Category Archives for API – Mod. 4

Master the 16-Second Survival Breath

When I think about it, I still get a queasy feeling in my stomach.  It was a sunny day in Baltimore, and I was returning home from a business trip.  I had passed through security with flying colors, of course, and was browsing the selection of breakfast sandwiches at a kiosk when I heard the unfamiliar and sudden sound of blaring sirens.  In less than a moment, a dozen or more security personnel appeared out of nowhere, jumping up from cafe tables, riding into view on Segways, all of them racing toward the security checkpoint.  At the same time they were yelling, “Everybody freeze!  Stop where you are.”

In a matter of minutes, every single passenger in the terminal, including me, had been herded into a large group.  None of us knew what was going on, and my winter coat, purse, and carry-on bag were becoming heavier by the minute.  Some of my fellow passengers looked panicked, a few kids were crying, and I knew that memories of 9-11 were passing through more than just a few minds.

While I stood waiting, I felt myself becoming more and more tense.  No information was given to us, other than being told to stand here, stay there, now go outside and wait.  By happenchance, I had been reading Amanda Ripley’s book, The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes and Why. I remembered her description of, what I call, survival breathing.  It’s a simple technique that forces you to concentrate on your breathing while allowing your body to remain calm.  In an emergency, the worst response is panic, yet it’s also the most natural.

Here are the simple directions for this breathing technique.

  1. Take four seconds, 1, 2, 3, 4, to inhale, taking a slow, deep breath.
  2. Hold that breath for four seconds, 1, 2, 3, 4.
  3. Exhale to the count of four, 1, 2, 3, 4.
  4. Relax for four seconds before taking the next breath.

This technique helped me remain calm even though the sirens and alarms continued to blare and others around me reacted with confusion, irritation, and fear.

In survival situations and emergencies, our bodies usually react in a way that is exactly opposite of how we want to react and know we need to react!   It’s easy to say that training is the answer, but how does one train to be prepared for a home invasion, a rollover accident, or a terrorist attack?  Practicing and remembering just this simple breathing technique may be what helps you make rational and smart decisions while everyone else around you is losing it.

This is simple enough that your kids and grandkids can easily learn it. My daughter forced herself from a near state of pre-SAT test panic into being able to calm down enough to take the test, just by focusing on the 16-second breathing technique. My son has used it before going up to bat during a baseball game, and I’ve used it during times of extreme stress when I desperately needed to focus and use my wits.

In a survival situation, this technique will go a long way toward helping you observe, orient yourself to the new reality, and then proceed with logical decisions.

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The 4 Core Elements You Need For Survival

I have always been taught that there are four core elements required for wilderness survival.  If you can master these four subjects, you stand a good chance of surviving under almost any conditions.  So what are the core elements needed for wilderness survival?  The following list is not necessarily in their order of importance sine that can vary depending on conditions.

Water is often number one, but sometimes fire and shelter can be of greater importance, depending on the weather. First, look for surface water. Second, look for hidden sources. Learn how to locate water from watching the wildlife including insects and birds.  Know which plants contain water.  Spend some time studying this subject and then go out and try it.  Learn how to filter or boil your water.

Fire — We all like to think we are Daniel Boone and can start a fire anywhere. Go outside and try it with and without matches after it has been raining for a few days and most of your wood is wet.  Learn what woods and materials are the easiest to ignite.  You can learn to start fires using things like magnifying glasses, steel wool and batteries, flint and steel and even the a fire bow.  But above all fire starting takes practice and not just on sunny days.

Shelter — Spend some time learning how to find shelter in the outdoors. There are often downed trees and other terrain features that you can use to your advantage. Learn how to make a bed that will keep you up off the cold or wet ground. Something as simple as huddling up to sun-warmed rocks can make the difference between survival or death.

Food — Learn all you can about edible plants, grubs, insects, fishing and trapping.  There are many good sources of food that are available to you in the wilderness. Here is a link for information on edible plants.

Just remember wilderness survival is all about keeping your body hydrated, controlling your core temperature and supplied with calories.

The whole secret to learning any of these skills is practice.  You can read all you want but until you go in the field and try these skills you will not develop them.  In the near future we will post articles covering these areas in more depth.

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15 Wilderness Survival Tips

Hardcore survival in the wilderness is anything but fun, frankly. It’s a matter of figuring out how to stay alive, one minute, one hour at a time. Over the years, here are a few tips that have served me well.

  • Waterproof Match Containers – if you break wooden strike-anywhere matches in half you can store twice as many in your container.
  • If you have to fish in an emergency, a tampon wrapper makes a good fishing bobber. Open the wrapper at one end, take the tampon out, then tie the wrapper closed trapping a bubble of air inside.  If it doesn’t float, stuff some of the cotton into the bubble.
  • Cotton balls impregnated with Vaseline make good fire starters.  I store them in 35 mm film cans and carry one with me when in the backcountry. Read, Homemade Fire Starters are Easy to Make.
  • Smear vaseline or grease on your exposed skin — A friend of mine from Finland says that if you are going outside in very cold weather below zero, smear Vaseline or grease on your face. It will help protect you from the cold.
  • All fur-bearing mammals are safe to eat, but some taste better than others.
  • All freshwater fish in North America are edible.
  • All birds are edible.  Some just don’t taste very good.
  • Ants, grubs, and grasshoppers can be eaten. A good way to get over your natural resistance to eating bugs is to toss them into a stew with other ingredients.
  • The bark of birch trees is a great fire starter. It is easy to light and burns well even when wet
  • Water that is brought to a boil is safe to drink. The length of time that it is boiled doesn’t matter.
  • If you are going out in cold weather, don’t wear cotton.  The old saying is “cotton kills”. Wear clothes that retain their warmth even when wet.
  • Stay hydrated. Becoming dehydration will cause you to have poor judgment, loss of energy, and eventually you will lose the will to survive and you will die.
  • If it is raining and you need dry wood to start a fire, look for squaw wood.  These are the small dead branches that are still attached to the tree. They are up off the ground and dry out first.  Look for the ones on the dry side of the tree.
  • Butane lighters are great for starting fires. Carry orange or red ones, they are easier to find if you drop one.  Avoid white (snow) and green, they can be hard to find.
  • If possible, always go everywhere prepared. Carry a knife, Life Straw or equivalent, some food and at least a space blanket. Dress appropriately for the weather. Extra clothes never hurt.
  • Even if you are not trained in wilderness survival, stay calm, find shelter, and take the time to think things out.  You will find you will remember some of these wilderness survival tips and find you have more knowledge than you think you.
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Getting Started With Dumpster Diving

Sometime back in the early nineties I was between jobs, having been laid off and was trying to broker some printing jobs in Denver. During the course of my attempts to sell printing I drove by a large bookstore, and being the bibliophile I am, I had to stop in and do some browsing.

In the very large self-sufficiency section I came across The Art & Science of Dumpster Diving by John Hoffman. Just a few seconds of flipping pages convinced me I needed this book. I paid some ungodly retail price and took it home with me. It turned me on to a very interesting and useful hobby. In fact the very first dumpster I looked into I found a tool box half full of tools.

What is Dumpster Diving?

Dumpster diving is simply looking through dumpsters for useful items that people throw away. These items can include building materials, furniture, books, tools, clothes, food and even CASH! There is a chance of finding most anything in a dumpster.

But aren’t dumpsters smelly, germy, disgusting places?

Yes and no. If you look in the dumpster behind a local restaurant be prepared for some slimy and disgusting things. Avoid places like that and it will be a much nicer experience. Most dumpsters are filled with packaging. That is, cardboard and plastic, nothing real icky. Clean cardboard, though, has many, many uses. You may want to pick it up and begin a stash of clean, flattened cardboard boxes and other packing material you find. This can be helpful with packing food storage and other survival supplies.

So where do I look?

The number one place on my list is apartment complex dumpsters at the end of the month. People moving will throw away perfectly good items they don’t want to move. Many times they will place it beside the dumpster for people like us to pick up and use. I have also noticed how they will box up all their pantry food and leave it in a box beside the dumpster with the other good stuff.

Even better, but only once a year, are the dorm dumpsters at your local college during spring move out days. There’s no telling what college kids, anxious to leave campus, might throw out.

I like strip malls. For some reason, people throw out good stuff behind some of them.

Construction sites are great for building materials, but make sure and ask permission to go through the “SCRAP”. Most foremen will gladly let you if you ask nicely.

If you are looking for food, the grocery store dumpster is the place to go.

Food ? From a dumpster!?

This is a real-life haul from a dumpster.

Lots of food in dumpsters, especially grocery store dumpsters is still in its original packaging. I can’t tell you how much food I have gotten from the grocery store dumpster, but I would wager I could feed my family and all of our chickens just by daily hitting my main three grocery dumpster stops.

I have a couple of rules of my own for grocery stuff. I take meat only in winter unless it is still frozen, and other food only in original packaging.

You never know what will be expiring when you look in a grocery dumpster. I have loaded up on spiral cut hams, still frozen solid, a trunk full of frozen gourmet pizza, and my personal favorite, the bakery department that fills an industrial size clear garbage bag with out dated high-end loaves of bread, bagels and pies.

But what if someone sees me?

Let me share my experience with what Hoffman calls the ninja effect. I was rummaging through a few dumpsters at our local college move out days a few years ago. I was picking out some good stuff when one of my best friends walked by running an errand to the college. He looked right through me from about two feet away. I called him by name as he went past and it took a few seconds for him to realize who I was. People don’t want to see other people “digging in the garbage” so they kind of tune them out. So don’t sweat it, people will see you but they really won’t.

You want to keep yourself neat and fairly clean so you look like an honest, hard working person who might be down on their luck, rather than an unkempt homeless person who may or may not be dangerous.

What tools will I need?

You really don’t need anything but a good pair of shoes, since there is lots of broken glass around dumpsters. Gloves are a good idea. A flashlight is very helpful if you dive at night or in the evening. Keep it small and cheap since you might lose it in a dumpster somewhere. I like to carry a cane since it helps pull things to you that you would otherwise not be able to reach. Plus it provides a measure of protection.

Will I get in trouble?

Some towns have ordinances against dumpster diving, but most don’t.

If you are confronted by the police my advice is to always tell the truth. They hate it when you lie to them. If asked what I am doing I say, “I’m just seeing if there is anything interesting in the dumpster”.

The same goes for security guards, apartment managers and grocery store managers. Be respectful and if they tell you to get lost, then get lost and try somewhere else.

Once you have done some dumpster diving you may look at it like I do. It’s Christmas every day, since you never know what someone will toss in a dumpster. Their trash is my treasure.

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Tips For Living Out of a Car, If You Must

Having spent the better part of 5 years “adventuring”, including during graduate school at a very prestigious University,  I have mastered year round hammock camping as well as living in a van, and also in a subcompact car. Vans are preferable. Honda Civics are more challenging. Knowing how to live and survive this lifestyle could come in handy in many survival scenarios.

Having a storage place (I have a shed at a family member’s property) is also helpful. While Walmart dry camping or in a corner parking lot with a car cover are options, finding a private place to set up a mini-campground is a great addition to either vehicular living option.

Here are a few tips:

1.  Organize, organize, organize! Have a place for everything and keep everything in its place. In addition to your sleeping items, you will need a carry-on style suitcase for clothes, a laundry bag for clothes pending a trip to the laundry (with air freshener), a “chuck box” (your car camping kitchen supplies), water storage container and a cup/water bottle, a tool box, a briefcase organizer for paperwork, a box with your camping supplies, a toiletry case (with towel, washcloths, shampoo, soap/shower gel, hairbrush, other hygiene supplies), flashlight/LED lamp and candles.

2.  Keep toiletries and a plastic mirror in a separate bag or small backpack for convenience and discretion. If you add a collapsible basin you can fill it with hot water and go into a large bathroom stall to clean up and change. Remember to keep a separate plastic bag for wet items.

3.  If you find a place to set up a base camp of sorts (esp in an out of the way wooded area) you can be semipermanent.  Private property will provide legal security. In this case, you can set up a tarp/hammock (super comfortable), and rig up some more homelike comforts (potty/shower stall, etc).

4.  Making a mini-rocket stove and having a shelter makes cooking easier, provides a way to heat water for cleaning up (a copper coil heater in a large bucket can heat while one is cooking or making a campfire to warm up for the evening.

5.   A folding, hanging shower stall and a shower bag with nozzle makes for a hot shower even in freezing cold, and one can get dry and re-dressed before even feeling cold. For a floor, a baby inflatable 1-ring mini pool makes a perfect showerpan floor and warmly cleans your feet as you shower. Otherwise, use something else to keep your feet off the ground.

6.  If you really do decide to build yourself a camp, Home depot always has free 4′ wooden pallet supports that you can combine to make floor decking, a table/shower/kitchen setup, frames or bench. Lowe’s usually doesn’t keep things long enough for you to get them.

7.  Water:  A tarp canopy can be set up to double as a water cachement system. You can secure potable water other ways. When in a store/cafe one can also put a collapsible water container in a backpack and fill it with hot water in a restroom for use after you leave.

8.  Cooking: Oatmeal, dehydrated meals, fresh vegetables, soups and small cuts of meat are easy to cook w ith just hot water and a pot. We are fortunate to have access to dollar stores for a lot of cost-effective variety and options. Note: Large reclosable Monster cans are the easiest for quickly bringing 3 cups of water to a boil, and can last weeks before giving out.

9. Always use window shades in your car for privacy. It also helps minimize some radiant cold.

10. Whenever possible, secure reasonable supplies of paper-goods. Newspaper is a good insulator (e.g., nest to the drafty door panel at night or under your sleeping bag if you are using a hammock) and super fire tinder. Cardboard box pieces can be cut into strips and coiled up into a can for a good sterno-substitution (esp if you pour melted candle wax over the coil). Even used cups can be turned into fire starters, and tissues, paper towels/ TP are multipurpose.

11.  A solar charger for cell phone/computer is a real lifesaver for times when you do not have access or choose to not go to a cafe.

12.  I have a canopy area over my brick fire pit/rocket stove (got them free on CL as well as materials for a solar oven and parabolic cooker) that also serves as a carport (and water cachement system that drains via water chain into a large bucket) .

13. Temperature control:  Staying warm and eating a warm meal morning and evening make all the difference in colder climate winters. Summer heat, on the other hand, is best handled by well ventilated sleeping, cool baths/showers, and good hydration.

There are plenty of places to stay cool during the day. In very cold weather you can preheat your sleeping bag with a bottle of hot water. By the time you need a drink, it will have cooled.

In warm weather, raise your tarp sides to allow more ventilation and funnel breezes. The colder it is the more you want the tarp to morph into a cocoon shape, closing ends to stop wind or blowing precipitation. Lowering the tarp sides forms an acute angle that minimizes precipitation build-up on your tarp walls (and less chance for damage by heavy rain/sleet/hail).  In a blizzard or heavy snow, you will wake up surprisingly warm as you end up with a lovely insulated igloo effect with natural snow walls on the lower half (at least) of your tarp cocoon. Below your hammock will be pristine ground. In the event of torrential rain, any water will be on the ground and not in your sleeping bag as you would have with tent and ground camping.

I once awoke with 12″ of water under me. My feet got wet walking out but I was well above the flash flood water line and awoke dry — just rolled up the pant legs and carried my dry shoes out with me. I keep them in a zipped homemade gear-bag that hangs on the ridge line of my tarp.

When car camping, secure a car cover or tarp over you in really bad weather. In addition to insulating and giving better privacy, the covering keeps your car snow/ice free and prepped for rapid travel if needed.

14. Sleeping Options:  Keep windows open a little bit when your car is covered. While no car is actually airtight you will feel better with more air circulation, and will minimize condensation.

Whenever outside, I sleep in my hammock (it has a tarp covering around it, too), otherwise, in the car with my favorite pillow and sleeping bag. I have slept in both my car and more so my hammock through hurricanes, blizzards, tornadic cells (oops, that was a surprise), 106 degree heat, and 5 degree cold plus 50 mph winds. There are different hammock/tarp configurations for as many weather patterns. I have honestly never been wet or cold. Sometimes it has been uncomfortably warm yet bug-free thanks to the integrated no-seeum netting on my hammock.

Insulate under your sleeping bag (thick newspaper or foam pad/thin air mattress)  and hang a separate layer under your hammock as a waterproofer and insulator. In  cooler weather, always keep woolen socks, hat (buff, beanie or balaclava) and gloves in your sleeping bag as well as thermal pants and a sweatshirt to sleep in. Never go to bed dirty.

15.  Lighting:  Candles have come into disfavor as a safety hazard. Presuming you are an adult, use your best judgment. For the past 20 years I have had a hanging candle lantern with an added rear reflector that I adore. It adds safety and light…The melted wax is added to coiled cardboard in pop cans for quick fire starters. Energy efficient LED lights are an excellent and inexpensive option to candles. For people choosing to park in a Walmart or other lot, you will generally be trying to KEEP OUT the light at night.

Why the alternative lifestyle?  I have been homeless for financial reasons in the past and came to learn that I actually enjoy self-sufficiency. I get excited when the hardware store gives me 100 8′ 2x4s they were going to throw out, and I use them to make things for my “retreat”. I recently built a wooden deck floor and fire reflector short wall, a bench, and a separate full shower stall/potty/changing room (wood framed with tarp walls and tented top secured to a tree branch) next to my tarp shelter and ‘carport’ area.

I am an otherwise mainstream healthcare professional. No one associated with work knows how or where I live. Divorced from my ex-husband, my money ultimately gets invested in my now-adult children. They seem to have many more needs than I.  Once in a while, when I can get a great deal (less than 50% rate) on a discounting site for my favorite hotel, I treat myself to a few days of a king sized bed, thermostatic heat, hot water on demand, free breakfast buffet and all the other accouterments. That is when I do the extra things like deep condition my hair, do my nails, iron my lab coats and dress shirts, work out until I am a sweaty mess 🙂  then go shower and do my hair, etc.

It is important that people who live in their vehicles stay organized, maintain excellent hygiene, and maintain a positive attitude. Appreciating what we have is a great blessing.

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Survive in the Wilderness With These 4 Fire-Starting Methods

Survival anywhere can be dependent on your ability to safely start a fire. There are many different methods to do this were experimenting with different types of fire starting devices.  In the video below, you’ll see the technique of lighting Vaseline soaked cotton balls.

We used four different fire starters: a cheap magnesium one from Harbor Freight which costs $2.99, the Sparkie which sells for around $9, a large good quality fire steel which sells for about $15.00 and the Lightning Strike from Holland Shooters Supply which cost about $50.

In the following video, you can see how they each function in the hands of someone with a minimum of training.

As you can see, they all do the job.  Some are a little easier to use than others.  To me the magnesium fire starter from Harbor Freight can be a bit hard to use.  The magnesium scrapes off easily enough, but the striker is pretty poor. If I were to carry this, I would carry a backup striker.

The Sparky works well and it has the advantage that it can be used one handed.  The large fire steel works well and will do the job.  After this test, we consider the Lightning Strike to be the Cadillac of fire starters. It’s a bit pricey. It is not cheap but it puts out a large volume of sparks when used correctly. When the strike wears out, you can purchase a spare and reuse the unit.  I like the fact that it lets you carry tinder in its base.  I have a Lightning Strike in my own kit.

All of these fire starters work and could save your life in an emergency. From what I have observed when there is a failure, it is normal the fault of the operator not the device.  With any method, practice is necessary.

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Options for Improvised Shelters & Surviving Extreme Weather

Building improvised shelters from the elements is not hard and having this skill can save your life. In extreme conditions, you can die within just a few hours if exposed to the elements. Perhaps the most important thing to remember is to begin building your improvised shelter long before nightfall. It will almost certaintly take much, much longer than you think it will and once the sun goes down, temperatures will plummet, whether you are in the desert or in a snowy forest.

First, the simplest improvised shelter is your vehicle. It will provide both shade and shelter, depending on current weather conditions. If you are in the desert, the vehicle may become too hot during the day, and you may be better off sitting next to it for shade. You can remove a car seat and use it to keep you off the hot ground. In hot weather, ground level will be the hottest place, so try to get either a few inches above the ground (at least) or a few inches below. Dig a hole, build a seat above the ground or create a makeshift hammock.

Other improvised shelters could be of the natural variety, such as a cave, fallen tree, hollow log, rock overhang, or brush. Take advantage of these, but watch for animals who might be calling those places “home”.

If you do end up in a natural shelter during cold weather, you can add a layer of insulation by stuffing your clothes with dry grass, leaves, or even with the carpeting from your vehicle.  Just be sure that whatever you use is dry and insect free.

It’s vital to insulate yourself from the ground insisde your shelter. If it is cold, use leaves, grass, tree boughs, pine needles, or anything else you can think of to create a thick layer on the ground before you sit or lie down. The rule for staying warm is to put 2/3 of the insulation underneath you and 1/3 over you. If you are forced to sit in a confined area like a snow cave, do isometric exercises (tension exercises).  This will increase your body heat and help you stay warm. Believe it or not, even a snow cave is effective at protecting you from the elements.

Pay attention to where you find yourself stranded. Low areas like valleys can be colder in the winter.  It can be several degrees warmer if you just walk uphill a short distance, making for better chances of survival. It’s also possible that you will be located more quickly by rescuers if you are on a rise or hill, rather than down in a valley, especially if there is a lot of tree coverage.

If you are stranded with other people, share warmth; do not be afraid to huddle together. Plastic bags, plastic sheets, or space blankets do not breathe. If you wrap them about you too tightly, they will trap moisture. Do not wrap plastic about your head and over your face as it can suffocate you.

The most basic combination, if out in the wild, is simply having something at your back (a large boulder or tree trunk, for example), an insulated bed of leaves/pine needles/boughs, and a small fire. Not much of a shelter, but it will at least protect you from extreme cold and the fire will help ward off animals and insects.


Tree well shelter – This is a simple quick shelter that is easy to make.  First, find a thick sturdy tree in deep snow.  Conifers work best.

Then, dig a hole in the snow near the tree’s base using whatever you have available, including your hands.  Try to make the hole at least 4 feet deep.  The lower branches of the tree should form an overhead shelter when you are finished.

If the snow is not deep enough to form a roof, gather up branches and use them to make a roof.  Pile snow on top of the branches to complete the roof.

Use other branches, pine needles and leaves to create insulation in your shelter by lining the bottom, and perhaps the sides, with them. As you can see from the illustration, it’s important to insulate the ground before you sit or lie down.

When you lay down for the night, curl up in a fetal position, to preserve warmth. Working hard creating the tree well shelter should have warmed you up.  You will take that warmth with you into your shelter.  Be careful during the construction to not sweat too much or get wet.

Snow Caves – This improvised shelter can take a lot of effort to build, but it’s also one that utilizes the one thing you’re sure to have plenty of in very cold weather — snow!

Find a site on the lee, or downwind, side of a hill.  Snow caves can be created by digging into a snow bank or drift. This is where you’ll find the softest layer of snow, making the construction a little easier. Dig a compartment so that it is at least large enough inside for you to sit upright. Place your pack or a block of snow in front of the entrance hole.  Use evergreen boughs or other natural materials to insulate yourself from the ground and bring in extras to insulate your back.

You can use a candle or build a very small fire in a snow cave.  This requires a vent hole for adequate ventilation.  If you have a problem with dripping water, your fire may be too large. Smoothing the inside of the roof helps to stop dripping, the water will then run down the side to the bottom of the cave.

If you think people will be out looking for you, make the site as visible as possible from the ground and the air. Place clothing, sticks or stomp an unusual pattern in the snow.  When you are inside the cave, your ability to hear what is happening outside will be reduced to almost nothing.

A properly made snow cave can be 32 °F or warmer inside, even when outside temperatures are −40 °F.  Remember to stay dry while building your cave. If you start to sweat, it takes a long time to dry out and this can lead to hypothermia.

Tools for building improvised shelters

There are many things that you can carry with you to use to help build an improvised shelter, they include a knife, ax or hatchet, and 550 cord.  One of the handiest things that I have found is cable ties. They are great to use in building a framework for your shelter.

Other tools that will come in handy are a small shovel, tarps, and heavy work gloves,

Just remember that whatever kind of shelter you are building the main idea is to keep your body temperature as near normal as possible throughout your time in the shelter.

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Survive in the Wilderness With a Land Shark Survival Shelter

The Land Shark Survival Shelter is an interesting product that was developed to provide an emergency survival shelter that would work both on land and at sea. The Land Shark is a large bag that measures 38 X 80 inches and weighs about 24 ounces.  Folded it measures about 7 X 9 inches.

The Land Shark Survival Shelter is a cross between a space blanket and a bivy sack.  It is made of three layers, one orange, one camouflage with a third layer in between made of an aluminized film material.  The middle layer is similar to a high quality space blanket and can reflect up to 80% of your heat back into your body. The Land Shark is wind and waterproof.

Now the big question is, how you use it in the water?  First, you’ll need to be wearing a life jacket. With the life jacket secured around you, fill the sack with water, climb inside, and close it around your neck.  The sack will slow the transfer of your body heat into the water, giving you a longer survival time.

On land, you would use it like a bivy sack to help keep you warm and protected from the elements. The bag is 100% waterproof and wind proof, and it’s very warm, which can cause a problem if you let moisture accumulate in the bag. Sometimes you may have to vent the bag to allow moisture to escape.

Now the bag has one other feature that I have never seen in any other similar product.  The bag is reversible, and while the one side is orange, the other side is camo.  The Land Shark is designed to help you avoid detection by reducing IR signals to an undetectable level. Here is what Soldier of Fortune Magazine had to say about it:

“Now, you can defeat a 200,000-ruble FLIR with a $40 plastic bag. Checkmate. Not just any plastic bag, but a high-tech development by Corporate Air Parts originally designed as an emergency survival bag — an international orange, heat-containing, thermal-protective aid designed to ward off the effects of hypothermia in downed pilots and others stranded in the water or wilderness. The original LAND/Shark emergency survival bag became essential gear for anyone who must provide their own protection from the elements, and the new StealthBag is essential gear for those in a SERE scenario whose survival depends on their ability to hide not only from visual detection but sophisticated infrared detectors, as well.”

Soldier of Fortune goes on to say:

“The highly regarded FLIR, Inc. Model 2000AB chopper-mounted IR detector (operating in the 8-14 micron wavelength range), was unable during a 30-minute test to locate three individuals inside Stealth Bags”.  Soldier of Fortune also ran test with a Life-Finder hand-held IR detector, with similar results.

The Land Shark Survival Shelter is not cheap, selling for just under $70, but with its durabiilty and versatility, it could save your life. If you are ever caught in a situation in which all your gear and supplies are gone, this one bag will at least protect you from the elements on land and in water.

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6 Essential Attributes Of Successful Survivalists

Having lived off the grid for the last 7 years, you see ’em come, and you see ’em go.  The dozens of people we’ve seen succeed in this lifestyle and the dozens of people we’ve seen fail has given us a keen eye to the attributes necessary to be a survivalist.  Like we’ve told many people before, no matter how prepared you think you are, you’re gonna go through some changes!  So after many years of observation, below are listed the 6 essential traits every survivalist should possess to be successful. They go beyond the typical survival skills list, since what matters most is what lies in your head and in your heart.

1. Tenacity (“stick-to-it-ness”)

This, more than anything else, has beaten many a would-be survivalist.  We knew a young couple from Texas who bought a 5-acre parcel in a very rural, mountain subdivision.  They purchased a camper and a 40′ shipping container and filled them with supplies.  Before they ever made the move, the husband freaked out when he discovered that there were ants on the property!  (Aren’t ants everywhere?)  These weren’t fire ants, just plain old picnic ants, and it was a real problem for him, resulting in their abandoning the property for the comfort of their old apartment.   The ants were just his way out of a situation he never was committed to in the first place.

As Sun Tzu said, “No one can ever be defeated who has made a strong resolve to win.”

2.  Resourcefulness

In today’s modern world, being resourceful usually means knowing what aisle at Home Depot has that pair of pliers.  What we’re talking about here is true resourcefulness.  Resourcefulness like building a house out of local rocks and local adobe, taking apart another house to use the lumber for your roof.  Resourcefulness like butchering a chicken, foraging for Navajo figs, yucca fruit and pinion nuts, and then creating a glorious dinner with them.  Resourcefulness like seeing the potential in a junker truck or a broken washing machine to be used in a new way.  There is a house outside of Taos that was built entirely out of adobe and the windows from an abandoned truck, total cost for the house, $200 for 20 bags of lime.

Resourcefulness is thinking outside the box.

3.  Thick Skin

There will be countless people all around you who are more than willing to tell you you’re crazy.  You need to understand thatyou’re the one who is seeing the world unveiled. Most people are very reluctant to admit that they are a product of television programming. Edward Bernaise coined the term, “programming,” because that’s exactly what he intended.  TV was developed to program society to take certain actions, feel certain emotions, want certain items and live a certain way – and to fear those who do not.

Many people will try to validate their life choices by convincing you that you made the wrong choice, not them.  Also, those who will try to take advantage of you are all too common.  Many people who are conscious enough to be looking for a better way to live tend to be overly charitable.  Be on the look out for those who are on the look out for you.  Being kind is one thing, being a fool is another.

If you’ve been given the gift of a vision of a better life, don’t let someone take that away.

4.  Improvise, Adapt and Overcome

This is the mantra of the U.S. Marines and should be the mantra of every survivalist.  To improvise means to take what you have and use it in unconventional way to accomplish your goals, such as removing the alternator from a car and giving it new life as a generator to power your home.

To adapt means to make course adjustments along the way to accomplish your goal, such as changing your house plans from stick-built to rock construction because rocks are plentiful.  To overcome means to let nothing stand in the way of accomplishing  your goals – to know that you can solve any puzzle put before you, face any foe and triumph.

Be flexible and ready to make adjustments. Be prepared to go beyond a survival skills list, and dig deep into your own creativity and ability to adapt.

5.  Solidarity

Work towards having solidarity with everyone in your party.  Whether you are a family or non-related group, everyone  should be striving towards a common goal.  This is much overlooked but it’s crucial.  I can’t tell you how many times a wife or husband has asked us to convince their spouse of the importance of preparing.  You must all be of the same resolve deep within to be successful.  A disgruntled spouse or family member can scuttle the entire enterprise, whether overtly or covertly, often even below the consciousness of the scuttler.

Have a sincere talk with anyone you plan on joining forces with and make sure everyone is on the same page.

6.  Trust

By this, I don’t mean to trust in foolishness, meant only to create self-sabotage,  but real trust in yourself, in your own abilities.

And trust in a universal energy, a natural law that knows the difference between right and wrong and will lead you towards right, if you listen.

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Where Do You Start When Everything Has Been Lost?

Again and again, whether by fire, flood, or natural disaster, individuals and families face the challenge of starting their lives from scratch when their homes have been destroyed. Piles of debris are all that remain of homes and lifetimes of memories.  In the initial hours and days following such a disaster, what do you do?  Where do you start when everything has been lost?

In a crisis, it’s easy to lose perspective and fear causes us to, quite literally, not think clearly.  A “To Do” list is needed.  Here are a few tips from my book.

  • You need help! Check to see if a relative or a  friend can provide temporary housing for your family. This is no time to be proud. You need help, and your true friends will be more than willing to do anything they can to help.
  • Wherever and whenever help of any kind is offered, take it!
  • If a Red Cross or FEMA shelter isn’t an option, you’ll have to stay in a hotel or a tent. If you’re a timeshare owner, this might be a good time to use up some of those banked weeks!
  • Access your important documents in your Grab-n-Go Binder, or the one you have stored with a trusted friend, and begin to contact your insurance companies.
  • Move quickly to rent a car, file with your insurance, or get a hotel. Within hours, these resources will be flooded with people in your same desperate situation.
  • Acquire heavy duty gloves, closed-toed boots and work clothes to wear as you sift through debris. This will be hard physical labor, but it will also be emotionally draining to see the ruins of what was once your family’s home. Take plenty of breaks as you search for salvageable belongings and be ready to call it a day when fatigue begins to set in.
  • Kids are going to have a particularly rough time of it. If possible, designate an adult to keep watch over the kids in a location away from your ruined home and keep them distracted with videos, read-alouds, and playground time. This would be an ideal time for a longer-than-usual visit to grandma’s house.
  • It will take time, perhaps a lot of time, before the insurance company evaluates your losses and cuts a check, so be prepared to wait.
  • In the meantime, there will be dozens of decisions to be made. Where will you stay for the duration? Will the kids be able to continue with their schooling or will you need to homeschool for a while? Do you know of reputable disaster recovery companies? Reputable contractors? Roofers? Electricians? If you don’t have these names and phone numbers in your Grab-n-Go binder, now would be a good time to add them.
  • Quickly access any funds you have in your banking account(s). Remember, in an emergency “Cash is King!” If the power is out, chances are that your debit and credit cards will be useless, and vendors may not be willing to accept checks.
  • Use your cell phone or digital camera to begin documenting the damage to your home, vehicle, and property. E-mail the photos to yourself, so you’ll have easy access to them in the future and will be able to forward them to your insurance agent.
  • Document but DO NOT TOUCH or try to fix ANYTHING that has been affected in any way by the disaster. More than one innocent policy holder has found themselves unable to be reimbursed for a claim because they didn’t wait for the insurance adjuster and company to give the go-ahead to repairs.
  • Depending on the time of year and weather conditions, elderly family members, infants, and anyone with chronic health issues should probably relocate somewhere less stressful, where medical facilities are easily accessible. Summer heat and humidity affects them more than anyone else.
  • Now, more than ever, spend time with people who lift you up and always seem to see the silver lining behind every cloud.

Above all, guard your mental and emotional health.  Be willing to seek out a pastor, counselor, or mental health professional and understand that it’s okay to cry and grieve.  Recovery, in every sense of the word, is going to take time.

You really need to become a prepper

Becoming a prepper may have never crossed your mind. Perhaps, thanks to shows like Doomsday Preppers, you associate being prepared for a worst case scenario with paranoid mouth breathers, basements filled with freeze dried food, and families scrambling for hazmat suits.

Well, I’m a prepper. I homeschool our kids, am an avid bicyclist, and love Mexican food and Lord of the Rings! Almost no one in our circle of friends know that we prep because we are just like them — busy with kids, sports, yard work, and job. What makes us different, though, is that, over the past 7 years, we have become better and better prepared for life’s curve balls.

That hardly makes us paranoid nuts!

Just one real life example of losing everything

This video, from the immense wildfire that hit the town of Fort McMurry in Alberta, may change your mind if you’ve never heard of prepping, have slowed down with your own preparedness (after all, life does have its many distractions), or have thought prepping just wasn’t for you.

This cozy living room, complete with a pristine fish tank and cozy pillows and blankets, could be yours or mine and yet, within minutes, it was consumed by fire. I can’t imagine the heartbreak the homeowners felt as they watched this video.

Getting started with prepping is as easy as buying a few extra cans of soup or tuna the next time you’re out grocery shopping. Take that first step!

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