Welcome back to the Internet’s best independent Collapsitarian blog! Many of you might have wondered how I fared during the 54 most grueling hours of this past weekend’s Mid-Atlantic power outage (aka “Derechomaggedon”). Well, it was simultaneously the most boring and the most thrilling weekend of my life. Lest I bore you with the tedious details, let it suffice for me to say that us preppers did OK. The 100+ degree heat wave we had been under for a week added a twist but if you stay smart and move slowly, nothing about a post-storm power outage should phase you. Remember the three basic rules: water, light, and heat and you’ll be fine.
Since it’s time for another “Gear Geek” installment, let me add a few other fun toys to those three basic necessities.
Let’s get to the stuff, shall we?
Flashlights are undoubtedly the #1 most valuable tool in your prepper kit when the lights go out. Yeah, you need candles and oil lamps too. But you don’t always want to be carrying around a lit flame do you? I was a long-time Maglite fan all through the 80’s and 90’s. And then LED technology came along and changed the flashlight game forever. Brighter, more efficient, and more rugged; today’s compact LED flashlights throw over twice the amount of light of those old D-cell powered Maglites (it’s a “brighter” whiter light too) and still fit in your pocket. Best part? They’re cheaper too. I like Streamlight’s entire lineup but the Polytac might be their best deal. Where else can you get a three hour 130 lumen flashlight for under $40?
So how do you keep up on what’s happening during a power outage (or coronal mass ejection, civil unrest, iPhone5 release, or any other kind of large scale “inconvenience”)? You might have a phone for a while (we didn’t), you might even be able to get on the internet with a laptop (we couldn’t). Without “modern technology” most folks will be forced to revert back to old faithful: the radio. Batteries suck. Let’s just get that out there. Unless you’ve already stashed hideously expensive rechargeables and a solar charger, you’re stuck with what you bought. That might get you through a day or two of constant broadcasts. Why not just get a radio that makes its own juice? OK, so you have to do some of the work but come on! What else do you have to do? Like Gilligan peddling the Professor’s generator-bike on his island, you can stay busy cranking these radios for days. I have several. The one pictured has a built-in solar panel for when you need to take a break from the Gilligan act.
Of course, once the radio reports advisories to “boil drinking water” (right around the 36 hour mark), you’ll probably get out your Berkey and start filtering tap water just to be safe. Wait. You do have a Berkey, don’t you? Oh, so maybe you’re thinking you’ll just fire up the grill and boil some water that way. If heat to boil water is in our top three essentials, let’s get serious and make sure we have at least three ways to do it. Sure, the grill is fine but don’t you think that precious fuel (propane or charcoal) would be better spent grilling all the meat in your freezer that’s about to go bad? A solar oven is neat to have around (its 100% “free” and will never run out of fuel) and we love ours but let’s pretend it’s windy and rainy outside and you want to stay dry and comfy indoors. That’s when a single-burner cook stove might save your life. Yes, I understand that these can be dangerous indoors but, if you get one like mine, you’ll discover it was actually designed for indoor use. Crack a window if it makes you feel better – this thing will boil a pot of water faster than you can say “What’s that smell?” $30 for the stove and another $30 for a case of butane fuel cans will make life a WHOLE LOT more comfortable for you and your family in an emergency. Trust me.
Let’s change gears slightly and focus on a topic near and dear, not just to preppers, but to any ordinary average guy: blades. You can never have too many. Let’s stick with the prepper’s Rule of Three and identify three basic blades for your kit.
An “everyday carry” folding blade knife is a must-have for any grown man. I have a dozen or so but my Columbia River Knife & Tool “Kasper” is easily my favorite. Yes, it’s big for a “pocket knife” but better to have too much than not enough. I feel confident that I can do just about anything with this blade: skin an animal, build a shelter, slice lots of, well…stuff, and, yes, even defend myself. You’ll flip when you see how inexpensive this model is. There’s simply no excuse to go without, today or after the Collapse.
There are some chores only a fixed blade knife can accomplish. Rather than split hairs over which knife can do which task, let’s just allow ourselves the comfort of both, OK? I love Glock’s amazing handguns so it’s a no-brainer for me to own a Glock tactical knife. Cheap, sharp as hell, and likely to outlast every cockroach on the planet, the Glock 78 is perfect for this prepper.
Mine stays permanently attached to my duty belt.
What’s left? Katana? Broadsword*? Cutlass? Scimitar? Battle Axe?
Those are all great choices, but how about a good old limb-lopping machete? Here’s where going cheap is actually a smart move. The cheaper machetes tend to be the best ones. If you can find the ones like they make in the Philippines or the Amazon River basin out of leaf springs yanked off of old trucks, get a case of them. The rest of us might have to settle for something more mundane like the Gerber Gator. Relax, it’s almost as cheap as those third world weed whackers but has better ergonomics. Warning: machetes only work if they are sharp. Of course, they are only really deadly weapons when in that condition as well. So do this: get a bastard file and/or a blade sharpening stone. Get used to sharpening your machete before and after every time you use it. Nothing is more dangerous than a dull machete.
For the rest of your blades (including that kitchen drawer full of steak and Chef’s knives), get a diamond whetstone and learn how to use it. All the fanciest knives in the world are worthless if you can’t sharpen them correctly.
Finally, where would prepping be as a subculture without the ubiquitous and oh-so-handy ammo can? Chances are you already have a few of these lying around. Maybe they’re even serving their intended purpose as storage units for your thousands of rounds of battle rifle ammo. But these lowly sealed steel containers are so much more than just bullet boxes. You can use them to store sensitive electronics (yes, they are EMP-proof), heirloom seeds in a “seed bank” (100% airtight if the gasket is sound), or just “stuff”. I’ve seen these ammo cans used as tool boxes, spare parts kits, lunchboxes, fireworks “vaults”, you name it. As far as “passive” gear goes, it would be hard to find anything more purely utilitarian than the good old US military surplus ammo can. Buy yourself a few today and celebrate our country’s independence!
*(that was for you MJ)