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  • Predators on Primetime: Shark Week!

    Predators on Primetime: Shark Week

    It’s Shark Week! Also known in my house as “The Week Mom Won’t Go Near the Ocean or a Pool and Becomes Leery of Bathtubs.”

    I hate sharks. I hate them with a phobic intensity that makes me shudder when I walk by the trout aquarium at Cabela’s. I didn’t see Jaws until I was an adult, and even then I spent most of the movie looking down into my lap until the scary music stopped. So you can imagine how much I love headlines like this one:

    “Shark photo prompts closure of access to ocean off San Clemente.”

    While fishermen regularly report shark sightings (the predators are attracted by large amounts of fish), the photographic evidence spurred officials to action in this case. Though the beach was completely off limits for a couple of hours after the incident, caution signs remained posted—signs, one official noted, that did little to divert beachgoers.

    It’s true that shark attacks are relatively rare (check out this hilarious but accurate comparison chart of shark attacks to other potential catastrophes from the Florida Museum of Natural History). However, they’re a real enough threat that the governments of Cape Town, South Africa; Western Australia; and Hawaii all publish their own shark safety pages.

    Whether Shark Week has you glued to the TV or locked in your second-story bedroom, if you’re planning on spending any time in the ocean, it’s smart to know your “enemy.” National Geographic has a thorough article on “Shark Attack Tips,” that includes strategies for avoidance, what to do in case of an attack, and tips for helping a victim.

    It also de-bunks some shark myths (for example, if you see a group of dolphins it doesn’t mean there are no sharks in the area. Dolphins and sharks not only eat the same types of food, but some sharks even eat dolphins!), and helps us understand things from the big fish’s perspective (sharks see contrast well and interpret thrashing around as injured and easy prey).

    Of course, the best course of action is always to stay aware, stay educated, and stay within the boundaries set by those responsible for your safety (like local authorities and lifeguards). But it never hurts to practice a hard punch to the gills once in a while.


    Any shark stories out there? Come on, scare me!


  • 8 Ways Duct Tape Could Save You in a Bind

    People always joke that duct tape fixes everything, but did you know that it could potentially save your life? In a survival situation, duct tape can have many uses, and here are just twelve ways to use this adhesive wonder in a number of emergency situations you may encounter.

    8 Ways Duct Tape Could Save You in a Bind

    1. Patching holes/Sealing – Rip your tent while assembling? Hole in your siding? Missing a shingle? Duct tape is the perfect way to patch holes, seal items, or make emergency repairs on just about anything (like, for example, a tent whose zipper breaks in the middle of a rainstorm… not that I’ve ever had that happen to me).

    2. Medical Uses – Duct tape is a great resource for first aid. You can use it to make bandages (it might hurt a little pulling hairs, but that beats bleeding to death), provide padding on a blister, or even splint an ankle in an emergency. You can also make an emergency duct tape field stretcher!

    3. Make Cord/Rope – You can easily twist long pieces of duct tape together to form a rope or cord. This can be used to hang clothes to dry, hang up a bag out of reach of pests, or any other number of uses (including a belt, if you’re desperate).

    4. Waterproof/Insulate – While this could apply to just about anything, it’s specifically helpful with shoes, especially in the winter. Just wrap duct tape around the shoe to form a barrier from water and provide extra insulation.

    5. Cup/Bucket – Duct tape can be used to fashion a watertight cup, bucket, or even a bowl/plate if you need one. Check out the Norwegian Bushcraft video below to learn how to make a small bucket from duct tape that can hold water, but can also be used to gather food or other necessary items. (The tutorial begins about 27 seconds in to the video).

    6. Weapons and Hunting – Even if you have more ammo than you think you’ll ever need, eventually it’ll run out and you’ll have to resort to something besides a firearm. You can easily create a spear by using duct tape to fasten your knife or broken piece of glass to a piece of wood. You can also improvise an arrow as shown in the video below.

    7. Transportation – Duct tape can be used to repair the exterior and interior furnishings of vehicles, but you could also create a kayak out of PVC pipe and duct tape (and a few other household items)! Duct tape can even help repair leaks in a regular kayak or canoe.

    8. A Place to Sleep – Here’s an example of a hammock made out of duct tape (although I would suggest using something stronger to support if you plan on using it long-term or for more than 120-150 lbs.). Or fashion yourself a tent if you’re desperate!


    There are a lot of other uses for duct tape; what are your favorites?




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  • Fantastic Plastic: A Million Uses for a Grocery Bag

    Fantastic Plastic: A Million Uses for a Grocery bag

    Any of you with diaper-age children already know the crucial importance of keeping plastic grocery bags on hand at all times. As a dedicated bag toter, I found myself vindicated this week by no less than Backpacker Magazine, whose online slideshow, “Survive With a Plastic Bag,” has got me thinking of other uses for this ubiquitous resource.

    Backpacker’s six tips include some predictable, but still helpful waterproofing ideas, as well as some not-so-predictable ones, like using the plastic bag as a windsock or a whistle. I’m more than convinced I need a handful of these in my hiking pack and emergency kits. But just a little more digging unlocks the further utility of the plastic bag. Here’s just a sampling:

    • Survival Common Sense lists a bunch of different kinds of plastic bags—everything from Ziplocs to garbage can liners—and shows what you can do with them. I like the wallet-sized fire starter, in particular.
    • Outdoor Life’s Survivalist blog has a great little write-up on how to use a standard plastic grocery bag to collect water in the wild. Hint: it doesn’t even require digging a hole!
    • The Master Woodsman (we don’t know who he is, but we like his site) dedicates a whole article to the big, black garbage bag. His super impressive list of uses for the bag includes some shockers. On your own, you might have come up with the idea of making a shelter or lining a sleeping bag with a garbage bag. But would you have known that you can make a mattress, strong cord, or even glue out of one? Yeah, me neither.
    • In possibly the biggest mind-blower, this YouTube clip shows how to boil water in a plastic bag! I’m not going to pretend to understand why the bag doesn’t melt or ignite, but the guy in the video successfully hard-boils an egg in one over a bed of blazing coals. In a plastic bag!


    If you’re still not convinced (Really? What does it take, people?), check back on these previous posts to see still more ingenious ways to put plastic bags to use for emergency preparedness.


    Have we missed anything? What other emergency or survival uses do you have for these fantastic plastic bags?


    Photo courtesy of Backpacker Magazine Ben Fullerton

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