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Monday, March 29, 2010

Question: Do you really need a BOB?

I came across Death Valley Magazine earlier this week; it's a daily blog targeted towards private military contractors and those who want to be PMCs. It's a fun read (profanity alert though for the sensitive) and the blog's authors/contributors approach some of the conventional survival/urban survival concepts with their own, no-BS point of view. I like it, though your mileage may vary.

In this article, they ask the question - do you really need a bug out bag? They point out that the bug out bag is intended to be the one thing that you grab on your way out the door; basically you hear that trouble is coming and have to be out the door, now.

The DVM guys come to the conclusion that for the most part, a dedicated BOB is not needed for prepared individuals in the first world. For the vast majority of disasters in 1st world countries they say, you will either have some advanced warning (hurricanes, floods, riots), zero warning (terrorist attack) or your best bet will probably be to bug in (pandemic). Here's their conclusion:

So in my opinion the reasons for having a BOB don’t really pan out, in just about every instance where you are supposed to use one you can’t. And the times you would need to evacuate you would have far enough advance notice that you would have time to pack an entire car or fortify your current location.

So what do you guys think? Do you need a bug out bag, or is it a niche item, overemphasized by the survival/prep gurus of the world in an attempt to get you to buy more gear?

Disappearing For A Bit: A Guest Post By The VP of Awesomeness

[ TOR here real quick. Today's post is brought to you by the VP of Awesomeness. He was a bail bondsman for a long time so I solicited his thoughts on this topic. My comments will be at the end in italics.]

Ok, let's face it, bad things happen to good people. I learned that shortly after I started by Bail Bonds business... I've seen people get in trouble and have to "disappear" for a short time. Just a couple points to cover in case this ever happens to you.

Always try to be the "Grey Man". Avoid the lifestyle bumper stickers at all costs. The ones that were successful at hiding, all drove average vehicles, wore nothing that would stand out and did nothing to draw attention to themselves.

Cash is king, while I do have some gold & silver put back, on the run or short term bugging out, use only cash. Split it up in your gear, don't keep it all on your person. Now the only exception to this that I've seen, that actually worked, was a Money Card. The woman was running from a violent relationship, her sister was putting money on a Walmart prepaid card, which works like a Visa for the most part, but you really have to trust the person applying the funds as they may have access to the card history.

IF you decide to travel with a firearm, I would keep it limited to something compact and easily hidden. While I would MUCH rather have an M4 and a chest rack full of mags, I keep it to a quality handgun & mags VERY well hidden.

Prepaid cell phone. If you find yourself in need of communicating, this is the ONLY way to go. Even then, use it enough and "they" can track it. Keep it short and sweet.

It really helps to have some sort of GPS in your vehicle, getting lost can lead to all kinds of problems. Follow the traffic laws, more people are found by your average traffic cop doing his job than by Hi speed warrant teams.

Unless you a have very deep pockets, you're going to need a source of income, and having a job on the books will not cut it, if you plan on staying free for any amount of time. So it's more often than not, it's going to be something in the building trades. Now, with the Job Market being what it is, unless you have usable skills, you may have some trouble finding something.

Find out where the Day Labor's hang out, you will be with a bunch of Hispanics, but if you are Legal & speak English, you should have a better chance at finding something. Something else that has worked, find a construction site and offer to do clean up afterwords. Salvaging cans and scrap metal is an option too. Just keep in mind you're trying to stay alive and free, not trying to compete with Donald Trump.

Keeping your expenses low. Living in your vehicle can be done and is being done a lot more than most people realize. Staying in a hotel will eat up funds and assist in getting you found. The successful one's I've spoke with, most were Van Dwellers, shopped as places like Aldi's and live cheap. I've added a link to a guy who lived successfully in his little Toyota Pickup for quite awhile to give you some idea's..

Use common sense, keep your head low and be the GreyMan...

Use common sense, keep your head low and be the Grey Man..

There really isn't much else to say. One significant point I just want to rehash is to think about who is looking for you. The implications are significant because who is looking for you (how they look) plus their motivation and resources/ reach will dictate how you need to act. 

I can not help but reiterate that having a functional vehicle with up to date tabs  (registration) is essential. Nothing flashy but the turn signals/ lights/ etc need to work. Also it is worth noting that having a valid license and insurance card is essential. Unless there is a warrant for your arrest if you have the right basic paperwork all but the worst traffic violation (driving 100 in a school zone or hitting someone) is handled with a simple ticket. Don't have that stuff and your likely going to face arrest and have your vehicle impounded and things will likely go downhill from there. 

Personally I think everyone should keep some cash around. For an average person a months worth of cash expenses is a good start and not a bad finish. If something weird is going on that is plenty to take a sudden 10 day vacation, particularly if you keep expenses down. Lets face it some lifestyles and jobs are a bit more prone to potential problems than others are. For a person with more risk having a higher percentage of their total assets on hand in physical cash would be prudent. 

When it comes to guns a good pistol with some mags is probably the way to go. Keep in mind that you are worried about basic self protection, not fighting off zombies. In a case extreme enough that your disappearance is going to be lengthy having a cache with some firepower would be wise. In many areas of the US even if a cop asks if you have a gun saying "Yeah I have a Glock/ 1911in my  backpack/ trunk (depending on the region)" will not raise suspicion. However having 2 semi automatic rifles, a shotgun, a sniper rifle and a carbine sitting on the back seat might cause problems. 

When it comes to communicating with friends and family it really depends so much on who is looking for you. If anything short of a widespread law enforcement search or  heaven forbid men who have  split their adult lives between the back woods of FT Bragg and the 3rd world then a quick pre paid call to tell Momma that you will be away for awhile but are safe would be fine. 

I like the van/ truck idea. 

Edited to include: Three more things jumped out at me while pondering this through the day. 

First is about essential prescription medications.  I am not highly informed on this topic but between meth maggots/ the abuse of prescription drugs in general, insurance and computers I do not think it is not so easy to discretely purchase meds these days. This is yet another reason to have some extra lying around, at least a 30 day (and ideally 90-180 days) supply. 

The last two are really just a bit more explanation of my thoughts on the "Grey Man" concept. I am sorry but aside from loitering around alleys and other obvious non typical behavior the biggest thing cops seem to profile is appearance.  While certainly not always the case often scum bags dress like scum bags. Having a normal average appearance with decent clean clothes helps a lot. If you want to avoid police scrutiny instead of looking like a member of Pantera or somebody on the Discovery Channels gang special look like a normal clean cut guy. The sort of boring guy you won't look twice at or remember seeing. 

Going along with the "Grey Man" theme DO NOT BREAK ANY LAWS YOU ABSOLUTELY DON'T HAVE TO! Think about it. You have gone to great lengths to disappear for awhile.  This is not the time to enjoy a nice cold roadbeer or punch the loudmouth jerk at the next table or try and get some weed. in a strange town or whatever. The "Grey Man" follows the rules, all of them, all the time, or at least it seems like he does. This is part of why he is so boring and nobody is interested in him.

Hope you enjoyed this post as much as I did. Please give the VP some kudos for being nice enough to share his knowledge with us.

Tip of the Week…Preparing for Emergencies…Food Storage in the City…EMPs and Solar Flares

grocery store case nicole
Wednesday someone in the yahoo group asked about EMPs and solar flares wondering if they are really a serious threat to our safety. I spent the night and yesterday doing some brush-up research so I could discuss this armed with the latest information. While there has been some great info shared in our yahoo group, I have decided it is time to deal with this issue in a bigger way. Beginning Tuesday and continuing every week, until we have most of the answers, since you never have all of the answers, I will attempt to help you understand and prepare.
For those in the city food storage can become more of a challenge. Last week we looked at our homes and discussed how to make room for our preparedness supplies before we bring them home. If you missed that please go back and review it. Room seem to be the biggest obstacle for those living in a city.
Don’t fall into the trap of storing cans and cans of dehydrated or freeze dried foods believing these will provide you a way to store more in less space. There are three big problem with this approach.
First, they are very expensive.
Second, dehydrated foods require four times the amount of water to ingredients to reconstitute so, one cup of carrots takes four cups of water to prepare. During a crisis, especially a natural disaster you may be without clean water and would need to conserve the water you have available. As you know from the  my ebook  Mother Hubbard: What She’s Doing Now, I believe in storing the foods we normally eat. The calculator in the book will help you formulate  your storage plan.AS you store canned foods you will be increasing not only your food supply but also your water storage. You can cook your oatmeal in the juice you have saved from canned peaches. You can drain green beans and use the water to cook pasta.
Finally, these foods take a long time to cook. Again if you are without power these could not be cooked adequately in a few minutes on a barbecue grill or alcohol/TP stove.
We have seen from past disasters that food supplies can be cut off, and store shelves remain bare, for weeks after a disaster. Should we be hit with an EMP or solar flare or should the power grid be down for any reason supplies will be scare for many, many weeks. Food cannot be delivered to city stores if there is no gas. Gasoline takes electricity to pump. I always advocate a three month supply of the foods you eat but I realize for an apartment dweller this may not be possible.
It’s time to make friends. Now is the time to become acquainted with your neighbors. I would recommend talking the those who live in the same building as you, or in the building next door or across the street, about emergency preparedness. Any further away and sharing becomes a problem. Try holding a neighborhood meeting, maybe under the banner of a neighborhood watch. Feel out the guests about their concerns about disaster preparedness. Contact those you feel would be good partners after the gathering and see if they would be interested in planning together. You would now have allies. During an emergency you may want to gather together into one home making food preparations and keeping warm more efficient and also safer. There is safety in numbers. During a crisis if everyone brings the foods and equipment they have stored to one apartment who cares if the place has cans and boxes of oatmeal everywhere?
If you have a car, hard to believe but some city residents don’t, remember your trunk. The trunk of your car should always have a good car kit but if you lack space you may consider storing your 72 hour kit and some non food supplies in the car. Many supplies would not be appropriate for trunk storage, such as liquid medications. If you are planning to evacuate to a friend’s home outside the city consider storing items in the trunk that would be a welcome addition to their storage. For me, TP!  Toilet paper takes up a great deal of space but it is an absolute necessity in a good storage plan. It will be a great item to trade in addition to the obvious need. So, think trunk!
Back to food storage. Begin this week to store canned foods and grains which are easy to cook such as oatmeal and pasta. You may want to follow the plan we followed last year to fill the shelves in our General Store. You may just want to look and the spread sheet and calculator in Mother Hubbard and jump in. I would begin by getting a complete supply to last three weeks and then increase to a month…and so on. Remember to have the strength necessary to meet the demands of an emergency you will need a well balanced diet. No matter how you begin, just begin.
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How to Make Basic Bread

Spring is here, and I thought I might look into a short series of articles on how to do practical things.  With the world of politics and the economy being so uncertain, a bit of down to earth stuff you can do at home is nice tackle.  Some of these will be aimed at bridging the gap between the wonderful world of prepping in North America and how to use them or do them over here in Ireland or the UK.

So today with start with Basic Bread Making, which is easier with a machine if you have never done it before, but it is good to learn the old fashioned way as well.  This was first used as a Kitchen Post at the UK site World of Survivalists http://www.worldofsurvivalists.com/content.php  A wonderful site for folks on both sides of the water, but really useful if you live over here.

Hi, today I thought I would see if I could get more postings here and add another recipe.  This one is more of a set of directions and I owe a lot of thanks to the various people and books in my life who helped me figure them out.  My directions are based partly on having a bread baker, but you don't need one and you won't have one in a long-term situation.  Oh, you might be able to rig up a solar or car battery to do this, if your major food preparer has physical issues, but otherwise kneading bread is really pretty easy.  There are now lots of You Tube videos that can take the place in old books where they say "to learn to knead bread invite over a friend who already knows"  Watch them now and don't wait, here is a good basic one to start with.  Don't let the eight to ten minutes scare you, once you learn to knead some breads will come together in much less, you will learn to "feel" the difference, just takes practice.


For now, I suggest to all my friends they get a bread baker to get started. The more so if they are busy mothers of small children or single guys with no back up in the kitchen.  I don't care for how bread baked in them taste, so I use mine as a kneading machine (I have a bad shoulder) and then bake in a regular oven.  But you can (and I do sometimes) bake in the machine and you will still get much cheaper, better tasting and better for you than the store bought stuff.

Flour, the following Master Recipe is designed for white BREAD flour but you can use up to 1/2 Whole Wheat, Oats or Rye before you need to change much.  After that, the liquids become different, again  you can find lots of great recipes on the web for the heavier flours.  This is just a system to get you started.  I've also used American measurements, since that is what I am used to.  Most UK bread bakers come with a 1 cup measuring cup (or they used to) if not either use a measurement translator or buy a set of US measuring stuff.  A huge amount of good recipes for food storage are from North America, so it may be worth a few pounds to do this and have a set of everything.  I try to have both US and Metric stuff around, but the weight thing is what confusing when using bread bakers.

OK the basic recipe itself

Largest Bread Baker (common in the UK because it is a 1 kilo or 2 1/2 pounds)

First: read the directions on your bread baker and see if it is a liquid first or flour first.  Put the stuff in the order they suggest.  If doing this without a bread baker, you need to take your yeast and put it in a small bowl of WARM but NOT HOT water with a tsp or so of sugar and honey.  Wait for it to bubble, about five minutes, in the UK or Ireland you will also need to do this with regular yeast as only "Fast-Acting" Yeast works well directly in the bread baker.

Now Large Loaf (makes 2 loaves for the oven)
2 Tbsp Yeast
2 Tbsp to 1/2 cup of Sugar (savory to very sweet bread)
2 Tbsp to 1/4 cup butter or oil (corn oil, olive oil, melted lard etc)
1 to 1 1/2 tsp salt
6 cups of flour (be sure to use BREAD flour or HARD flour in the UK)
2 Cups liquid (Water, milk, eggs, cream, juice, mashed potatoes, etc)

If using something with some solids in it like mashed potatoes or yogurt as part of the liquid, mix it with the water or milk in the measuring cup.  Sometimes you will need to add a bit more water, I suggest not doing this the first time you make bread but wait until you've a couple of loaves under your belt.  Eggs are about 1/4 cup of liquid each, but you can test this by just mixing them with your flour or milk until it all reaches two cups.

Put your ingredients in order your bread baker suggests.  If doing this by hand, add all liquids to the yeast in a large bowl and then the flour gradually.  When it gets too thick to stir, begin to knead in the flour by had (see You Tube).  If you put oil or butter on your hands it is less messy.

Use the dough cycle on your machine, when it is done, take out dough and form into loaves.  If you don't have loaf pans, just use a couple of pizza trays, cookie sheets or even heavy foil to make round or long shaped loaves.

Cook for about 35 to 45 minutes depending on size of loaf. or about 25 minutes for rolls.

For hard breads (often made with water) cook higher like 180 to 210 (375 to 425)
For really hard breads add a pan of water onto the bottom shelf of a pre-heated hot oven.
For soft breads cook lower 150 to 170 (350 to 375)

For a really soft crust rub bread all over with butter when done.

To test for done, hit the bottom of the loaf, it should have a hollow sound.  You'll learn to "get it" over time.  If bread is very under done by accident, put it back in the oven on a cookie sheet and or use it for toast.

For bread you need for sandwiches, try to resist the urge to cut it hot and start eating it, hot bread is one of the most wonderful things in the world but it will squish down and make poor loaves if cut hot.  Make a pan of rolls and a loaf of bread instead.  Eat the rolls hot.

UK Flour:  Many folks have trouble using bread bakers because so many of the recipes are from North America where the Default flour is "Strong" enough to bake yeast bread.  UK and Irish "Plain" flour is not, it is designed for softer soda breads and cakes.  It will just spin around in your bread maker and make a mess.  You can make a very soft yeast bread or rolls by hand with it, but it will not work in the machines.  Look for BREAD flour or STRONG flour in the UK and Ireland.  Many these days will say "good for bread bakers" but you can't count on that.

Smaller Bread Bakers
This is mostly a liquid to solid method ratio thing

You can do this bread in:
5 Cups flour to 1 3/4 cups liquid
4 Cups flour to 1 1/2 cups liquid
2 Cups flour to 3/4 cup liquid (smallest machines that make one loaf)

For all but the smallest machine, the salt, sugar and yeast stay about the same.  For the tiny machines/1 loaf cut them in half

happy bread baking and please post pictures of our results!