xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' July 2018 ~ The Prepared Guy

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Don't eat your seed corn

As I continue to look to the past to prepare for the future a wise old farmers saying came to my attention.  "Don't eat your seed corn."  This refers to keeping a portion of your crops to plant for the next year.  If you use up everything you produce you are only living in the present and not thinking about the future.  Don't sacrifice what you want now for what you want most.  It can be beneficial and rewarding to feel a little hungry in the short term so that you can benefit much more in the long term.  A small sacrifice now can provide a much larger reward due to patience and diligence in following this truth.  This applies not only to farming but also to finances and virtually every aspect of prepping. 

Those in the financial world would tell you that eating your seed corn means that you are also giving up your future profits, interest, dividends, etc.  A dollar saved can be much more than a dollar earned.  It can be multiples of a dollar.  If you prefer to spend to appease your appetites more than save and be patient then you likely do not understand this concept.  Utilizing your seed corn properly can make you rich while eating your seed corn will most likely ensure that your are always poor.    

If you haven't already come to the realization that eating your seed corn is a big deal with huge consequences you eventually will if you do.     

The most obvious parallel with this concept to prepping is the need to store seeds in order to plant a garden in the future.  If you already have a garden then you should learn how to harvest the seed from a small portion of your crops that you don't eat so that you can plant again next year.  The key word here is "small".  It doesn't take much; you don't have to set aside much this year for it to bring you a bountiful harvest next year.   That is true with more than just gardening.     

Another aspect of this truth applies to building your stockpile of emergency supplies; that you should "never spend your principal."  This financial statement is easily understood as it applies to money.  I encourage everyone to keep a minimum of three month worth of cash, food and other household supplies in their cupboards.  It is easy to see all the "extra" stuff on the shelf and not feel the need to replenish it every time you go to the grocery store.  If you aren't disciplined to follow this principle with your food storage then you may find yourself one day with less ability to hold on during an sustained emergency event.  Use the word "extra" very carefully and purposefully.  The additional 3 months of supplies you what worked hard at accumulating and continue diligently rotating are by no means "extra"; something typically defined as no longer used or needed.  There is no such thing as extra cash, extra food, extra supplies.     

The thought process of those who subscribe to this truism is quite different from the majority of people who spend their future income to live above their means by using debt.  If you can get yourself into the mindset of purposefully saving with an attitude of abundance you will realize, as I have, that you will use your money wisely, that debt is not a tool, and if you can't hold in your hands it you don't own it.    

Monday, July 16, 2018

Just one knife

If you’re following other preppers and prepping sites on social media undoubtedly you have been asked which gun or knife you would choose if you could only choose one, along with which 5 items you would select if you were stranded on a desert island.  As a continuation to my last post about the perfect backpack I wanted to talk about my choice and qualifications for choosing that one perfect knife.

As I mentioned in my last blog post this is somewhat of a ridiculous practice, for the most part.  Tools are usually made for a specific purpose so, to choose one tool for every job is not a good way to work.  There are few situations that would limit you to having only one tool.  It does, however, have some merits for learning and understanding.

If you are a knife guy or gal you know how many different knives are available. There are thousands of knife makers and tens of thousands of knife designs.  There are hundreds of different types of steel available too.  Decisions can be difficult and a lot of time can be spent and wasted.

To help minimize your wasted time,and take advantage of what I have learned I will try to keep this as short and concise as possible for you. And for me too because I just don’t write about enough topics as it is.

The type and quality of steel you select is very important.  The shape, length, and thickness of the blade is very important... depending upon what you want to do with it.  The purpose of this blog post is to determine what kind of knife is the best all around choice for a typical prepper for a “survival” knife.  One that won’t fail you when you need it most

Part of this criteria is that you use the tool correctly and don’t abuse it intentionally.   Keep in mind these statements:

A large knife can do much of what a small knife can but a small knife can not do what a large knife can.  Thus, your orientation should be toward the largest knife possible but not too large that it can not do the work of a small knife.

A large knife can chop but an axe is a much more of an efficient chopper so leave that work for an axe.  But, a large knife CAN chop.  It’s just not always it’s primary purpose, nor do I think it should be.  There are so very many videos on YouTube demonstrating how well a particular knife can chop.  Don’t waste too much time on them.  Knives that are big enough to compete with an axe on chopping are too large to be that one all purpose knife.

A saw is far more efficient than an axe.  So, don’t bother chopping much at all.  Carry a saw appropriate for the work you intend to do.  I always carry a 210mm Silky saw.  I never carry an axe on my go-bag unless I intend to build a structure or split a lot of firewood.   Which is almost never.

You will also find a lot of videos on YouTube about batoning with a knife.  Again, don’t waste too much time on them.  Knives are not meant for splitting wood so avoid it if you can. Bring an axe. In a survival situation it is likely that you won't need to do it.  Use the twigs, branches, and logs you find on the ground.  A large knife is essential though in helping you to process the wood you find into tinder and kindling if it is not easily found and especially if it has been raining and the only wood you can find is wet.  There is no need to waste energy to cut firewood into appropriate sized logs in a survival situation when you could simply put the end of a long log on the fire and move it closer as it burns.  Be smart and efficient and save your energy.

What environment do you find yourself in the most?  This will likely be the question that makes the most difference with your decisions.

I live in a dry climate so I don’t really need to select a stainless type of steel. A high carbon steel is a better choice for a tough blade that is easy to sharpen but holds an edge well, can throw sparks using flint, and is cost conscious.  There are a lot of very good steels available.  My advice is not to get too wrapped up in selecting one.  Each type of steel has its specific traits.  Knife makers select the steel that they prefer for how the blade should be used. So, trust the knife maker with the purpose of how they have designed their knife, how they have shaped and heat treated it.  That said, I will also say; stay away from cheap knives because their decision on selecting the steel is cost and not performance.

Handle material is important as well as the steel you choose. If the knife is not comfortable in your hand it’s not going to fill your needs very well.  Micarta is my favorite.  It is a layered canvas material.  It’s crazy tough and is easy to hold onto when wet or otherwise slippery.   G-10, Kraton, and other polymers can be great too.  It all comes down to what feels good in your hand so hopefully you have a great local knife shop like I do and can go put your sweaty hands on a bunch of knives.  Bladehq.com is where I go as they are local to me.  Again, a quality knife maker will choose the handle material, or scales as they are often called, according to their experience, expertise, and knife design.  

Let’s talk blade thickness for a minute. 1/8”, 3/16” and 1/4” steel thickness is what you will see the most with blade thickness on large knives between .11 to .25 common.  All of these decimal thicknesses are slight variations of these three measurement, give or take.  You can typically do a wider variety of tasks more easily with a thinner steel although you will still need to use it appropriately.  The type of intended use also depends upon the "grind" of the blade.  The type of edge the knife maker has chosen to put on it.  A Scandi grind blade is great for more of the fine woodworking tasks but is not typically strong enough to baton with.  A flat grind is an overall good performing edge for lots of tasks.  A convex grind provides for a more durable edge for chopping but is not good at smaller task.  A hollow grind makes for a very sharp edge but it can be more fragile.  There are many other versions of grinds that a maker will prefer to give their knife for it's intended purpose.    

I have developed some brand loyalties.  Brands that I keep coming back to regardless of how much I research...  Or rather, in spite of or because of how much I research just turns me back to those brands.  One of these brand is ESEE.  Randall Adventure Training.  Knives made by Rowen; 1095 steel and Micarta “scales” as they are referred to, have become my favorite for all of the reasons I have already listed.  These are not flashy knives but are practical and functional with a lifetime unconditional warranty made for hard use.  But just like any tool if you use it for other than it’s intended purpose you could break or damage it.

So, if I were to choose just one knife, and I have made that choice, I would, and have chosen the ESEE 5.  Allow me to elaborate.   The ESEE 5 is a 5” long, 1/4” thick beast of a knife.  Yes a longer knife would chop better but that’s not what I use it for most.  Yes a thinner knife would process fish and carve wood shaving better, but that is not what I use it for the most.  It has been said that you should bring the most gun you can to a gun fight.  I follow a similar practice with choosing a knife.  Bring the most (not necessarily the biggest) knife you can to your survival situation.  

Some may say that because the ESEE 5 is good at most everything that it doesn't do anything in particular very well.  It's not really big but it's not that small either.  It's really thick so it can hold up to some serious batoning but it's too thick to clean a fish without some difficulty and if it's not really sharp.  It has a partial flat grind called a saber grind which provides some of the benefits of a Scandi grind and some of the benefits of a full flat grind.  So that would mean that it can't do what either of these grinds can do particularly well.  These are all reasons why this knife works best for me.  It can do most everything which is what I need from a one tool solution.  The ESEE 5 was also designed with the urban environment in mind as it comes with a glass breaker at the end of the handle.  A thick knife can also be used for some prying or demoing if necessary to assist with entering or exiting a building.  With shelter being the #1 consideration in a survival situation this is a tool that will do better than other survival knives in an urban environment.  Because I find myself in urban and suburban areas far more often than the wilderness that makes this knife a smarter option for me.

To summarize:  A saw is more efficient than an axe at cutting down logs to size.  An axe is far more efficient than a large knife at chopping or splitting but it is heavy.  A large knife can do all of these tasks just not particularly well comparatively.  However, all of these tasks may not be necessary in a survival situation.  Traveling light and fast is a high priority to me.  So I carry a small saw and a large knife but not an axe.  Thus selecting the right large knife for me was and is my #1 priority.  If there was only one thing I could grab in a survival situation, in addition to the EDC items I always have on me, it would be this large knife.  As I learn and experience more I just may change my priorities and opinions.  I would love to hear about your opinion and experience on this topic.        

Sunday, July 8, 2018

The perfect backpack

Previously, even recently, I had come to the conclusion that the perfect backpack, bug-out-bag, go-bag, whatever you wanna call it did not exist.  I had been searching my entire adult life for it.  I had come to the conclusion that it could not be designed nor made.  This has been one of the many "problems" that I have attempted to solve as a prepared guy.  I had realized that my approach and my needs changed over the years.  My way of thinking, my objectives and method of accomplishing tasks changed regularly as my knowledge and experience grew.  I got to the point where I felt that the perfect backpack could not exist.  However, the outcome of attempting to solve this seemingly impossible problem was enlightenment.  

In this long process the one main thing I have learned, that I feel should be sought after by anyone with a preparedness mindset, is to simplify and minimize.  This applies to many aspects of prepping and not just packs.  Complex backpacks with specifically designed compartments and pouches, and complicated designs intended to provide superior ergonomics, ease of access, and a more attractive product just provide for fragility and less usability instead of the opposite. 

Things that are simple are typically robust and durable, which makes them reliable.  A bag simplistic in design with minimal features adds to it's reliability.  Those are very desirable traits in a bag that you depend upon not failing in the toughest of circumstances.  When it comes down to it that is what you really need out of a backpack; for it not to fail when you need it the most.  All of this then means that said backpack, or any other product that meets these same standards, will have a long usable lifespan which then creates a superior value.  Also, if you are capable of making your own repairs to the pack, especially while on the trail, oh how much better off you'll be.  

I have also discovered that simplicity and minimalism in design, especially as it applies to a back pack, means that it is far more versatile and will fill more roles than just a bug-out bag, or an overnight pack, etc.  While a specifically designed backpack meant for an ultra-light weight week long backpacking trip has it's specific use it would not fill many other uses very well.  This type of problem is a continual struggle with the decision making process.  Does the ultra-light weight fabric provide you with the reliability and durability that you need in other situations?  Does this compromise make sense to you or does it make sense to have multiple options?  Do multiple options bring fragility or complexity into your particular equation?  Just a few questions to think about. 

If you have undertaken this process with other aspects of prepping such as the process of selecting only one knife (I'll address this in a future blog post) or only one gun for every conceivable task you already realize how difficult that decision is.  Some of you will say that this process is ridiculous.  Why would anyone be limited to choosing only one knife or gun or backpack?  Tools are made for specific uses.  Knives, guns, and backpacks are tools and thus are designed to meet particular needs; to excel at performing specific tasks.  This complexity can make the decision making process more difficult, more time consuming, and complicated. 

Let me assure you that this somewhat ridiculous process has it's merits.  I am very glad that I do not have to choose only one knife or rifle for that matter for any particular task at this moment.  I can not, however, carry every tool with me that I might need in an emergency situation.  Weight is the problem.  Those of you with a 50+ lb bug-out bag had better have a solid plan in place to get to your bug-out location or that weight will be the death of you.

After many years of contemplation, evaluation, and experimentation the light finally went on for me. This is the bag that I have designed that fills my requirements for that one pack for every task.  This is the perfect backpack.  I don't want to take full credit for it as it is based upon my very first internal frame pack.  It was made by a local company in the mid '80's.  They are still in business and make these packs for me now.  I still have that backpack today and it still has no issues.  No busted seams, no worn out zippers, no torn straps but I have replaced one buckle.

This pack is basically the same design as my first internal frame pack but with a few tweaks.  Simplicity and durability are it's strengths.  The main pocket is one big sleeve, like many other packs.  This sleeve is extendable to add more gear as needed.  There is only one zipper on the top pocket which is also the cover for the sleeve.  The pack is made from 1000d Cordura.  This is a urethane coated nylon fabric.  It is incredibly abrasion resistant, highly water and UV resistant.  There is a simple waist strap and a sheet of  rigid plastic provides stiffness to the back.  The shoulder straps are padded and a sternum strap helps to keep them in place.  There are straps on the sides where a sleeping pad or tent can be carried as well as pockets to keep smaller items such as a saw in place.

Cordura is far more durable and tear resistant than canvas, it is mold and mildew resistant and does not need any fabric treatments.  Cordura is the perfect material for this use! 

Loops at the bottom of the pack allow for carrying other items such as an axe and there are tabs on the top pocket as well as the bottom to attached other items such as a blanket or tarp.       

Since this pack only has one pocket in addition to the sleeve I have made color coded bags that fit nicely in the main sleeve to quickly identify and access my different kits.  The blue bag is my water kit, the red is my fire kit, orange is for first aid, the green is my fishing kit, and black is for other miscellaneous items.  

As you see it above this is the standard configuration of my go-bag.  Everything I need, that fills the requirement of "one" tool for everything, the single best options for all of my emergency needs, I carry in this bag.  I take this bag with my everywhere I go.  I will list everything in my bag below.  The purpose of this setup is to help get me home quickly if I should be stranded away from home.  My work can take me up to 300 miles away from home.  My plan is to travel light and quickly with the tools I need to provide for the survival rules of 3.  Shelter, water, food, safety, and first aid, in that order.  I have intentionally kept this to under 20 lbs without water.  For me. 20 lbs is hardly noticeable on my back and I can go all day with it.  In an "I need to get-home quickly" situation there are items that I would add to the pack from my stranded vehicle.  These items all compliment my EDC items and supplement what I always carry in this pack that I may need for the season, the distance, or the situation.  I may add a wool blanket, additional rations, and a solar panel.  

Although I have made accommodations for bushcrafters to carry an axe and a large saw I do not consider these necessary for my get-home scenario.  If you intend to spend an extended amount of time in the woods these are essential tools.

I have these bags available in two colors.  Brown and Gray.  Gray for the urban gray man or a more tactical approach and brown for the bushcrafter or those who may spend more time in the mountain with it.   

The simplistic construction is low tech for durability and versatility.  This pack is made in Utah and the majority of the components, including the Cordura fabric is made in the USA.  As you already know I could have the pack make overseas for far less cost.  But that defeats the true purpose of this pack.  As a prepper and co-host of Prepper Talk Radio we discuss self-reliance almost every week.  Becoming self-reliant does not mean doing everything yourself.  It incorporates using all of your local resources and not putting your trust or relying on the fragility of the "system" that we are compelled to live within.  Breaking that system down takes us putting our money where our mouth is and supporting local businesses whenever and as much as possible.  

Bag contents: Water kit contains a Sawyer mini water filter and two 32 oz. water bags, potable aqua tablets, and coffee filters.  Fire kit contains flint, steel, and char cloth, Bic lighter, large ferro rod and striker, various fire starter. Fishing kit contains a Cabuya hand line, flies, lures, hooks, bubbles, leader, etc. First aid kit contains an Israeli bandage, trauma dressing, roller gauze, RATS tourniquet, Survival Medical Back country FAK.  Miscellaneous bag contains, 100' cordage, signal mirror, bandanna, duct tape, sewing kit, Mylar blanket.  The red stuff sack contains a goretex jacket.  Aluminum cup with lid. Firebox Nano stove.  Shemagh.  Land Shark survival bag.  Emergency rations for 3 days. Maxpedition EDC pouch with write in the rain paper, space pen, ESEE survival cards, round - diamond sharpening stone, compass, whistle.   ESEE 5 and ESEE 3hm knives (watch for my next blog post specifically about the ESEE 5 - The perfect knife).  Silky saw - 210 mm.  50 rounds of 9mm ammo. Tops Sling shot.  Home made shepherds sling.     

When I say this is the perfect backpack what I truly mean is that it is the most versatile, most durable, and best value pack I can possible envision at this point.  Perfection is found in simplicity.  I fully expect that this will be the last backpack I own and will use it for every purpose because it is versatile enough... except for maybe those ultra-light week long backpacking trips. 

I have made arrangement with this local company to make more of these.  I still have a few of them as I had several made.  I also had some additional pouches made in 5 different colors.  Instead of building pockets into the pack I prefer to use different size bags like these to keep my kits organized and for quick and easy access.  If you would like one you can connect with me on Facebook or send me an email at thepreparedguy@gmail.com 

The purpose of this site is to provide you with information about what I have learned, my experience, and what my motivations are as a Prepared Guy. I have always felt driven to be ready for any situation by something powerful deep inside me. Being prepared has always served me well. I feel compelled to help others do the same.
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