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Monday, February 22, 2010

Solo Backpacking: Antidote for a Frenzied Life

Solitude is an endangered species in our modern world. In many situations it is outright extinct. Our urban and corporate lives, for instance, are crowded with people, things and often-unnecessary activity.
An antidote to the frenzy of modern life can be solo backpacking. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting that everyone needs to go it alone in the wilderness. Only the intrepid few.

Water purification systems at Lac de Bret, Swi...
Image via Wikipedia
If you choose to join the few, make sure that you are well prepared for this enjoyable but considerably-more-risky wilderness activity. Hike safely and hike responsibly. If you do stupid things that require search and rescue, you are putting other people’s lives at risk.
Here are some tips for being well-prepared and for minimizing the risks inherent in solo backpacking.
1. Leave your itinerary, including a map marked with your intended route, with someone at home. Be sure to emphasize the day and time after which someone should initiate a search for you if you do not return on time.
2. Be doubly sure that you have included all necessary safety items in your backpack and first aid kit. Make certain you have waterproof fire starting equipment, a water purification system and a signal mirror, just to mention a few of the common items any backpacker needs to include.
3. Know your hiking capabilities, plus your physical and mental limits. Stay well within your limits. Don’t over-extend yourself. Doing so could lead to injury, mental instability or worse.
4. It’s a good idea to stay on well-traveled routes, where other hikers will be passing regularly.
5. Take along a cell phone for safety and peace of mind. But, turn it off and leave it in a pocket where you have easy access to it in an emergency. If you can’t live without talking and/or texting, you’re reading the wrong article.
6. Practice light backpacking. If you are not into ultralight backpacking, at least you can move towards lighter backpacking. Plan carefully what you will need to take along, not what you will want to take along. Consider carefully what you will put into your backpack.
Make an effort to keep the weight of your pack well below 30 pounds. Being the only one in your party, it is not possible to share items like stoves or tents. So, it is doubly important to work on lightening your load.
7. Hone your map and compass skills. If you have a GPS, be sure and take it. It can be a very useful instrument. But, don’t plan on entirely replacing your map and compass with this nifty gadget. Such high-tech items can malfunction, and batteries can go dead. Knowing how to read and navigate by a map and compass is essential for solo backpacking.
Solo backpacking isn’t for everybody. There are increased risks associated with this type of outdoor activity. But, if you are the type that craves solitude, consider solo backpacking. But, you must painstakingly take the necessary precautions.
by Richard Davidian, Ph.D.


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NEW YORK - MAY 20:  In this photo illustration...

Survival & Your Money–How's Your Emergency Fund?

            I know of three financial counselors who say to have an emergency fund—Dave Ramsey, Suze Orman, and Mary Hunt. There are probably others saying it, too.

            So what’s this about an emergency fund? It’s a cushion you can fall back on when something serious comes up that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to pay for. Maybe the car breaks down, your refrigerator died, or you lost your job. We’re talking about financial emergencies, not a slush fund for things you simply want.

            If you’re like most people, you’re likely to put emergencies on a credit card or borrow it from a high interest financial services place. Believe me, I know what it is to be in that position, and all you do is sink deeper into debt.

            Many financial gurus say to pay down those high interest loans and cards as fast as you can. After all, why get 1-2% on a savings account when you can whack down that card that’s charging 12%, 19% or even 30%? That’s a good idea in theory, but when you’re making payments and the financial emergency hits, what do you do when you have no savings set aside? It’s the debt trap all over again.

            That’s why it’s crucial to have an emergency fund. It’s not for investments, so you don’t want it tied up in a CD or something else you can’t get at. This needs to be liquid, such as a basic savings account, cash, or a combination. You need it when you need it, and you must resist the temptation to “need” it for anything but emergencies.

            How much should you have in your emergency fund? I’ve heard varying amounts. A minimum would be $500. A thousand dollars is better. Some say to have three, six, or even eight months worth of income at your disposal.

            If that last one sounds like too big of a bite, at least start somewhere. Set aside a little money each week or month as you can. Even if you have $150 this month in savings and have to use it for a $300 expense, it’s $150 you didn’t have not that long ago. What would you have done without it being there?

            Replenish your emergency fund before it’s totally depleted. Keep it going or you’ll wind up in the debt trap you’ve been trying to avoid.

            Yes, the credit card interest rates will continue on as usual, and you have to keep paying down your bill. However, if something comes up and you have no emergency fund, you may miss at least one credit card payment, and that can only lead to more trouble.

It’s a balancing act, but do what you can to pay down bills while setting aside funds for an emergency. As with any survival strategy, start small if you can’t do anything else, but do something. You won’t regret it.

The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender. – Proverbs 22:7, from the Holy Bible, King James Version

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Saving Bucks on your Food Storage

Photo by R L Sheehan of commercially available...
By Joseph Parish
When you finally plan to store up on dehydrated foods it often can prove to be a shocking experience as you scout around the net looking at the various prices. Far too often this assortment of online merchants tends to charge enormous prices for their products which the average consumer most frequently decides to put off purchasing. These preparedness web sites try to sell you these long term items for prices that are unbelievable and really not necessary.
The fancy packaging and number 10 cans are completely unnecessary to ensure your family’s food needs in the event of an emergency situation. You can just as easily prepare many of your own supplies and at a fraction of the cost.
The first thing that you should do it store p on a considerable amount of mason jars with lids and bands for them. You can often find many jars at yard sales or flea markets where a bulk purchase could save you a considerable sum over purchasing the items new at the supermarket or your local Discount store.
Once you have the number of mason jars that you feel would suit your need you can start to fill them with the following items. Be sure that you label them with the item name, the date that you packaged them and any other information that you deem necessary. As an example, I package my own powdered cheese. One of the bits of information that I like to include on my label is the amount to use.
Items you can pick up at the grocery store include:
Baking Powder
Baking Soda
Beans (Various Kinds)
Brown sugar
Salt both plain and iodized
Various Herbs and Spices
These items can be sealed in your glass jars and will remain usable for many years after. I personally like to stick and oxygen absorber in each jar when I place the lid on them but it isn’t absolutely necessary.
Many of my supplies that I purchase from the supermarket I obtain in glass containers. I feel safe that these containers will preserve my food purchases for a good amount of time. Such items include:
BBQ Sauce
Condiments such as Ketchup, mustard, relishes and pickles
Flavored cooking extracts such as vanilla, etc
Salad Dressings
Syrups ranging from Corn Syrup to Maple Syrup used in your morning pancakes
Vinegar both Apple Cider or white
This list could go on endlessly but the bottom line is that you should give a serious review of those things that you eat and then go from there.
Copyright @ 2010 Joseph Parish
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JERUSALEM - NOVEMBER 15:  Israeli rescue worke...

Terrorism Threat in the Offing?

Once again the news is all over a possible terrorism attack that should occur within the next couple of months. Once again, my thought is "what is the purpose of putting out such a generic threat warning that it is basically meaningless?." Aren't we always supposed to be in a heightened state of awareness, simply because acts of terrorism are #1 possible (as we have seen many time), and #2 random (in location, time, and type of incident)? Yes, random terrorist acts can happen anywhere, impact anyone, and look like anything (from an IED to a poison gas attack to jetliners flying into buildings), but excuse me if I don't get all spun up over this latest warning. Personally I will keep doing what I am doing, and, what I think many readers are doing, and that is being prepared for ANY kind of disaster which includes everything from an earthquake to an IED to a virus outbreak to...you get the picture.

Here are the things you should be doing no matter what the news is telling you and what the random possible attack could be:
  1. Be debt free.
  2. Have an emergency fund (some of which should be cash in hand).
  3. Have a stockpile of food, fuel, and supplies that could tide you over should you not be able to work/earn an income for a while.
  4. Be able to grow some of your own food.
  5. Know how to hunt, fish, and forage for food.
  6. Have a range of skills that you can use both to improve your own situation and sell to others.
  7. Have multiple streams of income.
  8. Be security and awareness-minded at ALL times.
  9. Be able to protect yourself and your family.
  10. Be able to "go portable" at a moment's notice.
While everyone is in a near panic attack about shadowy terrorists, remember that the leading causes of death in the US annually are: heart disease (630,000 deaths), cancer, stroke, respiratory disease, accidental injuries, diabetes, Alzheimer's, influenza/pneumonia, nephritis, and septicemia (34,000 deaths). Annual terrorism-related deaths in the US? 2007=0, 2006=1 person by the Animal Liberation Front, 2005=0. In other words, you should be much more worries about your health than about terrorists.
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Hiding Your Stuff

The Haiti earthquake pointed out a number of things that people need to consider during a disaster, everything from the difficulty of procuring fresh water to the need for emergency medical care when there isn't any to be had.

One of the most disturbing news stories about how people react after a disaster was a short blurb in the newspapers about desperate people using force to loot food and water from orphanages in Haiti's capital. Orphanages! People--adults--who are hungry and thirsty were actually taking food and water away from children by force. Hard to believe but then again, when people's world goes to hell in a handbasket, there is no telling what desperate people will do. Which brings us to the point of this blog post...if you want to be able to keep your stuff after a disaster, you are going to need to be able to hide it.

Take this time now, when there is no urgent need, to plan what you could do with your important stuff (food, water, cash, gold, tools, guns, etc) to hide it and protect it from the marauding masses in the event of a disaster. Right now, you probably couldn't even imagine that your friends, neighbors, and even strangers would see that you have something they desperately want (this could be something as simple as water or a can of Spam) and use force to take it from you. But then again, right now, these people are happily complacent with food and water of their own. Should the situation change, all bets are off.

You may think that you will protect yourself, your family, and your stuff with force if necessary. After all, you have a nice stockpile of firearms along with your prudently thought out supply of food and water, but there is only one of you, you will have a limited supply of ammo, and you will need to sleep sometime.

Here are some things to consider:
  • Think about how you could make a buried cache. Obviously you will need to remember where you buried your stash of supplies and you will also have to consider its location (ie: you don't want to place it where development could inadvertently dig up your stuff). You need to make sure that the elements (water, vermin, etc) can not get to your stuff, and that it is easy enough to retrieve your stuff when you need to get it.
  • How can you spread your stuff out so you don't have one huge stash of stuff that could be easily looted. Stores make great places to loot after a disaster because there are shelves and shelves of goods just sitting there. It would be a very different situation if people had to go from place to place to acquire only a can or two--it may not be worth their effort.
  • Look around your house. After a disaster you don't want your place (home or BOL) to look like the Taj Mahal when everyone else has nothing. How can you make you place look, as a friend says, like a Romanian orphanage--very sparse and bleak--when you actually have all of the stuff you need to survive for quite a good long time? If no one has electricity and your house it lit up like a Christmas tree, this will bring people to your door. If people don't have heat and you have a nice bonfire going complete with lots of smoke signaling your location, how will you conceal this? If people break into your garage, will they see walls and walls of food? How about if you have false walls that can conceal your stuff and hidden space in the attic in which to store the stuff you want to keep away from others? The idea is to make your place to look like every other place so you don't draw unnecessary attention to yourself, even though you may have enough stuff to weather a nuclear winter. You want to look like you are in the same situation as everyone else.
  • Some of the basics for hiding your stuff: you want hiding places that aren't very obvious. You want an easy way to store your stuff in these hiding places or you may get lazy and not use the places because of the difficulty of access. You want places that won't be inadvertently disturbed (if you hide gold in the lining of an old jacket and the spouse donates it to the Goodwill you're going to have a problem). You want a place where you can un-cache your stuff without bringing much attention to yourself. You want to practice caching and un-cashing your stuff; the more easily and inconspicuously you can do this, the better.
  • Keep your caches secret, even from the kids. Hopefully you can trust your spouse and if anything ever happens to you at least the spouse will know where your caches are but your kids are a different story. They often talk with their friends, tell them secrets, and can inadvertently spill the info on your caches which could come back to haunt you. Don't tell your friends or family either. If and when you need to help them, you can, but bragging about your stash of food/firearms/cash will bring you nothing but trouble.
  • Get creative. With some caveats. While it would be nice to post a list of locations that would make great places to stash your stuff, once this is done it becomes the looters handbook, which is why you will see articles about caching your stuff, but you won't see much specific info about where you should do this. So it is up to you to get creative and come up with your own cache locations. I would warn against caching your stuff in dangerous locations (ie: anywhere around water, electricity, extreme heights, etc) because while it may deter the looters, it could injure or kill you.
It is hard to think that all of your hard earned preps which you have taken care (and cash) to develop, could be taken away when you most need them. While I am not saying that you shouldn't use force to protect what is yours, using force should be your last resort for a variety of reasons. It is much better to blend in with everyone else, hide what you have, bring out what you need in small quantities so as not to bring attention to yourself, and save yourself the problems associated with defending large supplies of stuff that everyone else wants to get their hands on. After all, if people will take food from starving orphans, they would probably think nothing of doing this to you.