. No, it will not be easy or quick. The principle at work has to do with the heat generated by rubbing wood on wood. Eventually, you’ll create a hot ember, which you’ll (every so carefully!) transfer to your bed of tinder, igniting a spark. But whether you’re using a hand drill or a bow, be prepared to work at it.


    Still not feeling confident in your fire starting skills? Check out a couple good tutorials at the links below, and then go outside and practice, practice, practice. Just, you know, keep the garden hose handy.



  • 5 Tips for Walking Around Safely After a Flood

    Flooded house after heavy rain in the evening sunlight.

    If you’re ever in an area affected by severe flooding, you may have to evacuate your home or walk to safety. If this is the case, there are 5  tips for walking around safely in a rural area that would be helpful to know. These tips come to us from the Craft Theory blog.

    In light of the recent flooding in Colorado, the folks at Craft Theory shared these 5 tips. The tips on their list include items that you may not have thought about when it comes to walking around in a flooded area. Some things they suggest are wearing comfortable and appropriate shoes (if you can) and bringing bottled water with you on your journey.

    Check out the rest of Craft Theory’s 5 tips for Walking around Safely in a Rural Area on their blog. Some of these tips may surprise you.

    Also, if you want to pick up more tips on flood safety check out our Insight Article, “What to do Before, During, and After a Flood.”

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