Category Archives: Survival Skills

Navigational Methods In An Emergency

Using Technology and Old School Navigational Methods in an Emergency

Finding our way from point A to B is something we now mostly take for granted. Navigational skills and technology can come in handy whether it’s using a satellite navigation system or using the night sky to find your way home.

In-car navigational tools

Satellite navigation systems- or sat nav- have been used by the public since 1983 although GPS was first used by the military during the 1960s. Our sat nav systems today use around 30 satellites to provide world-wide GPS ensuring that we should never become lost again. Many vehicles come with this little mapping system but the devices themselves are relatively inexpensive to buy. Maps of countries around the world can be downloaded via computer and these are essential if you’re looking to get somewhere, whether during an emergency or not.

photo credit: tj.blackwell via photopin cc

Navigational systems without the internet

The question of what would happen to our vehicle sat nav systems if the internet went down is one that many people consider. Many of our satellite navigational systems such as those in our vehicles would still run the maps if they are already downloaded. There are specific sat nav applications that can run maps without the use of data traffic, whereas assisted GPS such as those used on an iPad to triangulate position will need a Wi-Fi signal. However, car batteries do run down and if the electric grid was to go down it may be a case of returning to tried and tested navigational methods.

Old school navigational skills

Most of us over a certain age are familiar with the compass pointing north and a paper map technique. If these tools aren’t to handy then it could be a case of using the North Star to navigate and keep on course. First you would need to identify the ‘Plough’, which is a group of easily identifiable seven stars. From there you would identify the two ‘pointer stars’ – the North Star will be five times the same distance from the pointer star. It will take only a short amount of practice to identify the Plough and it’s relation to the North Star but once you recognise this you should be able to always find your True North.

Hopefully you will never have to rely on old school navigational methods but these are excellent skills to learn. Try some star-gazing and work out exactly where the North Star is; it’s an easy to learn skill that could indeed prove very useful.

Making Ammunition for Emergency Preparedness

Emergency preparedness is on a lot of people’s minds. With the state of the economy, and the days where the news makes it sound like the country is about to explode into civil unrest, it’s really no wonder.

Some people think that it’s all a lot of hoopla, with no real threat behind it, but when you consider that any sort of disruption in any of the big cities (where problems generally occur) would more than likely affect our financial system, our food chain, or our gas and oil supply. Any one of these being stopped or delayed could make life difficult very quickly, so being prepared is important.

When you’re trying to prepare your home and family for whatever comes, there is a lot that you need to consider. Having a backup water supply is one of the most important, followed by making sure you have emergency food on hand that has a long shelf life. But have you considered your ammunition stores? You probably have, but with the ammunition shortages that this country is experiencing right now there is a good chance that you aren’t satisfied with the supply that you currently have.

Picture Credit:

If you are good at building things, and are willing to learn a new and relatively easy skill, then you can put yourself ahead of the crowd by making your own ammunition. Most people think that making ammunition would be far too expensive or complicated to make it worth it, but this is far from the truth.

While the cost of buying the raw materials for making ammunition has risen a bit due to the economy and the effect of supply and demand, you will still see huge savings over buying ammunition pre-made.

Making ammunition is definitely a skill, and so you need to be prepared for the learning curve that comes with it. You have to learn how to be precise. But that being said, there really aren’t many steps to the process.

First you need the casings – you can buy them new, obviously, but many people also reclaim all the casings they can from their target practice and reuse them. If you wash used casings and ensure they aren’t damaged, there is no reason why you can’t save even more money by repacking them.

After you place a new primer in the cartridge, you put in the right amount of gunpowder, and then the projectile – which is the bullet itself. Obviously the type of ammunition that you are making will have an effect on what materials you need, and how much gunpowder is used, but this is something that you will have to determine once you know what caliber you need.

One nice thing about making your own ammo is that once you have the method down, you can make it faster and faster. In the beginning you may only have a handful to show for an hour’s worth of work, but some people get to the point where they can make up to 300 in an hour. That’s a lot of ammo!

Also, keep in mind that the tools that you need for making your own ammunition are not terribly expensive. A few hundred dollars should set you up with everything you need, plus the raw materials.

If you’re so inclined, you can even make your own bullets, although this is a different skill and requires an entire new set of tools and supplies.

The bottom line is that making your own ammunition is a feasible and cost-effective way to prepare for an emergency. Knowing that you have what you need to protect your home or feed your family is invaluable, and something that cannot be taken away from you, no matter what comes to pass.

About The Author – Lee Flynn is a freelance writer and expert in emergency food preparedness and food storage.

If All Else Fails, A Hillbilly Winch Prevails!

There was recently an episode of the TV show, Hillbilly Blood where the two men, Eugene and Spencer, featured on the show used a tree as a makeshift winch. The basic concept of the tree powered winch is that the weight of a falling tree can create enough energy to move a heavy or stuck item when a cable is attached towards the top of the falling tree and the item to be moved.

There are many potential situations where a makeshift solution can be the only option. If there were ever to be a catastrophic event such as an EMP, if a task needs to be accomplished without making an equipment purchase, or even if you do not have the equipment, the hillbilly tree winch could be your solution! The basic concept of the hillbilly winch can be seen in the illustration below:


The video below shows a brief synopsis of Spencer and Eugene actually using the hillbilly winch to recover a Willys Jeep from a deep rut in the ground. Notice the use of cable as the line for the winch and the fact that an old tire is used as a connection buffer between the Jeep’s bumper and the winch line.

If you are interested in learning more about hillbilly know-how, check out Land Of The Sky Wilderness  School (Spencer Bolejack’s Website) or Trapper Jack Survival (Eugene Runkis’ YouTube Channel).

Hillbilly Blood airs every Saturday on Destination America at 10PM EST/9PM CST.

Book Review – Getting Home by Alex Smith

Getting HomeIf disaster strikes, will you be home? Will you be at work, school, or at the store? Is it possible that you or someone you care for will face the daunting task of trying to get home during the most perilous times possible? How would you get home and what would you take with you?

The new book Getting Home by Alex Smith is a great guide for the person seeking to learn more about traveling after a disaster/during times of chaos or someone trying to refresh their knowledge. It is not marketed as a guide for the experienced prepper, but I would go so far as saying that there might be some longtime prepper’s that have a solid grasp in many areas but could benefit from this book. While Getting Home is not only straightforward and easy to read, it is 136 pages of preparedness knowledge about:

  1. Every-Day Carry (EDC)The items on you…all day, every day.
  2. the Purse/Man-Purse/Daypack (DP)The next step after your EDC items.
  3. In Your OfficeItems to keep on hand in the workplace.
  4. In Your VehicleGear to keep in the car to assist in getting home.
  5. the Get Home Bag (GHB)A bag full of goodies to help you stay alive when it all goes south!
  6. CachesExtend your capabilities by stashing additional supplies along your route.
  7. Getting HomeTips and tricks for different environments and situations.

This collection of preparedness knowledge cannot possibly be summarized into the seven categories above though. There are numerous pieces of information spread throughout the pages of Coming Home that not only demonstrate the knowledge and equipment necessary to get home alive and safe, but also will assist the reader in achieving peak performance for survival. A sample of Alex’s writing in Coming Home is below:

The following excerpt is from Getting Home by Alex Smith,

Chapter 6:  the Get Home Bag (GHB)

* Selecting a GHB *

Much like your DP, your GHB should stand out as little as possible, but let’s face it – you are going to stand out with a ruck on your back.  However, try to minimize your visibility as much as possible by:

  • Avoid tactical bags (MOLLE, military surplus, etc.).
  • Avoid camouflage patterns.
  • No military/survival/firearms patches on your GHB.

Instead, opt for a pack that a hiker might wear.  Select from quality, brand-name bags with earth tones.  Remember it must be relatively comfortable when loaded, and you must be capable of carrying the load.

Before you choose your GHB, consider the following:

  • How long will it take you to get home?  How many miles are you from home?  How many miles can you hike (because you will basically be hiking with a pack) in a day?  Remember, walking is not hiking; hiking (walking with a loaded pack) works different muscles and will exhaust you much quicker.  Your physical condition will dictate how far you can hike; some may be able to only hike 5 miles, while others might be able to hike 30.  Terrain will affect your progress as well.  Divide your miles/day into the total distance from home and you will know approximately how long it may take you to get home.  The following is a very rough guideline with regards to pack capacity (Note – CI = Cubic Inches / L = Liters):
    • Trip Length = < 2 Days:  Pack Capacity = < 3,000 CI (50 L)
    • Trip Length = 3 Days:  Pack Capacity = < 3,600 CI (60 L)
    • Trip Length = 4 – 5 Days:  Pack Capacity = < 4,900 CI (80 L)
    • Trip Length = > 5 Days:  Pack Capacity = > 4,900 CI (80 L)
  • Will you pack light or pack heavy?  Does your physical condition and preferred level of preparedness require you carry a lot or very little?  What use is a large pack if you are unable to carry more than what a small pack can carry?  Opt for the smaller pack and save several pounds in pack weight.
  • What is your body type?  By body type, we mean torso height, since that is what the GHB will interface with.  Measure your torso and determine what pack size will be most comfortable for you (requires help):
    • Locate your C7 vertebra (the bony protrusion at the top of your back when you lean your head forward).
    • Locate your iliac crest (the pelvic “shelf”):  Have your friend run their hands down your side until they feel your hip bone.
    •  Have them place their hands on top of the hip bone with thumbs pointing inward.
    • Measure from C7 to the point that your friend’s thumbs “point” to.

Now that you know your torso length, the following are some guidelines for your body type:

  • Torso Length < 15.5”:  Extra Small Pack
  • Torso Length 16” – 17.5”:  Small Pack
  • Torso Length 18” – 19.5”:  Medium Pack
  • Torso Length > 19.5”:  Large Pack
  • Gender?  Take a long look in the mirror and determine what gender you are.  Many brands offer packs that are designed specifically to fit the contours of the female body.
  • Climate:  The colder your climate, the larger the pack you will need.  Cold weather sleeping gear and clothing take up much more space.

Now that you have an idea of what to look for in pack size, let’s examine several options you have to improve fit and make the pack more comfortable:

  • Load-lifter Straps:  Found at the top of the shoulder straps, load-lifter straps prevent the pack from pulling away from your body, disrupting your balance.  When pulled snug, they should form a 45 degree angle with your shoulder straps and the pack itself.  The heavier your load, the more important load-lifter straps are.
  • Sternum Straps:  The strap across your chest.  Improves stability and balance.
  • Hip Belt:  The strap across your hips.  Improves stability and balance.
  • Pack Frames:  Internal (usually lacks ventilation), External (often heavier) and Perimeter (a hybrid that strives to combine the benefits of internal and external) Frames are all designed to direct pack weight towards your hips – one of the body’s largest bone structures supported by some of the body’s largest muscle groups (the upper legs).  Hikers and adventurers have debated which frame system is superior, but there is no clear winner.  Choose based on what “feels” better to you.  The heavier your pack, the more important it is to have a frame.
  • Pockets/Panels/Compartments/Attachment Points:  To easily access your gear, you will need a pack with a variety of storage compartments and attachment options.  Imagine choosing an old military-style duffel bag as your GHB and needing a pair of socks located in the bottom.  You will have to remove everything from your GHB to get those socks.
  • Ventilation:  Very important in hot humid climates, especially if an internal-frame pack is chosen.  In such a scenario, your GHB needs a ventilation system to prevent your back from getting drenched in sweat.
  • Hydration:  Most packs allow you the option of inserting a reservoir (such as a Camelbak).  Water is very heavy, but if you live in an arid climate with little access to surface water, you may be forced to carry much of the water you will need for your trip.
  • Padding:  Padding is important, especially if your pack is heavy.  Ensure the padding on your hip belt and lumbar pad is sufficient for your needs.
  • Durability:  Your pack could be the most important component of your GHB; buy a quality pack from a respected brand.  Be careful if you decide to purchase an ultralight pack.  Ultralight packs utilize lighter materials that are often not as durable.  Some brands to consider include:  Osprey, the North Face, Black Diamond, Kelty and Gregory.

Now that you have an idea of what to look for in a pack, let’s transform that pack into a GHB.

Armed with this introduction, would you consider the basic knowledge to get back home safely after a disaster worth $1.00? I would! Alex let me know that the current price of $0.99 will be good for the rest of the week and then next week the price will likely go up to $5! If e-readers or technology are not your preferred reading method, Alex also let me know that a paperback should be released within a few days. I would emphatically recommend this book to anyone that believes that it is possible that there will be any natural or other disasters in the future of the world.

Don’t let a dollar stand between you and the safety you will find at home…get your copy of Getting Home (making it back to your family after disaster strikes) now!

Get Skilled in 2013!

Well folks! I have decided that the time has come to determine what I am going to do with my life next year. Just to clear the air, I am not changing jobs or moving to another country, becoming a member of a dance company, or even purchasing a new car. I have joined the radical movement at 13Skills. Huh? What is this? Some sort of extremist group?

logo-0Well, I was blown away to see that such a group coming together and YES, the community is extreme. The 13Skills website is home to the 13 in 13 Challenge, a movement created and sponsored by The Survival Podcast which encourages individuals to develop new skills or improve upon existing skills in an effort revive and conserve the abilities of humans everywhere. There is not a limit to what skills can be learned and the number of skills to be worked on can be as few or as plentiful as one is willing to try to conquer. The premise behind the 13 in 13 Challenge though is to focus on thirteen skills in the year 2013.

So what makes 13Skills an extremist group? There are a number of things that I think the average person would find extreme. No one there cares about whether I am male or female. When I set up my user account I did not get asked if I was a Christian or a Muslim or what the color of my skin is. The entire site is designed to not only be family friendly but families are encouraged to improve their skills together. I am confident as you read this that the image coming together in your head is helping you to understand how extreme and outlandish such an idea is. What has the world come to that there is a place where people can be accepted for who they are and encouraged to better themselves, their family and the world around them?

I’ll tell you what this whole mess is about. Point blank, the 13 in 13 Challenge is about the fact that we all have things that we can learn or do better and now is the time to take on this challenge. We have US Olympic team uniforms this year that were made in China for crying out loud! This is the greatest country there ever was and we can keep it that way but it will have to be through intentional effort and is one of the ways that those efforts will be accomplished.

Hop on over to 13Skills and check out The Prepared Ninja member profile. The thirteen skills that I have selected to either learn or make significant improvements on in the new year include:

1. Building A Solar Oven

2. Business Management

3. Fitness

4. Marksmanship

5. Hunting

6. Writing

7. Beer Making

8. Food Storage

9. Family Fun

10. Curing/Smoking Meats

11. Container/Portable Gardening

12. Geocaching

13. Organizational Skills

Of these skills, the two that will be my primary focus will be fitness and organizational skills. This was a difficult decision for me to make because I feel that all of these skills are areas that I need to work on. The reason that I selected fitness is because I have let myself fall into a much poorer standard of health than I used to maintain. Without my health, all the skills in the world will not mean anything to me or my family. I will not have to recreate the wheel in this case but I will be making a significant effort to remained focused on continued and improved fitness throughout 2013. Organizational skills are important to integrate into my life because while I might not qualify to be on an episode of Hoarders, I can certainly stand to learn a great deal about getting organized. There are many things that I have held onto over the years that I do not need and then for future purchases I can focus on obtaining things that can serve multiple purposes. One example I can think of is instead of buying a guitar tuner that is going to cost money, take up space, and consume batteries, why not download a guitar tuning application on my iPhone that will accomplish the same purpose?

When I stop and think about these goals and what I will have to do to accomplish them, it basically equates to just less than one month to learn or improve on each skill. That is not unreasonable or difficult to accomplish at all, especially with a concentrated effort. Completing the thirteen skill goals that I have set for myself will not only make me a better prepper but will also improve my quality of life, bring my family closer together, and likely equate to a sizable financial savings over the course of my life.

One of the arguments that I have heard people make about setting a goal online is a lack of accountability built-in to the system. This group of individuals typically feel that without someone/something checking up on them to make sure that they are on track and meeting their goals, they will fail. There are a couple of ways that I could think of to make sure that accountability is maintained if you struggle to motivate yourself.

1. Start/Join A Meetup Group – There a thousands of different Meetup groups online that are in just about every community and meet for just about every different thing any person could imagine. Some of these Meetup groups are survival or preparedness focused groups. Joining or starting such a group could facilitate a way to be accountable to one another in learning new skills.

2. Get A Sponsor – No, not a 12 step program type of sponsor but the idea is kind of the same. Find a friend that is interested in the same type of skills that you are and make the commitment to tackle learning these skills together.

3. Add reminders to your online calendar, smart phone, or paper planner. – Set periodic reminders throughout the month or year to help keep you on track in meeting your goals.

4. Take A Class – Go to the local college and take a class to help you learn the skill you desire to master. Most colleges have lifelong learner programs that allow anyone to take individual classes. Besides, it is a lot easier to be accountable to learning your new skill if you are being graded on it!

5. Use The Forum – Since 13Skills is sponsored by The Survival Podcast (TSP), the forum at TSP is being utilized by members of the 13 in 13 Challenge to discuss their goals, progress, and whatever else comes to mind. This resource can not only be used to help stay accountable but also probably get some useful information in learning and perfecting the new skills that people have chosen to pursue in 2013.

The chance to become a member at 13Skills was not just about networking within the prepper community but creating a legacy. Our nation as a whole has slipped in our ability to do things for ourselves. My parents taught me how to do things like fix a sink or sew on a missing button but over the course of the last few generations in America, skills have begun to perish. The chance to learn new skills will allow me to not only pass on the skills I already know to my children but to add to the set of skills that they can pass on to their children.