Archive for the ‘Gear’ Category

DSC00175You have less than two weeks until Christmas… Of course you haven’t managed to get all (or any? it is called preparedness after all..) of your shopping done yet.  You need some ideas? The Preppermanniacs have been clamoring for more gift ideas.   Not to worry, Preppermann has got ya covered!  With 2 day shipping from Amazon Prime you’ve got all the time in the world.  Check out last years gift ideas for even more suggestions.

Training – Grab your loved one the ultimate gift of knowledge and skill!

  • Self defense course – maybe Krav Maga
  • Gun Training  –  Nothing beats hands on 1 on 1 instruction, but if you don’t have access to any local courses check out the DVD series by Magpul
  • CPR or First Aid
  • Wilderness Survival Course
  • Cooking Classes – don’t know how to cook, bake, boil water?  Maybe a class would help get you started.
  • Gardening – hook up with your local County Agricultural Extension, they usually have free classes.  Join a local community garden and get practical experience growing your own food.  Start a square food garden.

Knives – nothing says I love you like something sharp and shiney.  A guaranteed hit with any guy.

Leatherman Wingman Multi Tool – I really like, nay LOVE the Leatherman Wave, but the price you can get almost 3 Wingmans.  The Wingman is really a great multi tool for under $30 at the time of writing.

Spyderco Byrd Cara Cara2 – One of my all around favorite knives is the Spyderco Endura or slightly smaller Delica.  They both run around $60.  The Byrd Cara Cara2 is basically a Chinese made budget version of the Endura.  Still produced by Spyderco under the Byrd line but under $20.  It isn’t as nice (steel, material, fit, finish, etc) but for a 1/3rd the cost it shouldn’t be.  Don’t get me wrong this is a remarkably good knife for the money.  If $60 is a ludicrous amount of money for you to spend on a knife (don’t read the next paragraph) then this knife is for you.  A great stocking stuffer.  This is the kind of knife I like for a beater knife.  If I happen to lose or misplace it I won’t shed a tear.

Spyderco Paramilitary 2  This knife is just plain ridiculous.  It is made at Spyderco’s flagship, American facility in Golden Colorado.  The quality of this thing is off the hook.  The steel (S30V) is top notch.  The weight and balance are great.  The G10 laminate scale handles have the perfect Goldilocks amount of grip.  If you need a nice knife for someone this will do it.  I got it in the sweet digital camo coloration and love it.

Knife Sharpener

Spyderco Sharpmaker – if you are buying knives for someone it would be nice if they had a way to keep them sharp.  This is great sharpener that won’t break the bank.  Pair the sharpener with a nice knife and you have a nice themed Christmas gift.  It comes with an instructional DVD and pamphlet to help you get the hang of it.

  • If you look at this gift guide it reads like a total homer advertisement for Spyderco, Leatherman, and Olight.  This really wasn’t intentional.  These companies just make great stuff for the money.  I actually came up with all of these ideas independently of each other, they just happen to feature some of the same great companies.

Lights – Olight is just killing it lately.  They are making fantastic lights at great prices.

Olight S1 Baton – this is your new EDC flashlight.  Very small and light weight.  It dissappears in a pocket.  It takes a CR123 battery (I usually like AA or AAA better for convenience) and puts out a mind blowing 500 lumens.  Great clip too.

Olight Valkyrie – This is a weapon light.  Throw it on your Glock 19 or any handgun with a rail.  If you have a handgun for home defense you must have a flashlight with it.  Better yet, put a flashlight on it!  You must be able to see and positively identify friend or foe.  No friendly fire accidents here.  Enter the Olight Valkyrie.  It takes a CR123 as well (you should stock up on these).  It puts out 400 lumens and has a throw of over 100 meters.  The quality, fit and finish are top notch.  I love the feel and placement of the buttons.  This thing just blends perfectly into my Glock 17, its current home.  I suspect they designed it specifically to fit perfectly with Glock pistols.

Olight M20SX Javelot – Need a bigger light?  This is it.  This is more of your typical handheld flashlight.  It is handsized but still quite small and portable.  It puts out a retina scorching 820 lumens (seriously don’t look at it).  It has a much more tactical feel to it with strobe and tactical bezel for self defense in a pinch.  It takes two CR123 batteries or 1 large rechargeable Li-ion 18650.  I bought this to use as a weapon light on my AR 15, but like it so much I haven’t mounted it yet!  It will make a great weapon light with the accessory mount.

Grain Mill – are you storing wheat in your food storage? (You should be…)  You need a way to grind that wheat.  Whole wheat berries are edible (with some work) but if you want bread you need to grind it.

Victorio Hand Grain Mill – this baby runs off good old fashioned muscle power.  You crank it by hand.  If the power grid goes down you will be glad you have this.  The amazing Wondermill below will function as a nice paperweight when electricity has gone the way of the dinosaur.  But you, in your infinite prepper wisdom will be cranking away making precious powder gold sans the juice.  And you will be cranking away, and cranking and cranking…  Better yet buy two of these.  And make sure you have 10 strapling children to run it.

Wondermill – grinding wheat by hand is A LOT of work.  It is labor intensive and time consuming.  It is almost comical how much you have to crank for a pitiful amount of of wheat flour.  If you have electricity you’ll want an electric mill.  Enter the Wondermill.  We have had one for years and it is amazing.  We use it all the time.  This is a universal prepper staple for a reason.  It is great quality and has a nice powerful 1250 watt motor.  This is a two-edged sword as 1250 watts is a pretty good amount of energy.  It is marketed as quiet which is quite funny because it sounds like a Harrier Jet in my opinion.

Bread Maker – If you are grinding wheat you will want some way to make bread.  The old fashion way (make dough, knead, let rise, put in pans, cook…) is great but labor intensive.  A bread maker is very quick, simple and most important… automated.  Takes a couple mins to add the ingredients and push start.  60 mins later… presto!  Hot bread.  You’ll need electricity of course.  Steven Harris has a nice podcast on using an inverter hooked to your car to run a bread machine.

Improve your families health now by grinding wheat and making home-made, nutritious whole wheat bread.  Much healthier than white bread (don’t eat this crap).  Far tastier than store bought wheat bread.

Oster 5838 Bread Machine – this is a relatively cheap little bread maker that works great.  I have it for emergencies.  We typically make bread the old-fashion way and bake it in the oven.  You can use a bread machine to make all kinds of other things like pizza dough.  You can even let it make the dough, let it rise and cook it in your own oven.

Zojirushi BB-CEC20 Home Bakery  – if you are going to get into bread making prior to the apocalypse (a good idea for practice and health reasons) you might want to invest in something a little nicer like the Zojirushi.  It makes horizontal 2 pound loaves of bread.  Just look at the name, this is no mere bread machine it is a home bakery!

Water Filtration – For portable and simple filtration get a Sawyer or Lifestraw.  These are great stocking stuffers.  For filtering a lot of water for a family get Berkey.  These are highly regarded filters and a prepper staple.  Fill the top canister and let the dirty water filter via gravity into the bottom chamber.  The clean water is then drawn out by a standard spigot.  It takes some time but this is the best way to filter the large amounts of water that you are going to need.  Remember to buy extra filters.  A lot of people use these to filter their tap water for regular consumption.  They come in a range of sizes, I would get the Big Berkey or Royal Berkey for an average sized family.

Well there are just a few Christmas gift ideas for preppers, survivalists, emergency preparednessers, etc.  Let me know if you have any other ideas or recommendations.  Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas!

Preppermann

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The bicycle has been around for about 200 years.  There is no denying its impact and importance the world over.  Just ask anyone who has ever been to Amsterdam or China.  Bikes are everywhere!  We are so car dependent in America that we often overlook the usefulness of our two wheeled friends.  I want to draw your attention back to these amazing machines.

It probably wasn’t long after the wheel was invented that someone got the idea to attach two together.  The earliest patented device was the Draisine.  It was invented in 1817 and patented a year later.  It was propelled by using your feet.  The English got a hold of it and called it a velocipede. Eventually someone decided to try make it mechanically propelled.  The details are a lot murkier.  Suffice it to say it was probably around 1839 and possibly (how is that for hedging?) invented by Kirkpatrick MacMillan, a Scotsman (my ancestors! Scots, not bicycle inventors…) And thats enough history… Now you feel smarter don’t you?  Regardless, they were invented a long time ago.  They were and are a major mode of transportation.

  • You should own a bicycle.
  • You should know how to ride a bicycle.
  • A bicycle should be part of your preps!

Why you ask?  A bicycle is a wonderful marvel of engineering.  I uses mechanical advantage (gears, wheels, chains, etc) to move you quickly and efficiently.  You can ride much faster than you can walk.  Secondly, (here is a little secret) it doesn’t use gasoline!  In a disaster, apocalypse, emergency, nuclear holocaust, etc… good luck getting gasoline.  You should make storing gasoline part of your preps.  I would recommened having four 5-gallon gas cans on hand with with an additive like Sta-Bil to help it store longer.  The stuff really doesn’t last long otherwise (it goes bad!  Who’d of thunk?)  Rotate your stores every 6-12 months.  The big but (nice pun) here is that you will eventually run out of gas.  That nice shiney Lexus is pretty worthless without gas.  That pimped out bug out vehicle isn’t going far on an empty tank.  How are you going to get around now?  On a bike!

Prepping aside, I love cycling.  I have been avidly involved for about 6 years, but have had a bike almost my entire life.  I ride for fun and exercise.  I even compete on occasion.  I have ridden 3 centuries (100 mile bike race).  This is another great perk of a bike.  You will get in shape!  Great shape!  I ride between 50 and 75 miles a week currently and this is minimal compared to real cycling enthusiasts.  Being in good shape is a huge part of prepping.  See this prior post.  This is another overlooked area that you should likely be spending more time on. Cycling is also great for the environment if you use it instead of driving your car.  Fitness, fun, prepping, environmental stewardship… I could go on, but what more do you want?!  Get a bike!

What kind of bike should you get?  At this point whatever is the most exciting and interesting to you.  I currently own three, all different for different tasks.  As usual you get what you pay for.  There are a lot of different types of bikes: road, mountain, hybrid, cyclocross, commuter, cruiser, etc.  You could roughly break them up into road and off-road aka mountain bikes.  This is a big generalization so don’t get too hung up here.  For simplicity I am going to focus on mountain and road bikes.

I think a mountain bike makes the most sense as a prepper bike as it is the most rugged and can be ridden over the most variable terrain.  It doesn’t excel on roads but it will work fine on them.  They have fat tires.  Airborne (www.airbornebicycles.com) makes some great mountain bikes.  I believe they are the most bike you can get for the money.  They are direct to consumer so some assembly is required (they are 90% built out of the box).  You can always take it to a bike shop and have them put it together for a fee.  My biggest concern here is fit.  I would always recommend going to a bike shop and getting professionally fitted.  This will yield the best results, but may not be the cheapest option.  Good mountain bike companies are Trek, Cannondale, GT, Niner, Giant, Specialized, Kona, and many more.  For the money this is a pretty good bike from amazon, shipped to your door for under $500 Diamondback Overdrive.  I bought my wife the female version and have been impressed with it.  Diamondback women’s hardtail.  I would be careful of anything less than $500 new.  There is a robust used market out there so that is a great resource if you need to get the price down.  If you can afford $600 I would get the Airborne Guardian – this thing is a ton of bike for the money.

Road bikes are meant to go fast!  On roads!  They have skinny tires.  The rougher the road or terrain the more these tend to suffer (discomfort, flats, breakage, etc.)  I have had many different brands of bikes over the years.  Lately, I think Giant is the best value.  This is likely because they are the biggest bike maker in the world and make almost all of their own stuff (frames, parts, tires, wheels, etc) which keeps cost down.  After extensive shopping and comparison I bought a Giant Defy for my latest road bike.  This is what I would recommend for a first road bike.  It is a slightly more relaxed geometry (you sit more upright) than a true racing road bike and is therefore more comfortable.  Sometimes they call these endurance or sportive bikes.  It is a Bicycling Magazine editor’s choice (has been for 6 years in a row) so you don’t just have to take my word for it.  Giant Defy 3 – entry level, aluminum frame, great value.  You can drop down a level (Defy 5) and save a couple hundred dollars but I would try not to.  The Giant TCR is their pure road/racing bike for those who are only concerned about going fast, like Ricky Bobby.  If Ricky Bobby had road a bike it would be a TCR .

Giant has a kind of hybrid bike called the AnyRoad.  It has a sort of road frame with larger tires.  This would be better for rough roads, dirt, etc.  Most bike makers have many different models to various applications.  I am just using Giant as an example; and I think they are good bikes for a good price.  Trek, Cannondale, Specialized are also great and make all the same kinds of bikes.  Fuji is another lesser known brand that is a high value.

Quick aside… Most higher end bikes don’t come with pedals as.  Most cyclists have special pedals (clipless) that lock into special shoes.  This way your foot and shoe are attached to the pedal making it much more efficient.  You don’t have to do this but will likely want to if you get more into the sport.  You can get regular “platform” pedals that you can use with any shoes.

Accessories

  • Pedals – see above.  I have Look Keo Easy clipless pedals on my roadbikes, Shimano combo clip/platform on my mountain bike.  I don’t usually clip in on my mountain bike.
  • Shoes – Shimano shoes – if you buy clipless pedals you need special shoes for them
  • Helmet – don’t even think about riding a bike without a helmet, doctor’s orders!
    • Giro Revel – this is my mountain bike helmet, great value
    • Giro Savant – this is what I would buy if I needed a new road bike helmet
  • Fenders – keep rain and mud off you in bad weather
  • Rack – Ibera PakRack – attach this and now you can haul things!  This would be very useful, practically essential for a prepper bike
  • Saddle bags – Panniers – once you have the above rack you can now add bags.  This really increases the versatility of your bike.  Groceries on the way home, school books?  No problem!  (I dont’ own the rack or bags, so I can’t vouch for their quality, just examples)
  • Water bottles and cages
  • Cycling shorts – padded shorts with a chamois (internal crotch pad thing, takes a bit of getting used to), these are pretty essential.  I like bibs over shorts. Too many to link.
  • Pump
  • Spare tubes and tires (remember 1 is none and 2 is one) – gotta have spares!
  • Saddle/seat bag – BV Seat Bag – attached this behind/under your seat and put the below in it for emergency breakdowns
  • Lights – you want to see what is in front of you and you want to be see from all sides.  I personally try not to ride at night, at all, ever
    • Headlight – Cateye Nano 
    • Tail light – Topeak Mega Red – it blinks, it flashes, its red, its bright, makes all sorts of visual racket, exactly what you want!

Recommendations

  • Get a bike, any bike!
    • Any bike is exponentially better than no bike.  Some variants and builds might be better for prepper applications than others.
  • Road Bike
    • Giant Defy
    • Giant TCR – Ricky Bobby approved
  • Mountain Bike
    • Airborne Guardian
    • Diamondback Overdrive
  • Check your local classifieds for used bikes
  • Get measured and fitted for a bike
  • Wear a helmet
  • Try clipless pedals to take your cycling to the next level
  • Carry a seat bag with a minor repair kit, and a hand pump
  • Add a rack and panniers to increase you ability to carry gear
  • Carry some ID and an emergency contact in case you are hurt
  • Carry your cell phone (charged)
  • Let someone know where you are going
  • Be visible – the more the better!
  • Get out there, spin those pedals, get in shape, have fun, be prepared!

Here are a couple of my sturdy steeds!

IMG_20150605_143847_787 IMG_20150725_094923_023

Gear Review: Al Mar Eagle HD

Posted: July 20, 2015 in Gear
Tags: ,

I confess… I have been feeling really guilty about neglecting this blog.  I haven’t written in forever and that inertia is so easy to maintain.  An object in motion tends to stay in motion; a lazy object at rest REALLY hates to move again, like ever…  Sorry for the laziness.  Here is a quick post just to get things moving again!

al mar eagle

I received (more like purchased for myself, and my wife gifted it to me) an Al Mar Eagle HD for Christmas.  This is the nicest, most expensive knife I have ever purchased.  Some of you will think I am crazy for spending almost $150 on a knife.  Others will think I am a complete knife rookie because I don’t own a $500 knife.  You can’t please everyone!  I would consider this a moderately expensive knife.  A cheap knife for me is $20.  And for a $20 recommendation I love the Kershaw OSO Sweet.  If you have to spend $500 on a knife to feel adequate then go buy a Chris Reeves Sebenza.  (Very nice knife, I just can’t bring myself to spend that kind of money on a knife… yet…)  So if you tuned out at the mention of a $150 knife go grab the Kershaw.  It’s a great overall knife and you can’t beat the value.  But I digress…

I got the Al Mar Eagle HD for Christmas and have been carrying it ever since (6 months now).  I love this knife.  It is fantastic.  In my mind this is a tactical knife and has defensive implications.  It has a longer 4 inch blade.  Total length is 9 inches.  A lot of folding knives are in the 2.75-3.75 inch range.  A true 4 inch blade is rather rare.  Longer is better for reach and penetration.  This knife is very thin (blade is 0.10 inches) and therefore great for carrying.  It is also light (just over 3 ounces!).

The handle is black G10 (fiberglass impregnated resin) and has a nice Goldilocks texture (not too hard or soft).  It is your standard lock back design.  It has a nice pocket clip and is reversible, it comes tip up (I like it this way).  It has stainless steel liners (increased rigidity) that are skeletonized (decreases weight).  This is a nice touch that a lot of people may miss.  It takes a little extra effort by the knife manufacturer to remove some of the liner to drop weight.  This is a sign of quality to me.  You’ll see this or NOT see this in other knives, so look for it.

This is AUS-8 steel, which is a good medium grade Japanese steel.  For $150 dollars I really wish they had gone with a nicer grade steel, even VG-10 would have been great.  AUS 8 steel is good, but not great steel.  This is really my only gripe about the knife.  By no means a deal breaker, but I’d knock off a half point for it.

Overall I would give the Al Mar Eagle HD a 9.5/10.  I love it.  I carry it all the time.  If it was a higher grade steel I would have to give it a perfect score.  That or they could drop the price down a bit (closer to $100?).  It is HD (heavy-duty not Hi-Def) because it is beefier than its sibling the Al Mar Eagle which lacks the steel liner, and has thinner full flat ground blade.  The HD is a little heavier for more durability.

One other note… To me this is not a beater knife, it’s too expensive.  I always carry another smaller blade for opening boxes or other routine tasks.  Sog Flash 1 or Swiss Army Cadet are my usual companions.  Due to its blade length this knife is bigger and more intimidating, you may not want to whip this out at book club or your next tea party.

Gear Review: 5.11 Stryke Pants

Posted: May 12, 2015 in Gear
Tags: ,

74369_092_01As you know from previous posts I am a huge fan of the 5.11 TacLite Pro Pant.  If I am not at work I am wearing them.  I have about a half a dozen pairs of them.  They are great overall pants and I have been wearing them for years.  Recently 5.11 introduced a new variant called the 5.11 Stryke Pants.  I have been wearing these for a few months and have completely fallen in love with them.  I wanted to introduce them to you guys as a slightly better (hard for me to even say because I love the Taclite Pros so much) pair of pants for most uses.  I don’t have the long term experience with them yet that I have with the Taclite Pros, but I am assuming they will hold up well.

There are a few, rather subtle, changes that really make these pants shine.  The first is that the pants have a slightly softer feel (hand if it was a suit).  They are a little bit stretchy.  This combination makes them extremely comfortable to wear.  Like gloriously comfortable!  That little bit of stretch makes a world of difference.  The Taclite Pros were comfortable, these are like wearing soft little fluffy cloud pants.

One other change they’ve made that I really like is the side cargo pockets.  They have raised them up a little bit compared to the Taclite Pros.  The cargo pocket now rests higher on the thigh and less on the knee.  They are easier to get into (less reach) and a more natural placement.  This also makes any gear carried in them easier to deal with (higher and tighter).  The pockers also have a bit of a slant to them that aids access.

One change I am undecided on is the left front mag pocket that used to be on the Taclite Pros.  They have replaced this with the same knife pocket that is found on the right.  I kind of liked the mag pocket but overall this is a wash to me.

One change that I don’t like is that they removed the small brass D-ring on the right front belt loop.  I used to clip my keys with a carabiner to this.  I occasionally go groping for this and it isn’t there on the Stryker pants.  Not a deal breaker and most people won’t miss it at all.

As usual for 5.11 they are soil, stain, and fade resistant.  They come out of the wash in perfect shape and are ready to wear with no fuss or ironing (I refuse to iron my tactical pants!).

My totally unfounded guess is that the fabric would be slightly less durable on the Stryke pant compared to the Taclite pro but I have nothing to back this up.  Only time will tell.  I have been wearing them constantly for months with no signs of wear at all.

These are great pants!  They are running somewhere around $50-60 at this time.  Lately, I have been getting my Taclite Pros for about $45.  For the last several months I reach for these pants every time I can.  If they are dirty and I “have” to wear my Taclite Pros I have a brief moment of dissappointment.  The Stryke pants are just so darn comfortable!  Do yourself a favor and get a pair!  5.11 continues to set the standard for tactical/all-purpose pants.

Don’t forget a good belt to pair with them.  5.11 TDU Belt is a great option.  I have the both the 1.5 inch and 1.75 inch and prefer the fatter one.  I also have a TRU-Spec Belt that I really like.  They are both nice for airport security as you don’t need to take them off.

Last Minute Christmas Ideas from Sog

Posted: December 19, 2014 in Gear
Tags: , , ,

sogI’ve highlighted multiple Sog knives that I really like in prior posts.  As I was purchasing one as a Christmas gift I noticed that Amazon has selected Sog knives on sale for 15% off.  Amazon’s prices are usually the best I can find anyways (especially considering shipping) so an extra 15% is a good deal.  If you have Amazon prime you can get any of these shipped free with 2-day delivery.  Amazon prime is really helpful for all my prepper needs.  If you’ve waited till the last-minute and need gift ideas consider these favorites.  If you or someone you know needs to adopt the philosophy of every day carry and having a knife, these are a great way to get started.

Sog Flash 1 – small, elegant, light weight.  This is my EDC knife if I need to go very small and minimal.  Otherwise it is my back up knife.  10/10 form, fit, function.

Sog Flash 2 – big brother to the Sog Flash 1 above.  It is a full-sized folding knife.  This gets a lot of time as my main EDC knife (with the Spyderco Delica).  Good sized blade.  Great assisted opening action = fun and tacticool!  Really nice value with the 15% off.

Sog Seal Pup great fixed blade knife ready for any tactical, survival or camping situation.  Comfortable grip and good overall size, length, and weight.

Sog Aegis – I don’t own this one yet but have handled (maybe fondled it is a better description) it quite a bit in the store.  Really nice knife.  Good steel (Aus 8) with a very nice TiNi (black) finish that makes it even more durable and rust resistant.  Assited opening.  One of my other favs is the Sog Flashback but that one isn’t on sale.  This one is currently a better value with the discount.  The Aegis has a better overall size and shape (thinner) than the Flashback so it is easier to carry.  Standard (Awesome!) Sog clip allows for deep pocket carry.  Sog does pocket clips right.

Sog Fasthawk Tomahawk – Need to dispatch a band of zombies while chopping some wood?  Well this is your tool my friend.  This thing is just fun.  I haven’t done any hard chopping with this (I have an axe after all) so I can’t vouch for that application.  It should do fine with some light duty chopping work.

Sog Flash 2 Tanto – This is the same as the above Flash 2, but in a tanto blade (triangle tip) that is better for tactical applications.  It will hold up better to piercing and thrusting than the Flash 2.  It also has the TiNi finish which is more durable and better for a tactical application (black vs shiny metal).  This also illustrates that most of these knives are available in different configurations.

Sog Trident – Another all around great knife from Sog.  I love the jimping on the spine of this knife.  It runs from the handle onto the blade.  It gives your thumb good grippy purchase on the blade which helps with control and decreases slippage (slippage = bad laceration.)  It is also serrated.  I don’t usually like my smaller knives to be serrated but there are applications where this is a must.  If you need to quickly cut through a seatbelt for example you want a serrated knife.  I like this type of knife for first responder type applications were you need to cut clothes, seatbelts, cordage, etc.

The discount ends Dec 22nd.  These knives are a great value at anytime (I have paid full price for all of them and wouldn’t hesitate to do it again) but the extra 15% off makes them special buys.

IMG_3792Having a well constructed bug out bag (BOB) is a great addition to your preparedness strategy.  Really, it is one of the cornerstones of preparedness.  These are called many things; 72 kit, Go Bag, Get out of Dodge Bag (GOOD), and so forth.  “A rose by another other name…”  Essentially it is a kit that provides you with your basic needs for 72 hours.  If you have to get away quick, aka “bug out” you grab this on the way out the door.  Disasters like hurricanes, fires, floods, civil unrest, etc can happen suddenly.  You want this kit ready to go at a moments notice.

I highly recommend this book Build the Perfect Bug Out Bag by Creek Stewart.  It is easy to read and more thorough than this post.

Rules of thumb:

  1. Pre-prepared: have this packed and ready, ideally by the door
  2. Portable: Easy to carry.  You may be walking with this thing.  A good packpack works great.  I use an internal frame backpack.
  3. Light-weight: Again you may be carrying this thing for miles, lighter is better.  Try and keep your pack below 25% of your bodyweight.  This is still pretty heavy.  For me this is a 45-50 pound pack.  I wouldn’t want to carry this for 15 miles a day and I have quite a bit of backpacking experience.  If in doubt go with less weight.
  4. Extensive: You want to be prepared for a lot of circumstances and scenarios.  Works against #3.  I would personally rather have a little more weight if it means being more prepared.
  5. Custom: Don’t buy a premade pack.  Buy the right pack for you and fill it up with your needs.  It is a project.  It takes times and effort.  It is not cheap, but your life may depend on it.  Get the best quality you can afford.
  6. Evolve: Your BOB (I shall name you BOB and henceforth you will be known as BOB, and BOB will be your name) should change and evolve as you try new things.  It isn’t just a bag you make, set aside and forget.  Get it out at least once a year and review the contents.  Replace items that expire.  Be one with BOB and he will be one with you.
  7. Everyone: Every adult and teenager needs their own pack.  Children will need to be accounted for in the adult packs.

Essentials: 20 Things to get your started

  1. Pack – I have an REI internal frame backpack.  It holds 65L.  It is my older backpacking rig.  This is a place to spend a bit more money.  Make sure you try them on and get what fits.  They make packs designed for a woman’s body shape as well.  One size does not fit all.  You can easily spend $200-$300 on a pack.  Make sure it has a hip belt.  You want most of the weight on the hips, not the shoulders.  You can use other things to make your BOB but I think a backpack is ideal.
  2. Food – you need 72 hours of food.  Remember that you can survive 3 weeks without food so you don’t need a ton of food.  The longer you go without food your energy levels start to drop.  Mental and physical fatigue set in.  This can be very dangerous in a survival situation and this is why food is essential for your BOB.  You must be awake, alert, and at your best.  I would get one MRE with heater, Survival rations, a freeze dried entree, and assorted snack bars.  This gives you some quick and ready foods.  At least one hot meal (MRE) with no fire.  The survival rations and snack bars are easy and can be eaten on the move.  The FD meal requires fire to heat the water.  Man are these good when you are cold and hungry.
  3. Stove – you need a way to heat water.  You may need this to sterilize water or for cooking.  A backpacking stove works well like the MSR Micro Rocket.  They are dependent on the canisters which is their major drawback.  I like them because they are so simple and reliable.  They don’t work well in very cold temps.  Another more versatile option is a stove that burns liquid fuels like white gas or kerosene, MSR Whisperlite.  I have been using these for years.  They are slightly more complicated and less reliable than the canister stoves but offer added flexibility.  The Esbit Emergency Stove is another great option.  Just light the little fuel cubes and you have a nice little stove.  The military has used these for years.  I like to have one of these in one of the other packs in the family as a backup.
  4. Water – You need 3 liters of water per person, minimum.  More if it is hot and you are working hard.  This is mostly just to drink and prepare food (FD meal).  I like to carry my water in a Nalgene bottle (has measurements), a metal canteen (army canteen works great as well), and a soft collapsable pouch.  They should all be full of water in the pack.
  5. Water purification – I have a Sawyer water filter, Life Straw and Micropur tablets as a back up.
  6. Shelter – a lightweight backpacking tent works well here.  Again, these are pretty pricey.  This shouldn’t weight more than 2-3 pounds per person using it.  Tarps can work as well.  You need one above you and one for ground cover.  You should get backpacking tarps.  Regular old blue tarps from the hardware store are very heavy and bulky, not ideal.  You also need skill and practice with making shelter of a tarps.  Requires cordage, planning, knots, stakes, etc.
  7. Fire – you need multiple ways to make fire.  Water-proof matches, lighter and a striking flint are what I carry.  A cheap Bic lighter will work great.  Using a striking flint is much harder than it looks.  It takes practice.  Practice making fire at home or camping with all of these.  There is an art to making fire and it takes knowledge and practice.  I would also recommend packing some fire starter.  My preferred method is to take cotton balls and soak them with vaseline.  Rub it in really good and smash them down.  Carry a few in ziplock bag.  When needed pull the cotton ball apart and fluff it up again.  The vaseline will cause it to burn for quite a while.  These are cheap, lightweight and reliable fire starters.
  8. Clothes – Hypothermia is the number one outdoor killer.  You need appropriate clothes.  I like at least a long sleeve shirt (wicking – NO COTTON), a fleece for warmth, fleece cap, gloves for all occasions.  It can get cold at night even in the summer.  In the winter you need more clothes.  Layers are always better than a huge bulky jacket.  Layers are actually warmer and more versatile.  You may want to add a heavy fleece or wool sweater.  Wool and synthetic fibers are the best outdoor materials.  Don’t use cotton anything including blue jeans!
  9. Sleeping system – a sleeping bag is probably the simplest option.  They are either synthetic or down.  Down is warmer for the weight, but more expensive.  Synthetics are supposedly a bit warmer if wet.  I can’t say from experience as I try really hard not to get my sleeping bag wet (good shelter).  You need some sort of ground pad, a cheap closed cell foam pad works great.  Inflatable ones work too.  Some experts recommend a heavy wool blanket instead of the sleeping pad as it still works when wet.
  10. Knife – a good knife is an essential part of your bug out bag.  Every bag should have one.  I have tried different configurations.  Currently, I have a Morakniv in each bag.  They are light, cheap and a fixed blade.  I also have at least a folding knife on my person.  A bigger fixed blade knife, like the Becker BK2, would not be a bad idea if you can handle the weight.  A good multi-tool is also hard to deny including.  Check out the multi-tool all-stars post for suggestions.
  11. First Aid Kit – Keep this fairly small and in a waterproof container.  Make your own or customize a premade one.  Adventure Medical Kits make some decent options.
  12. Light – check out the flashlight post for ideas.  I prefer a headlight  (currently this Energizer headlight) and usually have a small back up light.  Carry extra batteries.  Lithium or alkaline, not rechargeable for this application.
  13. Rain gear – A good waterproof, breathable rain jacket is a must.  These can get pricey but are worth it.  At least get a Frogg Toggs poncho if nothing else.  It needs to breath.  Plastic is not a great option, you will get soaked underneath from perspiration.
  14. Gloves – work gloves.  You need gloves to protect your hands from all of the abuse you are going to heap upon them.  Protect your hands and feet!  I like these Mechanix Wear gloves.
  15. Trash bag – get the thickest heaviest-duty trash bags you can.  Typically they are called contractor bags or drum liners.  You can line your pack with this and put everything inside to keep it dry.  This is a great all-purpose item.  It can serve as a ground cloth, shelter, poncho, rain catch, etc.
  16. Duct tape – get good quality tape like Gorilla tape.  The uses are endless.  Wrap it around a pencil, plastic card, or around your Nalgene bottle.
  17. Cordage – I usually carry 550 paracord.  There are other options, just have something.  Again the uses are endless, but it is very helpful for making shelter.  Required if you have a tarp.
  18. Cup – metal so that you can cook and heat water in it.  I have this Toaks titanium cup, super light.  If you are in a group a larger pot is very useful rather than heating things one cup at a time.  Toaks pot and pan would work well.  Make sure to pack things inside the pot and pan which will help protect and keep whatever is inside dry.
  19. Medications – make sure to have a couple weeks of any essential medications (anti-seizure, heart meds, etc) in your bag.
  20. Shoes – You want a good pair of shoes or boots for walking long distances.  You must protect your feet.  These need to be broken in beforehand.  I would just set these beside or tie them to the bag.  Throw them on before you bug out.

The above items should get you started.  These are just suggestions.  Customization is important.  For starters if you just have an old backpack that you put some food, water, a light, a knife, and some extra clothes in you would be better than the majority of the population.  You could probably get this bag together in a day or two.  Then start working on the other things.  Good luck and have fun.  Get to know BOB, he is your friend!

What do you think?  What do you like to have in your bag?

There are few things in this world as important as light.  “Let there be light” is the third verse of the Bible!  Accordingly, this is an essential component of your EDC.  Everyone should carry a knife and a flashlight, period.  Here are some great options for light.  Don’t be caught without light, and with these great options there really is no excuse!  Do you have any idea how many patients I have treated for injuries where they were walking around in the dark?  Too many to tell.  A $30 flashlight would have saved them thousands of dollars (needs to be on your person).

foursevens_logoIntro to flashlights:

Lumens – a measure of intensity of the light, aka brightness

Bulb – produces the light, these are all LED.  Superior brightness, life and battery usage efficiency.  No need to get anything else.

Bezel – the face of the light where the light comes out.  Some lights have tactical bezels which are scalloped and slightly sharp for striking in a defensive role.  This adds utility and let’s be honest is just plain cool.  Tacticool!

In general I like to go with AA or AAA flashlights as these are the most common and cheapest batteries.  Your rechargeable batteries will also work.  You are most likely to find these batteries at a store.  Good to go with common.

Put good alkaline batteries in your emergency lights, Energizer or Duracell.  Better yet put Energizer Lithium batteries in your emergency lights.  They are the most powerful with the longest life.

Panasonic Eneloop batteries are great for frequently used lights.  These are the best rechargeables out there.  They don’t self discharge very much at all.  Self discharge means that most rechargeable batteries lose their charge very quickly and are dead within a few days (They eat themselves, ewww!).  They drain themselves over time.  Regular alkalines don’t do this very much at all and are very shelf stable.

See the gear list for links to Eneloops and a great charger for them.  You really want a good charger so spend the money up front.  The charger that comes with the Eneloops is junk and “dumb”.  It will ruin the batteries much quicker.

All-Star Flashlights: 

These are all amazing lights at least 9/10 on my scale.  Most are 10/10

  1. Foursevens Preon 1 – this one just might be my absolute favorite flashlight.  It is just amazing.  It is just slightly (and I mean JUST slightly) larger than a AAA battery.  It puts out a whopping 84 lumens on high.  This thing disappears in a pocket.  If you are new to carrying a flashlight get this, it will make the transition easier.
  2. Fenix E12 –  Single AA light with 130 lumens.  Not nearly as size efficient as the Preon 1 (but nothing is).  Meaning, that the flashlight is a bit bigger than just the AA battery (not much though).  Nice grippy surface (knurling).
  3. Foursevens Preon 2 – this is more like a penlight.  It uses 2 AAA batteries.  Think of a longer version of the Preon 1 flashlight. If the added length and weight is tolerable to you (it should be, it is still very small) you get much more light.  It puts out 192 lumens.
  4. Streamlight TLR-3 – this is a weapon light.  This sits on the rail of my Glock handgun.  It will mount on really any gun with a rail.  I have more expensive weapon lights but this one is probably my favorite.  Factoring value and function this light is awesome.  Simple, bright, rugged, durable, you can’t go wrong.  If you own a handgun you need a good weapon light.  Target acquisition and confirmation are essential for defense and safety.  You have to see what you are shooting at.
  5. Foursevens MMR-X – This is more of a full-szed tactical flashlight.  That being said it isn’t terribly big.  It puts out a whopping 800 lumens.  Still light-weight at 5.2 ounces.  It has a lithium-ion battery which gives you great output and it is rechargeable.  It comes with a little USB adapter to charge it.  Tactical bezel for striking and defense in a pinch.  You can wear this on a belt.  It would fit in a pocket but is a bit big for me to use it that way.  I typically throw this in a gear bag.  It can also be mounted on a weapon with an adapter.  Great all around light with multiple uses.
  6. Streamlight Protac – This is a good value flashlight.  Rugged, tactical, bright.  Decent size and weight.  You can get it in AA or AAA.  Both are great.
  7. Blackdiamond Spot – this is my current go to headlight.  This is my main backpacking light.  Headlights cannot be beat in terms of utility and flexibility.  It makes your life so much easier to have your hands free.  Backpacking, I take this and my Foursevens Preon 1 as backup.  Last trip my buddy whipped out his light, while we were pitching our tents in the dark, only to find his batteries dead (seriously man, c’mon!).  Luckily for him (and me) I had my backup and loaned it to him.  I was seriously tempted to tell him tough crap to teach him a lesson (I didn’t!).  BUT the lesson here is often you need to be prepared for other people.  Most people aren’t going to be as well prepared as you.  Sometimes spares and backups are for others!

Wrap up:

There are a lot of great flashlights out there.  The above are some of my favorites.  I have carried all of these lights in different capacities and have put them through their paces.  You may have noticed that I recommended a lot of Streamlight, Foursevens and Fenix.  This is because I think they are right in the sweet spot of quality and value.  I like to buy good quality stuff at the best prices.  Most of us aren’t Navy Seals where a light failure means death.  These guys carry things like Surefire flashlights which tend to push $200-$300.  They are great lights but a bit pricey for most folks.  Some of you may look at the above recommended lights and think “holy cow, even these are expensive!”  (Just remember I didn’t recommend the $300 Surefire!)  Again, you get what you pay for.  I tried to provide you with the best value.  Quality isn’t cheap.  Spend a little more to get a good quality light.  You’ll thank me later!  May your path be iluminated!

Prepper Christmas Gift Ideas

Posted: December 5, 2014 in Gear
Tags: , ,

leatherman waveSo Christmas is around the corner and you’ve still got shopping to do.  Here are some great prepper related ideas for your loved ones.  There is nothing like giving a gift that gives back!

$10 Gift Ideas

  1. Double USB Car Charger – Most USB chargers put out 0.5 Amps.  This puts out 2 Amps per port.  It will charge your phone much faster.  Ditch that piece of junk that you got with your phone and use this.  If you don’t have anything to charge your phone in the car then buy this right this second!  Also nice because it has 2 ports so you can charge your significant other’s phone or tablet as well.
  2. 3.4A USB Wall Charger – wall version of above but even better because it puts out 3.4 Amps.  Again faster charging.  Technically $12.

$20 Gift Ideas

  1. Kershaw OSO Sweet – this knife is Oh So Sweet!  Decent weight.  Great feel.  Sturdy, with a nice blade.  I dare you to find more knife for under $20
  2. Rite in Rain – tactical clicker pen and notebook.  Works in almost any conditions, even wet!  Great for a bug out bag or car kit.
  3. Mechanix Wear Gloves – These are my favorite all-around gloves.  Great fit, great dexterity.  Light weight but rugged enough to save your hands from a lot of abuse.  I wear these for just about everything.  They are in my BOBs, car kits, tactical gun kits, etc.

$25 Gift Ideas

  1. Fenix E12 – this single AA flashlight is small, light and puts out 130 lumens.  It has a nice tactical look and feel.  Great EDC light.
  2. Bestek 150W Inverter – This awesome little inverter plugs into your car’s cigarette lighter and then has a normal AC plug to allow you to run normal household things off your car.  The device needs to draw less than 150W.  It also has 2 USB ports for added versatility.

$35 Gift Idea

  1. Sawyer Water Filter – This water filter is lightweight, easy to use and just plain awesome.  This $35 gem has totally replaced all of my expensive water filtration systems for backpacking.  Great for a bug out bag, car kit, backpacking or for an emergency water filtration backup.

$40 Gift Idea

  1. 5.11 Taclite Pro Pants – I love these pants!  I wear these everywhere, anytime I can.  You’ll never need another pair of pants again.  Light weight water-repellent fabric.  Lots of great pockets.  Lots of color choices.  I really like the Tundra color (kind of an olive-green).  These are a 10/10.  They have also gotten cheaper over time.  I used to gladly pay over $50 for these.  They are under $40 at the time of this writing.  These are truly Hall of Fame pants!

$60 Gift Idea

  1. Spyderco Endura – very similar to my beloved Spyderco Delica but slightly larger and who doesn’t like a bigger blade?  Awesome knife and comes in many great colors.
  2. KA-BAR Marine Knife – this full-sized knife is a beast.  For the times when a folding knife won’t do.  This is a true survival and combat knife.  Been used by the Marines for decades and it is easy to tell why.  Don’t mess with a guy holding one of these.
  3. Sog Flashback – This knife is just plain cool.  It is an assisted opening knife so once you get the blade moving it flings open on its own.  It is the next closest thing to an auto-knife or “switch” blade.  The tanto blade, black titanium nitride finish, and silver metal handle make this knife pretty cool looking as well.  If you need a tacticool knife for someone this is it.  It will be sure to impress.  (I won’t tell you how long I have sat there just flipping this knife open and closed)

$80 Gift Idea

  1. Leatherman Wave – fantastic all-around multi-tool.  Suggested multiple times in other posts.  This list wouldn’t be complete without it.  10/10 tool.

$100 Gift Idea

  1. Kelly Kettle – this little stove is highly efficient for boiling water.  Perfect for freeze-dried meals, sanitation, etc.  It burns just about anything but little twigs, bark, and wood chips are perfect.  Perfect addition to your food storage in case the power is out and you need warm water.  Also great for camping.  All work and no play make Jack really pissy if he doesn’t get his hot chocolate in the morning.

Emergency Car Kit

Posted: December 3, 2014 in Gear
Tags: , ,

Winter is upon us.  This is a great time to build an emergency car kit if you don’t have one.  If you already have one (you get an attaboy!) this is a good time to review and update it.  We spend a lot of time in our cars.  Most of us travel thousands of miles per year.  This is a great place to target some of your preparedness energy!

I would like to relate the tragic story of James Kim and his family.  He was a senior editor for CNET.  I pasted most of the article from Wikipedia to save me the time of rewriting it.

After spending the 2006 Thanksgiving holiday in Seattle, Washington, the Kims (James, Kati, and their two daughters, Penelope and Sabine) set out for their home in San Francisco, California. On Saturday, November 25, 2006, having left Portland, Oregon, on their way to Tu Tu Tun Lodge, a resort located near Gold Beach, Oregon, the Kims missed a turnoff from Interstate 5 to Oregon Route 42, a main route to the Oregon Coast. Instead of returning to the exit, they consulted a highway map and picked a secondary route that skirted the Wild Rogue Wilderness, a remote area of southwestern Oregon.

After encountering heavy snow at high elevation on Bear Camp Road, they turned, by mistake, onto one of hundreds of unpaved logging roads supervised by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). A road gate intended to prevent such mistakes was open despite BLM rules requiring that it be closed. Media outlets reported that vandals had cut a lock on the gate, but a subsequent investigation showed that BLM employees had left it open to avoid trapping local hunters and others who might have ventured past it.

Early on the morning of November 26, the family stopped because of fatigue and bad weather. As more snow fell around their immobilized Saab 9-2X station wagon, the Kims kept warm by running its engine. When the vehicle ran out of fuel, they made a campfire of dried wood and magazines. Later, they burned their car’s tires to signal rescuers. Search efforts began shortly after November 30, when coworkers of Kim filed a missing persons report with the San Francisco Police Department. After investigators learned that the Kims used their credit card at a local restaurant, search and rescue teams, including local and state police, more than 80 civilian volunteers, the Oregon Army National Guard and several helicopters hired by Mr. Kim’s father, Spencer Kim, spent several days looking for the family along area highways and roads, to no avail.

On December 2, James Kim left his family to look for help, wearing tennis shoes, a jacket, and light clothing. He believed the nearest town (Galice) was located four miles away after studying a map with his wife. He promised his wife he would turn back the same day if he failed to find anyone, but he did not return.

On the afternoon of December 4, John Rachor, a local helicopter pilot unaffiliated with any formal search effort, spotted Mrs. Kim and her two daughters walking on a remote road. After he radioed the family’s position to authorities, the three were airlifted out of the area and transferred to a nearby hospital.

On Wednesday, December 6 at 12:03 p.m., Mr. Kim’s body was found in Big Windy Creek.  Lying on his back in one to two feet of icy water, he was fully clothed and had been carrying a backpack which contained his identification documents, among other miscellaneous items. He had walked about 16.2 miles (26 km) from the car to that point, and was only a mile from Black Bar Lodge, which, although closed for the winter, was fully stocked at the time. An autopsy revealed that Kim had died because of hypothermia and that his body had suffered no incapacitating physical injuries. The medical examiner who performed the autopsy guessed that Kim had died roughly two days after leaving the vehicle.

James Kim and Family

There was an excellent 2 hour-long special aired on 20/20 called “The Wrong Turn”.  This tragic story illustrates how easily something like this can happen, to anyone, at anytime.  There are a lot of lessons to be learned from this.  The one thing I want to underscore is the usefulness of a well thought out emergency car kit.

As usual you can buy car kits premade.  This is better than nothing but I would recommend making your own as it will be better and cheaper.  This looks like a decent kit but I don’t have hands on experience with it.  AAA Severe Weather Road Kit

Emergency Car Kit List:

Put this all in a backpack, duffel bag, or Rubbermaid plastic bin and leave it in your car

Jumper cables – longer and bigger is better.  Smaller gauge numbers mean bigger cables = good.  Go with 8 or 6 gauge.  Heavy duty jumper cables.

Wool blanket – wool works even when wet.  A sleeping bag or heavy blanket works here as well.

Heavy Duty Emergency blanket – Not the flimsy foil things.  Get the Grabber Space Blanket.  It will reflect heat.  It is substantial.  Get the orange one to double for signaling.

Extra clothes – have the appropriate warm clothes in general.  We get spoiled with warm cars, warm homes and offices.  Exposure kills.  Have extra (for everyone).

  • Jacket
  • Beanie
  • Work Gloves – I like mechanix wear
  • Shoes/boots
  • Warm gloves

Ice scraper

Extra food – crackers, trail mix, jerky, anything with calories.  I like these Emergency Survival Rations.  They are used in survival rafts.  They are good for at least 5 years regardless of temperature (very good if sitting in your scorching hot car).  They taste like flatbread cookies.

Bottled water – Gatorade and sugared drinks may provide needed calories.

Knife – having a good knife or multi-tool is a huge must for your car.  Check out the All-star knives post

Tools

  • Multi-tool – having a leatherman wave or similar would be a huge addition to any car kit
  • Wrenches
  • Screwdrivers

Flashlight – a headlight comes in very handy if you are attempting any repairs.  Blackdiamond Spot is a great headlight.  Energizer headlight is cheaper and decent.  I would also consider a nice big D-Cell flashlight.  D-Cell Maglight is a great flashlight.  It has a lot of mass and could be used in a defensive role.  It puts out a lot of light.  Put high quality alkaline batteries or even better lithium batteries in your emergency lights.  I like Energizer Lithium batteries and Duracell alkalines.

Spare batteries

Duct tape – do yourself a favor and get gorilla tape it is amazing stuff

Whistle – you will lose your voice quickly when calling for help.  A whistle carries much farther and doesn’t fatigue.

Shovel – useful for digging out of snow if you get stuck

Cat litter (good for traction in snow and ice)

First aid kit

Fire extinguisher

Fire (ability to make it) – lighter, matches, flint

Extra cash

Battery powered radio

Ham radio

Emergency reflectors or flares and bright-colored flag

Tips:

  • Keep your car at least half full of gas
  • Tell people where you are going and how you plan to travel
  • Check weather before travel
  • If stuck make yourself visible
  • In general it is better to stay with the vehicle.  It is your best source of shelter.  This is of course situational.
  • Adjust as appropriate for your environment
  • You can always use your floor mats for traction if you get stuck in snow (place in path of tires)

This list is just a starting point to get you thinking.  There are lots of useful things.  What do you have in your kit?

Baofeng UV5R - Ham Radio

Baofeng UV5R – Ham Radio

In an emergency or survival situation communication is paramount.  The ability to receive critical information cannot be over emphasized.  You need to know what is going on around you.  Cell phones are the most amazing communication tools ever made.  We all have them and carry them all the time.  Most of the time a cell phone will save the day.  If your car breaks down you just call a friend or tow truck.  Presto!  Problem solved.  What did we ever do without them?

The problem is that the cell phone system is fairly fragile.  It doesn’t take much to bring it down.  If you have ever been in the slightest hint of a disaster you know what I mean.  Try to make a phone call, it won’t work.  You will hear “all circuits are busy”.  Remember that texting often works when voice doesn’t.  I have experienced this first hand a couple of times.  Texting is much more reliable and takes far less bandwidth.  Katrina survivors reported that voice didn’t work for days to weeks but they were able to have some communication via texting.  Remember to keep your phone on you and charged.  Have a means to charge it in the car, at home and at work.  A dead phone from too much facebook or farmville is worthless.

You need to have alternate methods of communication.  An old-fashioned landline may work if you have one.  I would recommend a couple very basic alternative means of communication.

#1 – AM/FM radio.  This seems antiquated and cute but it has been a major means of communication for over 100 years.  Your emergency radio should be battery powered.  Chances are you may not have power.  In a disaster, emergency, or zombie apocalypse this will be a major avenue to getting news and information.  This little Sony AM/FM radio is cheap and runs on AAs.  This thing is under $15.  I have one of these in each of our bug out bags.  I have nicer Sangean that is digital (easier to tune) and gets better reception.  It sits in my office.  I have tried a couple of the emergency radios with cranks, solar power, etc.  For the most part they are crap.  I would avoid them.  An NOAA radio is also a very handy thing to have around.  Simply, they broadcast the weather.  The above radio will alarm if severe weather is approaching your area.  This could buy you precious time to take shelter.

#2 – TV.  This one is easy for people to understand.  We watch a lot of TV.  The problem is that if the power is out your gorgeous 70 inch plasma TV isn’t going to work.  Your cable and satellite are likely going to be down as well.  You will need those old fashioned rabbit ears to receive TV over the airways.  (They still broadcast local channels this way!  Who would have thought!)  Lucky for us this is a great resource for emergency communication.  Again your are going to need a TV that runs off of batteries.  This portable TV/DVD is an example.  It has a rechargeable battery.  It can be powered and recharged off a cigarette lighter.  I would get a cheap set of rabbit ears to assist in getting a better signal.  You need to set it up and make sure the the channels are programmed in ahead of time.  This is an important point.  Test your emergency gear ahead of time.  Does it work?  Do you have all the equipment you need?  Batteries, connectors, cables, antennas, etc. There is no substitute for a trial run.

You may have noticed that the above two things are only one-way information.  You can receive but cannnot transmit anything.  Want to be able to send and receive?  Welcome to 2-way radio communication.  There are a couple options.

#3 – Ham Radio, aka amateur radio.  This is what I would recommend for 2-way communication.  It is the most powerful and versatile option.  The drawback?  It requires a license to operate a ham radio.  You have to take a test and apply for the license.  The basic license (technician) only takes about 8 hours to study for.  This hand-held radio (Baofeng UV-5R), pictured above, is an amazing $30.  It is incredibly versatile and powerful.  It can even be used as a police scanner for even more information.  A pair of these are far more powerful than any walkie-talkies from radio shack.  I’ll write another post dedicated to amateur radio in the near future.  You can listen to anything on a Ham radio, you just can’t broadcast without a license.

#4 – CB (citizen band) radio.  This is what truckers use.  It is versatile and fairly powerful, but not to the degree HAM radio is.  It does not require a license.  Anyone can use it which is a pro as well as a con.

Portable radios like a pair of Motorolas would be a lot better than nothing.  In my opinion Ham>>CB>>WalkieTalkies>>NOTHING (those >> mean A LOT BETTER!)

#5 – Police scanner.  There are a lot of scanners out there.  These are useful for gathering information from police, fire and EMT departments.  Again, this is only one-way; you cannot talk to them!  A good trunk scanner is pricey ($200-$300) so I use the above Ham radio (Baofen UV5R) for this.

This is a very superficial introduction to emergency communications.  Make sure you have a battery powered AM/FM radio if nothing else.  I also wanted to introduce Ham radio.  I got into Ham radio solely for emergency preparedness.  It is a fantastic resource.  Many areas have what is called a Ham Cram where you take a day long class and take the test at the end of the day.  The test is not very hard and the pass rates are quite high.  One day and you can get your ham radio license!  And you thought Ham radio was just for old men to use whlie they sit in their basement!

There is a wonderful resource by a guy named Steve Harris.  It is www.radios1234.com.  He has a lot more in depth information there with a lot of product links.  He has multiple podcast episodes that he has done with Jack Spirko of The Survival Podcast.  There are hours and hours of podcasts with amazing information available for free.  He also has a couple other websites that are great as well.  I would encourage you to check them out.