Blinded by the Light

flashlightsManfred Mann’s Earth Band had a top 100 hit song, “Blinded by the Light” in 1977 (although it was originally written by Bruce Springsteen in 73).  Great tune with some forever confused lyrics.  However, if you want to really be blinded by the light, yet not revert to 1970’s disco, you should check out the TASCO XR6 flashlight.

Every household, and especially bugout or retreat property, needs numerous flashlights.  Its hard to have too many, since so often they go AWOL, just when you need one.  So I keep them throughout the house in various easy to access locations.  Recently I purchased a set of three TASCO XR6 flashlights at Sam’s Club for just $19,95.  Upon trying them I was thoroughly and pleasantly surprised at the quality, intensity of light and the various settings and capabilities.

They are made of tough aluminum, are shockproof, water resistant (not waterproof), and compact enough to fit in a purse or pocket.  They have three illumination modes (1) high intensity illumination; (2) low intensity illumination and; (3) strobe.  The high intensity is really high powered and can blind you if not careful.  The strobe function is even more intense and disorienting in a defensive capacity.  Point it in an attacker’s face and you’ve bought yourself the opportunity to escape.

The 50,000 hour life LED bulb is encased in a fisheye shaped lens with an adjustable focus beam.  This means that the light beam can be adjusted from a very wide angle of coverage to a narrow spotlight beam.  The bulb puts out over 250 lumens (candlepower), allowing you to see very long distances or if you open it up to wide beam mode and set it on the floor, it will illuminate a large room with enough light by which to read a good survival novel such as “One Second After“.  It can even be attached to a lanyard so you won’t lose it.

What has this to do with mountain real estate?  We at Retreat Realty don’t just help you find the perfect western North Carolina mountain property or off the grid property, we help you set it up for optimal use.  So if you’re looking for a bugout property by which to escape the craziness of the world, a good set of flashlights is indispensable.  The TASCO XR6 is an inexpensive option that provides excellent service.

Product Review of the Minuteman Rocket Stove

Minuteman stoveIts been a while since I’ve posted a product review, so in between property showings, I thought I’d send up a new one.

I met Lane Miller, creator of the Minuteman Rocket Stove at the Heritage Life Skills event held in Waynesville, NC earlier this year.  As soon as I saw it in action, I decided to get one.  I have a larger Volcano Stove, however, the Minuteman Rocket Stove is smaller, easier to transport and can cook almost as well.

Its made from a 50 caliber ammo box, heavily insulated with ceramics and painted in heat resistant paint.  One of the most amazing features is the insulating capacity of it.  Why?  Because you can get a fire going up to 1,300 degrees in this thing, yet it can be sitting on a piece of furniture without turning your fine dining table into ashes.  While the interior is broiling, you can actually touch the side of it without getting burned.

Another amazing feature is that it only requires small sticks to get the fire going and keep it hot.  That’s right, you don’t need logs, or a bush knife to cut up kindling or any exotic fire starting gels.  Just little sticks you can find anywhere up to ones the size of your thumb.

Its lightweight, efficient, compact and no mess.  Check out the Minuteman Rocket Stove today and tell Lane I sent you!  He sells them online for just $169.95.  I highly recommend having one as part of your emergency supply equipment.  Get one for your North Carolina mountain bug out property.

 

 

Survival Property Duct Tape

duct-tape-rollsOne overlooked, yet inexpensive item for every prepper is survival property duct tape.  Yes, duct tape, the ubiquitous item you find at every hardware store, Walmart and Dollar General.  The jokes about it are many, but the uses for it are equally numerous.

Duct tape is one of the most versatile items one can own, especially in a grid down situation.  It can be used to fix small engines, appliances, hold down things in the wind, stop a leak on a water barrel, etc.  There are hundreds of uses such as those listed here.  But get plenty of it now while its readily available and inexpensive.  In fact, purchase more of it than you need today because it could become  a great bartering item when the U.S. Dollar collapses as it inevitably will.

 

Don’t Forget the Mill!

Grain millOne of the best long term food storage items is grain.  Processed flour is certainly convenient and should be part of every prepper’s pantry.  However, over time, processed flour will go bad even if stored in airtight containers with oxygen absorbers.

On the other hand, grain when stored properly, can last decades and retain its nutritive value.  Grain is easy to purchase, store and is economical when compared to processed foods.  But you must have a way to turn that grain into flour so it can be used in baking.

A grain mill is just the thing.  They aren’t expensive ($50 to $100 for a good quality one, and on up for a Cadillac model).  As long as the power is on, an electric grain mill is the way to go.  They are noisy but they can produce much more flour in far less time than a manual grain mil.  But if you find yourself without power, then you’ll need a manual one.  A manual mill can typically produce a cup of flour after about five minutes.  Its also not the easiest job in the house.  One friend of mine realized that given the amount of calories he was burning in order to produce the flour, it just about came to a zero net gain of calories expended versus calories consumed via the flour he ground.  He found a solution when he connected his mill to an electric clothes dryer motor.  In the event the power goes out, he can hook it up to a bicycle.  Search around for a good quality mill and spend a little extra for quality.  I suggest starting at Lehman’s.

Transporting Water

CartIts very important to have a water filter for your home and of course a source of water to filter in the first place.  However, what if that water source isn’t in your backyard?  What if its a half mile away?  How are you going to transport all that water back to the house?

A gallon of water weight 8.35 pounds.  That’s heavy!  If your family of four needs at least four gallons per day for each, that’s 133.6 pounds of water, per day!  Sure, you can go down to the creek or pond and fill up one gallon jugs, but you need to carry more than that in one trip.  One thing to keep in mind in a “off grid” situation is that of working efficiently and saving calories.  You don’t want to waste precious calories on multiple trips when one will do.  What I’ve found is a farm or barn cart is ideal.

You can pick up one of these at Tractor Supply Company or Home Depot, Lowe’s, etc.  They range in price from around $70 to $150 and range in weight load capability from 300 pounds to 1,500 pounds.  Most come with pneumatic (air filled) tires which will do fine if you plan on crossing roads and sidewalks.  However, if you expect to use this on the farm or in the woods where there might be sharp objects lying around, then replace the tires with solid rubber tires.  After all, if you have a flat, your handy cart won’t do you much good.  Most of them come with sides that drop down, thus allowing you to carry bulky items that will hand over the sides.

Baofeng Handheld HAM Radio

Baofeng RadioFor communicating a reasonable distance with a great many features and reasonable price, the Baofeng BF-F8HP is a great choice.  Sure, you can buy “walkie-talkies” at Walmart, or even pretty good ones at Bass Pro Shops, but for great communications, nothing beats a handheld HAM radio like the Baofeng.

I’ve tested this radio transceiver in my area of western North Carolina and found its range to be at least four miles when I used an extended range antennae.  That’s handheld unit to handheld unit without using a repeater station.  The radio is compact, rugged, and is reasonably priced.  It has the ability to scan emergency frequencies, is programmable by computer in which you can preset dozens of frequencies, has an FM radio function and had a handy LED light on it.

I’m not a radio geek, but with a little practice, this transceiver is great for general use.  Its even suitable for the more serious technician.  As a footnote: to use a HAM radio repeater station without a license is illegal.  However, in an emergency in which life or property are in imminent danger, non-licensed individuals can use a HAM radio repeater station.  But for communicating directly from one handheld to another handheld, FCC rules allow non-licensed operators to do that.  Therefore, if you have friends across town and need to stay in touch, the Baofeng BF-F8HP is a great choice.

A Light in the Darkness

Lighthouse lanternAs I write this, it is in the dark hours of early morning with very strong winds beating against the house.  It got me thinking about lighting and what we have available in the house if the power goes out.  We have candles (lots of them), and various flashlights including hand cranked and solar charged.  One of our “go-to” light sources is the Goal Zero Lighthouse Lantern.  You may have read my first product review of the Goal Zero solar generator, well, this is a companion to that.

The Lighthouse Lantern has the ability to be hand cranked or charged via a USB connection to any power source including a solar panel or Goal Zero solar generator.  It provides up to 250 lumens of light and is dimmable and directional to conserve power.  One nice feature is the ability to charge other small electronics such as a cell phone or laptop via the hand crank.

Lighthouse computerYou can hang it on a hook or set it up on its pop up legs.  It even has strong magnets affixed to it which allow you to snap it onto a metal surface.  At just 1.1 pounds, its light enough for anyone to manage and is ideal for car camping or having around the house.  So be prepared for when the lights go out with the Goal Zero Lighthouse Lantern.

Cooking with the Volcano

Volcano II Collapsible Cook Stove picIn a recent meeting with a group of like minded guys, we discussed food and its preparation.  Several have made plans with 100 gallon propane tanks to hook up to grills.  But in a long term grid down situation, propane will run out.  Wood of course is a natural resource that tends to be plentiful in the mountains, but how good is it for cooking?  Open fires are messy and dangerous if not constantly watched.

However, if you have a Volcano Stove, you’ll find wood, charcoal and even propane are excellent fuel sources.  Its self-contained design helps make it a safer alternative than an open fire.  The Volcano Stove is an ingenious grill that uses any fuel and is extremely efficient for cooking.  With the purchase of a cooking lid, you can bake with it, broil, grill, boil, steam, etc.  The whole stove packs to just a few inches in height when stored, and with one pull of the handle, it pops up to its full size and is ready for cooking.

My fuel of choice is charcoal because its safe to store, doesn’t go bad over time like gasoline, and when bought on sale at Home Depot, its very inexpensive.  By using just ten to fourteen charcoal briquettes, you can cook and bake most anything in short order with the Volcano Stove.  Click here to watch my favorite homemade video of a gentleman cooking a huge chicken stew with his Volcano Stove.  I like this video because he’s down to earth and keeps it simple.

The Volcano Stove is efficient because it concentrates all the heat to the item being cooked, whereas an open fire pit looses a tremendous amount of energy into open air.  You can adjust the burn rate by sliding the air intake opening and thus prolong the life of your fuel source.  Another nice thing is that unlike the Solar Oven, it can function at night and on cloudy days.  Additionally, in the winter, it provides a source of warmth.

The Volcano Stove isn’t the only cooking source you’ll need, but it definitely should be a component to your complete food preparation list.

Water Water Everywhere

Water bottle handoutIf you’re like most people, you get your drinking water from a public water system.  That’s great when the system is working, but as residents of towns along the Missisippi and Missouri Rivers are currently experiencing, when their water plants were inundated with flood waters, the critical importance of safe water came to light.  In the event of an extended power outage, what would you do for drinking water?

We’ve seen images of disaster relief teams handing out bottled water and the National Guard setting up large water tanker trucks, but those provisions are limited at best and standing around in a line of emotionally charged, impatient disaster victims isn’t necessarily where I’d want to be.  I simply don’t want to be that dependent on government aid.  I’d rather have my own water source.

Big Berkey

Big Berkey

Of course you can stock up on bottled water, which is recommended.  But that will eventually run out.  If you have a stream or pond nearby, you can get water from those sources, or from a rain barrel collecting rainwater.  But you still must purify that water before cooking and drinking.  I own a Big Berkey Light water filter.  With its four carbon filters, it can purify up to 24,000 gallons.  It is so effective that it will remove every known pathogen.  Its even effective enough to remove food coloring from water!  The only drawback I’ve experienced is that its a very slow process as the water drips via gravity through the filters and it takes up a good bit of counter space.

An alternate consideration is the Lifesaver Systems lightweight hand pumped water filter system.  Its truly astonishing.  It does all that the Big Berkey does, yet in a compact package and its much, much faster at producing clean water.  For an amazing demonstration, click here to watch a video as a tester contaminates an aquarium full of water with fresh cow droppings, chicken droppings, and pond water, then scoops out the concoction with the Lifesaver Filter, and in seconds drinks clean water straight from the filter!

LifeSaver System

LifeSaver System

The Lifesaver system also comes in a larger five gallon system with which you can pressurize the tank to which you can attach a shower head and have clean bathing water.  Either of these systems should be a part of your preparation equipment.  For when the water goes out, you’ll be glad you have one.

 

Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fire

Sparkie fire starterOne of the most basic skills necessary to one’s survival is being able to start and keep a fire going.  Just ask Tom Hanks’ character in the movie “Castaway”.  Of course the simplest way is to stockpile matches and keep them in a waterproof, airtight container.  Just make sure you have some way to strike them.  Other methods include magnesium flint, magnifying glasses and even a 9 volt battery with steel wool.  This review doesn’t explain all the steps to making a fire, but simply identifies some sources you can use.

The Carson Magniflip 3X is a very handy, lightweight magnifying glass.  Its compact, light and nearly indestructible.  I purchased one for each of our bugout bags as well as a couple for around the house.  Just like when I was a kid, on a sunny day you can get a fire going with dry tinder.  But it only works in the daytime.

For starting a fire at night, you can use a magnesium flint, but perhaps the easiest is the Sparkie Fire Starter from Ulitmate Survival Technologies.  This gadget is small and weighs less than an ounce, but best of all can be operated with one hand.  Simply gather your tinder in a pile, place the tip of the starter on the tinder and press down on the handle.  Sparks fly out and downward onto the tinder.

Finally, you likely already have this fire starter in your home.  Take a 9 volt battery and fine steel wool.  Place the steel wool over the contact points of the battery and in seconds the steel wool will burst into flame, allowing you to then put it under your pile of tinder.  This is one reason why we are urged to be cautious when tossing 9 volt batteries in the trash.  They can ignite certain materials unexpectedly.  Who knew?