Archive for the 'Survival' Category



26 Miles Through The Snow In The Grand Canyon And Almost Dead

BY Herschel Smith
2 months, 4 weeks ago

LA Times:

The snow was at least 3 feet deep and still falling when Tracy Glover and two other men came upon the fee booth at the North Rim entrance of the Grand Canyon.

The door to the booth was always unlocked, according to Glover, the Kane County, Utah, sheriff. Inside were sleeping bags, food, water, matches — items that Karen Klein could have used on this particular Christmas Eve as she and her family found themselves stranded in a remote region of the National Park near the Arizona-Utah border. It was an oasis of warmth within a freezing forest.

“I thought she might’ve made it there,” Glover said.

But after walking 26 miles, dragging a bad left leg with no shoe through the snow, Klein had found another shelter instead — a cabin nestled in the trees about 100 yards away with no power and just a few blankets. She had to break a window to gain entry.

About 5 hours after entering the park, Glover reached the cabin. When he found Klein, she had stripped off her wet beanie and outer layers of clothing and was lying on the bed. She was exhausted. Dehydrated. She had been hallucinating. Frostbite had gotten to her toes and fingers. Glover said they quickly built a fire in the cabin and called a dispatcher to relay the message to her husband and son, who had been rescued hours earlier: Karen Klein was alive.

Klein, 46, of Easton, Pa., was on vacation in Las Vegas with her husband and 10-year-old son when they decided to hit Bryce Canyon and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon on Christmas week. But on the drive to the North Rim, their GPS alerted them to the closure of Arizona Highway 67.

It diverted them onto a Forest Service road that is mostly gravel. The car eventually got stuck. Worry settled in.

With no cellphone service and Eric Klein recently recovering from a back injury, Karen Klein, a triathlete, decided to hike for help as snow kept falling. She ended up traversing 26 miles over the course of about 36 hours before Glover found her in the small cabin.

She told “Good Morning America” that as she hiked in search of help, she forced herself to stay awake at night and ate twigs from an aspen tree. She put snow in her cheek to try to stay hydrated.

I don’t care is she was superwoman.  She was unprepared for this, at this time, in these conditions.  We have discussed the bare minimum for being out in the bush: (1) heavy rubberized poncho, (2) 550 cord, (3) gun, (4) tactical light, (5) fire starter, (6) knife [serrated edge], and (7) water and fast food energy.

In these conditions, you can add the right kind of boots (very expensive and not routinely taken on car trips), wool clothing, Gore-Tex, insulated cover (e.g., wool hat), heavy insulated gloves, and eye protection (Goggles and perhaps sun glasses during the daylight hours to prevent snow blindness).

I’m not a big fan of staying where you are, and I’m a much bigger fan of taking what you need or may need.  But in this case, the woman should have stayed where she was.  She’s no good to her family dead.

The Importance Of A Shelter In Survival

BY Herschel Smith
10 months, 3 weeks ago

Outdoor Life has an interesting list of 26 survival myths that can get you killed.  It’s well worth reading all of them.  This one in particular struck me.

14. A big fire beats a shelter
Large-log fires have kept people alive in the cold, but that doesn’t mean you can afford to skip building a shelter. What if it rains or becomes really windy? You never want to sleep out in the open if you can help it. Take the time to build a shelter. It will pay you back every time.

Well yes, there’s the issue of rain, which will kill you if you attempt to sleep in it all night.  The wind is another issue, and is related to the primary reason I would recommend building a shelter.

There are four types of heat transfer: conductive, convective, radiant and evaporative.  In the absence of survival gear, you need to build a bed of pine bows, straw, leaves and other things to lift you off of the ground to prevent conductive heat transfer (which occurs when two bodies are in contact) from your body to the ground.

If the wind is blowing, that means that convective heat transfer is occurring.  But one often overlooked reason for a shelter is the fact that the universe becomes an infinite heat sink at night.  Your body is radiating heat to the universe without a shelter over you.

Even if you only bend branches and use saplings and construct a hemispherical cage over which you throw leaves and mulch (a common emergency shelter in the South), you need to have a shelter at night.  Never travel so long and so far that you forego the construction of a shelter to keep you alive until morning.

Survival Gear

BY Herschel Smith
1 year, 3 months ago

It’s that time of year again.  Be careful out there.  This is one man’s take.

Though Falls Creek is a short hike, winter is no time to fool with the elements. Read the harrowing account of Mischelle Hileman of Wallowa, who lost both legs to exposure after what was intended to be a 45-minute elk hunt in 2002, if you’re thinking otherwise.

Regardless of the time of year, I always carry matches, kindling, water, a compass, whistle, survival blanket, poncho, flashlight and lots of power bars — and generally the dog. Off-leash Well=behaved dogs are allowed off-leash throughout Eagle Cap.

I have my own list, similar to but slightly more robust than above.  I’ve discussed it before.

550 cord, a tarp or rubberized rain poncho, trekking poles, a gun, water, protein bars, a tactical light, redundant means of fire starting, a small water filtration device or a small container of household bleach, a tactical knife, clothing for warmth (e.g., parka, emergency Mylar thermal blankets), and a compass.

With this simple list you can have shelter, fire, self protection, warmth, light, and ability to stay dry.  And if you’re going out in the woods, stop and buy a lighter or Ferrocerium rod.  Do this whether you’re going in the wilderness for one hour, one afternoon, or one week.  Do it regardless of how long you intend to be in the wilderness.

I’ve also explained what I do for fire when intending to go into the wilderness.  For every night I expect to be in the wild, I put a briquette of match light charcoal and a cotton ball soaked in Vaseline into a waterproof container (one piece of charcoal and one cotton ball for each night).  The cotton ball starts immediately, and helps the charcoal to start within seconds.  This makes fire starting quick in the event that you get wet when it’s cold or in the case of wet wood.

As I’ve implied, with 550 cordage and a poncho or tarp, along with trekking poles, you can have shelter in under two minutes if needed.  With redundant means of fire starting along with charcoal or char-cloth, you can have fire even when everything is wet.  With a parka and mylar blanket, you can have warmth when you need it (I have many parkas, my all-time favorite is Simms).  With a handgun (and an additional magazine or a few loaded moon clips) you have protection, and with a good tactical knife, you have a cutting tool or a chopping tool.  I carry a heavy folder, such as a Ka-Bar Mule, or CRKT M16-14DSFG-Tanto, always something with serrated edge.  Otherwise I carry a Ka-Bar straight edge fighting/utility knife, again, with a serrated edge.

This is my version of ultralight.  This list doesn’t weigh more than 10-15 lbs.  In case I haven’t mentioned it before, unless something has gone badly wrong, I will always have my baby with me, like the writer above.

Equipped For Survival

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 5 months ago

First, a wonderful example of being equipped and prepared for survival:

A young teenager lost on a hunting trip is safe with his family Sunday night after he was missing for more than 24 hours in the Southern Colorado wilderness outside Custer County.

Clayton Jones, 13, was found by family friends Sunday morning just after 10:30 a.m.

Jones spent 27 hours on his own in the woods after getting separated from his father and grandfather around 7:30 a.m. Saturday morning.

“I was a bit freaked out,” Clayton said. “It was a little scary, I just wanted to get home.”

This teenager got thanks to his savvy survival skills. More than 12 hours after his ordeal began with no sign of another person let alone his family, Clayton had to seek shelter.

“I did build a fire,” Clayton said. “After I got warm, I saw a cabin and slept the night on their deck. The next morning, I found a road, kept going and ran into friends and they brought me back.”

When he received word his son was safe, Barry Jones started balling.

“I cried for 10 minutes,” Jones said. “I couldn’t even talk. To have a kid missing for that much time, whew, it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever been through in my life. I taught him good, but I don’t care how much experience he has. I don’t care if he’s 35, I’m going to worry about him.

Clayton’s survival kit included food, water, rain gear, gloves and a knife.

Barry Jones teaches wilderness survival classes.

The smart lad got off the cold ground, built a fire, had food, water, rain gear and a knife.  I only recommend a few more things.  He did well.

Now for an extremely bad example from some adults.

Three hunters caught out by a snowstorm got a lucky break early this morning.

The trio had returned to their vehicle last night but became stuck. However, they were later airlifted out of the Te Papanui conservation block, 50km west of Dunedin, suffering from mild hypothermia.

Police were alerted about 5pm yesterday and a search and rescue team, which included three four-wheel-drive vehicles and a helicopter, tried to get into the area. However, poor weather stopped them from reaching the stranded hunters.

At 2am, the weather improved enough to allow a helicopter to get into the area and the men were airlifted out.

Constable Donald Peat said that the hunters were not properly equipped for the hunting trip.

”They were not carrying any survival equipment, such as extra clothing, extra food, sleeping bags or a personal emergency locator beacon,” Peat said.

It just doesn’t take much to be prepared: 550 cord, a tarp or rubberized rain poncho, trekking poles, a gun, water, protein bars, a tactical light, redundant means of fire starting, a small water filtration device or a small container of household bleach, a tactical knife, clothing for warmth (e.g., parka, emergency Mylar thermal blankets), and a compass.

With this simple list you can have shelter, fire, self protection, warmth, light, and ability to stay dry.  And if you’re going out in the woods, stop and buy a lighter or Ferrocerium rod.  Do this whether you’re going in the wilderness for one hour, one afternoon, or one week.  Do it regardless of how long you intend to be in the wilderness.

I’ve also explained what I do for fire when intending to go into the wilderness.  For every night I expect to be in the wild, I put a briquette of match light charcoal and a cotton ball soaked in Vaseline into a waterproof container (one piece of charcoal and one cotton ball for each night).  The cotton ball starts immediately, and helps the charcoal to start within seconds.  This makes fire starting quick in the event that you get wet when it’s cold or in the case of wet wood.

Prior: Wilderness Survival

Survival In The White Mountains

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 10 months ago

Boston Globe:

Eric Mazur has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, skied down Mont Blanc, gone back-country skiing in the Rockies. Besides being a dean of applied physics at Harvard, Mazur knows his way around maps, compasses, and GPS coordinates.

But it was on a recent ski-trekking trip in the White Mountains of New Hampshire that he and a group of his students faced life-threatening peril. “We came very close to not making it out at all,” says Mazur.

A combination of near-zero temperatures, bad luck, and regrettable decisions in a massive wilderness area with no cellphone reception turned an overnight outing into a near-disaster. The story of the weekend in the woods is a lesson on how quickly events can take an ominous turn — and how grit ultimately got the group out of a frozen labyrinth.

All six suffered hypothermia and dehydration. Three had severe frostbite that turned gangrous. One was hallucinating. By the time they got to the emergency room at Speare Memorial Hospital in Plymouth, N.H., their body temperatures hovered near 92 degrees. At 90 degrees, Mazur says, the brain doesn’t get adequate oxygen “and that’s the end.”

Mazur has been unable to wear shoes on his frostbitten toes since the February misadventure. He wears open-toed post-op shoes, and three toes on his right foot remain at risk.

They left Fraser’s car in a parking lot off the Kancamagus Highway not far from Loon Mountain in case they decided to take a southern route out the next day — a route Mazur had done only once, the first time he led a group.

This is where Mazur typically would have questioned rangers about the southern trails: Which are broken in for skis? Which bridges are out? But because they were running late, and he thought Fraser had already asked, Mazur did not speak with the ranger, which he would later regret.

They then drove north to the departure point, a parking lot on Route 302, a few miles from Bretton Woods. It was noon when they donned cross-country skis and shouldered backpacks containing food, water, clothes, and sleeping bags that weighed about 30 pounds each. They had reserved bunks for the night at the Zealand Falls hut, run by the Appalachian Mountain Club.

Mazur relaxed. The paths were clear, the sun out, the fir and birch glades beautiful, the views spectacular. There was a lot of uphill trekking to the hut, which is at 2,600 feet, but they made it by late afternoon. For dinner, they ate the minestrone soup and pasta they’d packed.

Zealand Falls, one of only two White Mountains huts open in the winter, was at capacity with 36 bunks.

The next morning, they decided to explore the southern trail that would ultimately lead to Fraser’s car. If conditions were too difficult, they could always turn around.

But they didn’t set a point of no return and found themselves bogged down on an unbroken trail in deep snow. Single file, they took turns in the lead positions to break in the trail, but made slow progress. The hut ranger had assured them their hiking plans were solid, crossing the Presidential Range toward Loon Mountain.

“He made it appear like it was a walk in the woods,” says Mazur. That’s pretty much what Mazur thought, too: “The White Mountains don’t look like Everest or K2. I’ve always considered them a little bigger than hills.”

It was 15 miles from the hut to the parking lot near Loon, a full day’s hike under the best of circumstances. But this was February of a record-breaking winter. Many of the blue trail markers on the trees were covered with snow.

And there were many fallen trees, with all six having to take off their skis whenever they had to climb over. Each tree meant a 10-minute delay and “there were dozens and dozens and dozens of trees,” Mazur says.

Then there were the creek crossings: “down six feet and up six feet,” each one a 20-minute affair. “Meanwhile, the clock was ticking,” says Mazur.

Their water containers froze solid. They each had only an energy bar to eat. The trail, when they could find it, had become nearly impassable, unbroken and littered with obstacles.

As the sun set, Mazur still wasn’t too concerned; he’d summited Kilimanjaro using a headlamp. At about 6 p.m., now wearing their headlamps, the group reached Stillwater Junction, where several branches of the Pemigewasset River merge. Once across the frozen river, according to Mazur’s GPS, they would hit tracks.

Instead, they were greeted by more fallen trees and huge boulders. Mazur’s ski binding malfunctioned, so he took off his skis and carried them. His feet were freezing and wet. The temperature, he believes, was close to zero.

At 7 p.m., they were still 10 miles away from the southern parking lot. They were hungry, thirsty, and exhausted. “At that point, the group started to disintegrate,” Mazur says.

Two people wanted to return north to the Zealand Falls hut. But that was a 12-hour hike back. Two wanted to build an igloo-type shelter, but they had no tools, and it would take hours. Mazur and Kelly Miller, a graduate student from Toronto and the only woman in the group, agreed: They had to keep moving south.

At 1:30 a.m., they got to a creek that wasn’t frozen over and was dotted with tree trunks. Fraser led, then Mazur, followed by the others. It would take an hour for all to cross. Shivering on the other side, Mazur told Fraser that he could not stay still, he had to keep moving and would call for help as soon as he got cell reception. Fraser would wait for the others. Each person had a GPS.

The trail descended and Mazur’s skis picked up speed as his headlamp weakened. “Here I am with 30 pounds on my back on an icy trail in the dark, and I don’t know what’s ahead,” he says. “If you fall, it’s hard to get up.”

When his GPS died, he dug out the spare battery, but because of the cold, it would not turn on. By this time, Mazur and the others had been in constant motion for nearly 20 hours, with little water or food.

At 3 a.m., he reached a closed campground, where a map was posted. He still had 2.5 miles to go, but at least he was on the right trail.

Mazur says he never worried that they might not make it out. “But what I didn’t realize was the danger of hypothermia.”

It was 4:30 a.m. on Monday, Feb. 17, when he reached the parking lot.

You can hit the Boston Globe to see how it ends.  So I beat on this endlessly here, but this is ripe for yet another beating.

The point where this expedition took a turn for the potentially deadly is when they were trudging along in the dark, wet and exhausted.  To my readers, if you ever find yourself traipsing down the trail in the dark, exhausted, dehydrated, cold, hungry and wet, you’ve screwed up.  Don’t go past dark.  Simply don’t do it.

Give me 30 pounds and I could have packed enough gear to have made it for a week in the mountains.  Give me 15-20 pounds and I could have been comfortable that night.

You don’t keep going.  You stop with daylight left because you have the wisdom to know that you’re not going to make it back.  You ensconce yourself in a shelter of your own making if necessary.  If you aren’t carrying a tent, carry a tarp with 550 cord and use trekking poles for support along with trees.

Cut pine bows from surrounding trees to lay down to keep the ground from sucking heat out of your body.  Gather wood, and use the 5X rule (gather five times more than you think you need to make it through the night).

If you have a sleeping bag you’ll likely be warm, if not you have the fire.  Carry a steel or aluminum container with you and you can boil snow or river (or even puddle) water to make it potable water (and in spite of what you hear know-it-all Cody Lundin say, it isn’t pronounced “pottable,” it is pronounced ˈpō-tə-bəl).

I’ve never understood survivalists who want to teach people to survive with nothing.  My philosophy is not to carry nothing.  Carry something.  That something, as I’ve recommended before, is this: (1) gun, (2) fire starter, (3) small tactical light, (4) container, (5) heavy rubberized poncho (or better yet, tarp), (6) 550 cord, and (7) knife.

With this simple list you can have shelter, fire, self protection, warmth, light, and ability to stay dry.  And if you’re going out in the woods, stop and buy a lighter or ferro rod.  Do this whether you’re going in the wilderness for one hour, one afternoon, or one week.  Do it regardless of how long you intend to be in the wilderness.

How much easier can this be?  Don’t go into the wilderness unprepared, and don’t travel after dark.

Nature Hike Turns Bad: Three Days In The Congaree Forest

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 10 months ago

Fox News:

CONGAREE NATIONAL PARK, S.C. –  Search crews have found a father and his two children who had been missing for more than two days in the vast woods and swamps of the Congaree National Park in South Carolina, officials said Tuesday.

In a news release, the National Park Service said rangers had located J.R. Kimbler, his 10-year-old son, Dakota, and his 6-year-old daughter, Jade.

The three did not appear to be seriously hurt and were being taken to a local hospital for observation, officials said. Authorities planned to release more information later in the day.

Crews traveling by airplane, boat and on foot had been looking for the family in the 27,000-acre site since the father sent a text message late Saturday saying they were lost.

Officials closed the park Monday afternoon during the search. An investigative team from the National Park Service had also checked on leads outside the park in case the family members had not been lost while hiking.

There had been no indication Kimbler, 43, took any camping gear or other items for an overnight stay. The taxi driver left his cigarettes in his cab that was still parked near the visitor’s center Monday, and his daughter’s inhaler and other medicine were in the hotel room where he lived, according to his family.

The park has marked trails, but beyond the paths are tangles of old growth trees, swamps and underbrush. The land has become even more rugged since an ice storm in February knocked down thousands of trees and limbs.

“Many of the trails you can’t see to navigate right now,” said Sana Sohen, a park service spokeswoman.

ABC News reports that “Kimbler and his two children – Dakota, 10, and Jade, 6 – set out for a nature hike Saturday in Congaree National Park. They soon found themselves lost in the 27,000-acre park with no food, water or supplies … During the ordeal, the family drank dirty rain water collected in puddle, and even tried unsuccessfully eating wild turkey eggs.”

The Congaree National Park is more than 40 square miles of old growth forest and swamp, the original stomping grounds of General Francis Marion, legendary Swamp Fox of the war for independence.  It’s no place to go out unprepared and without a knowledge of the area.

We’ve covered this many times before.  I don’t even go on day hikes without a day pack or patrol bag, water, energy bars, tactical light, poncho, fire starting equipment, compass, 550 cord and a gun.

With the gun you can defend yourself and perhaps obtain food, even with a handgun.  With the poncho and 550 cord you have instant shelter in the rain and can avoid hypothermia.    With the fire you have heat and light along with water purification, with the water you pack in you have temporary hydration and a container for collecting more water (it’s best to pack a water container that can be put into the fire).

With the compass you have navigation, and with energy bars you have relief from food gathering in the initial stages of survival.  With pack, water, bars, heavy rubberized poncho, 550 cord and a gun (with several magazines) you can get by with less than 15-20 pounds.

If you can’t pack in 15-20 pounds, you shouldn’t be going into 27,000 acre old growth forest and swamp that managed to destroy the morale of troops commanded by General Charles Cornwallis.

Wilderness Survival: Don’t Do This

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 1 month ago

From Michigan:

SILVER CITY — A father and son from Albertville, Minnesota are lucky to be alive after being lost while snowmobiling and surviving 28 hours in near minus 20 degree temperatures.

Benjamin M. Jenny Sr., 40, and Benjamin M. Jenny Jr., 19, are in Aspirus Ontonagon Hospital Monday night in good condition. Both men suffered hypothermia and dehydration symptoms.

Michigan State Police at the Wakefield Post say the two men were snowmobiling in an area near Silver City in Ontonagon County on Sunday. They were last seen leaving a restaurant at 11:30 a.m. Police say the pair was on the trail all day and on a river. While on the river, their snowmobiles began to ice up and stopped. They were stranded in the back country, deep in the woods. It was 5:30, Sunday evening.

Authorities say at that point they tried to walk out. The snow at times was four to five feet deep. They had no survival gear with them.

The father and son did have a cell phone, but they could not get service. They instead sent a text message about their situation. After that, the cell phone went dead and the weather turned worse. A blizzard was taking hold.

The Michigan State Police were called in Sunday night about 8:30. Those with the Michigan DNR, the Ontonagon County Sheriff’s Department and County Emergency Coordinator and the U.S. Forest Service were all part of the search and rescue party.

Several search and rescue snowmobilers started down the trail Sunday night. Around one Monday morning, weather conditions turned them back. The blizzard was too much for the rescue crews. There was an eighth of a mile visibility, winds clocked at 20 to 30 miles an hour and gusting to 40 miles an hour. The search would have to wait until later.

A State Police official says search and rescue crews wanted to know the last known location for the two men. That’s when the United States Air Force entered the picture. The Air Force was able to use that last text message ping from the men, to narrow their location to within four square miles where they were last. That’s where the search and rescue crews headed Monday morning.

Thirteen people from local, state and federal agencies were involved in the search. They were on snowmobiles and snowshoes. The U.S. Coast Guard helicopter was called in to assist. However, weather socked them in, at their base in Traverse City. The Michigan Civil Air Patrol Group 700 also tried to get their fixed winged aircraft up, but weather made that impossible.

After a long night in the woods of Ontonagon County, with temperatures of minus 20 and a windchills even worse, no way for the men to start a fire, police say they knew they had to keep moving to survive.

Finally, at 2:11 Monday afternoon, 28 hours after being in the woods, Bill Doan, a supervisor at the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, found both men. Doan was on snowshoes.

Good grief.  We’ve covered this in detail folks.  I don’t even go on a long drive, much less out into the wilderness on camping, hiking, or other trips, without at least: A gun (or guns) and extra ammunition, a knife, 550 cordage, a rubberized poncho, a tactical light with extra 123 batteries, and multiple means of starting a fire.

This list is a bare minimum, and I might carry much more.  But with the items on this list you can keep warm, give yourself shelter (with the poncho and 550 cord), see at night, and protect yourself.  For a trip into the snowy wilderness, this list would be significantly expanded to include a tarp, fleece, heavy gloves, parka, head and face protection, and maybe a sub-zero sleeping bag.

Dear readers – don’t even be caught in a situation in which you weren’t prepared because you had quite literally nothing when you went out into the wilderness.  You know better than that.

Prior:

Survival In The Canadian Wilderness

Nineteen Snowy Days Of Survival

Preppers Prepare, Preppers Beware!

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 4 months ago

Preppers have been in the news lately.  Since there is increasing interest in this topic, CNN recently had a fairly extensive article on the “doomsday prepper convention.”

More and more Americans are spending money to get ready for an uncertain future — gathering food, water, tools, and skills to help them weather anything from a hurricane to a pandemic. Contrary to images of deluded or gun-obsessed “lone wolves,” many preppers are average consumers reacting to concrete worries, and their way of thinking is spreading, fueling an emerging lifestyle trend. That lifestyle is generating demand for a broad spectrum of products offering survival — or even comfort — when large-scale systems go down.

An array of preparedness expos and conferences have cropped up around the country to serve this emerging and fast-changing market. To get a closer look, I visited Life Changes, Be Ready!, or LCBR, a new expo that held its second event on the weekend of November 2nd and 3rd, in Lakeland, Fla. LCBR gave an immediate sense of one big way that the preparedness crowd isn’t marginal at all — economically. The show floor was packed with a dizzying array of small businesses and products that defied stereotypical “prepper” classification — not just ammunition and crossbows and camping gear, but also seed banks, beehives, financial planning, and acupressure.

According to many of the entrepreneurs on the floor, business is trending upwards. John Egger of Self Reliance Strategies has been producing and selling prepackaged seed banks for nearly four years and sees his market expanding. “It’s definitely picking up. It’s not just country people anymore. We really cater to a suburban market … We call it suburban homesteading.” You can see this broadening of the market in the range of price points, from the $5,600 portable solar charging stations flogged by Alternative Energy, Inc., to the $649 “Stomp Supreme” field medic kit offered by Doom and Bloom, LLC. (“This is the one recommended for people expecting civil unrest.”) Clearly, LCBR’s vendors saw a crowd ready to drop major cash today to assuage their worries about tomorrow.

There are still uncertainties in the preparedness market, some driven by ideology, according to Charley Hogwood of Personal Readiness Education Programs. “All last year it was up and up and up. But after the [presidential] election, it flattened out.” Hogwood thinks that some in the market were overwrought over doomsday scenarios surrounding the reelection of Barack Obama. “Last year, I heard 100 different conspiracy theories” about what a second Obama presidency might mean. But when the election wasn’t followed by martial law and FEMA camps, both the rhetoric and the market cooled off a bit. “I rarely hear the crazy theories now. Now everyone’s worried mainly about the collapse of the dollar,” says Hogwood, referring to widespread prepper fears of hyperinflation triggered by the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing.

Hogwood, friendly and round-faced, reflected the resolute averageness that permeated the show. He snorted derisively at conspiracy theorists, and also acknowledged some of the ironies of a preparedness trade show. “Sometimes it’s like a toy store, and people buy stuff because they like it.” But in a real survival situation, “the more you know, the less you have to carry. A lot of people don’t know much and think they can buy their way out of it.” He sees some of the extremism surrounding the prepping industry as hype, maybe even fearmongering. “It’s so much more fun to worry about martial law than a hurricane. People like zombies as a marketing tool.”

But there are horrible reports that show the bottom feeders of society.

Nuclear war. Volcanic eruption. Terrorist attack.

Though the scenarios of how an apocalyptic event would paralyze or destroy society varies, a group of like-minded individuals in East Pierce County believes a good defense is the best way to prepare for doomsday.

And some believe a good offense is even better.

“We’re not in it to stockpile. We’re in it to take what you have and there’s nothing you can do to stop us,” Tyler Smith says. “We are your worst nightmare, and we are coming.”

Smith, 29, is the leader of Spartan Survival. The group has more than 80 dues-paying members. Smith founded the organization in 2005 to train and prepare others on survivalism.

Analysis & Commentary

There is another report of a family that, readying for nuclear war, builds underground tunnels from 18 recycled school buses — with enough supplies for 500 people — and buries them under a foot and a half of concrete.  Some of the terrifying scenarios for preppers include dirty bombs and a rising sea from global warming.

I am not a prepper by practice, although I tinker a bit in weapons, ammunition and wilderness survival.  But I do have a number of suggestions for preppers to assist them in spending their money efficiently and avoiding the more dangerous situations they seem to choose for themselves and their families.

My reaction to this round of doomsday preppers is about the same as last time.  NatGeo seems to find some of the weirdest folks to do this special, making preppers appear to be crackpots and neglecting to cover some of the more normal people involved in this loosely connected and loosely coupled group.

On the other hand, there are some seriously confused people involved in the movement, and there are a number of misconceptions that need to be set right.  On one episode a year or more ago, some poor lady (a former LEO) who lived near a commercial nuclear reactor wanted to be prepared in the event of an explosion and nuclear fallout from this reactor.  In the same vein, many prepper web sites feature so-called “anti-radiation pills” for protection from, I suppose, nuclear war, “fallout” from nuclear accidents and according to one report, dirty bombs.

So that preppers can stop worrying over at least one subset of concerns, let me state unequivocally and without reservation that commercial nuclear reactors don’t explode like nuclear bombs.  Folks, if I may lapse into pointy-head mode for a moment, by requirement of the code of federal regulations, American commercial nuclear reactors must be designed with an overall negative power coefficient.  This means that the combination of void, Doppler and moderator feedback must shut down the reactor in situations of unintended power increase.  It’s more complicated than that, but that’s the simplest way I know to explain it for those of you not involved in the field of nuclear engineering.

The Russian RBMK reactor (e.g., Chernobyl) was designed as a loosely coupled graphite moderated reactor where the coolant was a neutron poison, not the moderator.  Thus it has a positive void coefficient and overall positive power coefficient.  Even so, the accident at Chernobyl was still a rapid power excursion leading to a steam explosion that destroyed the reactor systems and containment.  So it wasn’t a nuclear explosion, but it was a catastrophe.  Russian reactors, however, are under no such design requirement as U.S. nuclear reactors.  Furthermore, the there was no hard containment design for Chernobyl.

The U.S. had a Chernobyl, i.e., Three Mile Island.  There was essentially no dose to the public because of the slow progression of the accident and the hard containment design.  The most hazard to which you can expose your family in a commercial nuclear reactor accident is to put yourself on the road trying to escape it along with all of the other fear mongers who believe that a nuclear reactor can explode.  Stay home.

Next, and listen to me very closely on this one, there is no such thing as an anti-radiation pill.  These web sites are selling Potassium Iodide tablets.  Their design is to saturate the thyroid gland with stable iodine, thus preventing radioactive iodine from seeking this organ if it has been released and is available for intake or uptake.  But the thyroid isn’t the only target organ for radioactive fission products, and iodine isn’t the only fission product.  Cesium, strontium and the actinides are bone seekers, and in fact a perusal of Federal Guidance Report No. 11 will show that there are a whole host of potential pathways of exposure to radioactive effluents.

Furthermore, Potassium Iodide has potential side effects, and before you saturate your thyroid gland because you are afraid of nuclear power or some other nuclear event, take note that you’ve been warned.  Finally, the concept of dirty bombs is unfortunate because it appeals to the fear of the unseen and misunderstood.  It isn’t possible to disperse nuclear contaminants far enough to be more effective than conventional explosives unless the device deploys inside a confined space with forced ventilation.

Furthermore, if there is a general lack of technical understanding in prepper designs for amelioration of nuclear events, I’m equally concerned about the structures and domiciles that are being built.  Folks, most of you are not registered professional engineers, and you aren’t having registered PEs do the designs of these buildings and tunnels and other things.  For a primer on exactly what happens when an engineer designs something and a contractor does it his own way instead of following the plans, see the Hyatt Regency walkway collapse.  An awful lot of money is being spent on plans that may or may not be safe, effective or necessary.

But of course, that’s exactly what the con artists and shysters want.  They want to take your money.  But it’s your job to keep your money, or at least, not give it away to unscrupulous people who don’t care about you.  So what do you really need?  Do you need a home in the forest or desert or somewhere else in the American redoubt?  Do you need tactical training?  Do you need more money, or gold and silver?

I don’t have an answer, but I do.  I wouldn’t presume to tell anyone what they should or shouldn’t do in any specific situation, but I think that the answer to the questions above is to take tomorrow on as an opportunity to be more prepared than you were today, in whatever endeavor you work and live, whatever your station in life.  And I think it’s wrong for anyone to tell you what you should believe that you need, except to have means of self defense and defense of your family.

Like many of my readers, I couldn’t conjure up faith in the soon-to-collapse Keynesian, dept-based economic system if my life depended on it.

But concerning Mr. Tyler Smith, preppers shouldn’t ever be associated with people like that.  First of all, he is a liar.  He cannot possibly deliver on his promises of taking things from other people.  Second, it shows a dark underbelly, not just of preppers, but of mankind in general.

I recall having a conversation with my son Daniel, my former Marine, some time around his combat tour of Iraq.  The backdrop is that Colonel William Mullen had shown me his pre-deployment PowerPoint presentation to the Battalion, and I took particular notice of the last slide or two.  Essentially, Colonel Mullen had issued die-in-place orders to the Battalion.  The orders were never to surrender to the enemy.  It would only hamper the efforts of the Battalion, unnecessarily tie up resources attempting to locate you, and put your family through agony.

There are things worse than death, I recall telling Daniel.  For instance, dying without honor or for me, having denied my Lord.  So if I ever face death for my Christianity, I hope to recite the Apostle’s Creed as loudly as I can until a 7.62X39 rips through my skull.  If that sounds gruesome, I would remind readers that none of us get out of this alive.  We will all perish, and the only question is how.  Rather than planning to steal from others in an apocalypse or other disaster, the goal of all of us should be to work in order to have something for those in need (Ephesians 4:28).

If you want to live a more sustainable life style, there are guideposts and examples to follow, but it’s hard and serious labor, and there is no room for gimmicks or con artists.  And there is certainly no room for thieves, ne’er-do-wells or thugs who threaten to take the means to protect or feed your family.  Preppers should continue to prepare, as should everyone.  But preppers need to beware of shysters, wicked men who bring threats, and doing things that actually end up making their family less safe than if they hadn’t prepared at all.  A man who threatens to take what you have (and wants to teach you to do the same) is no different than the one who will sell you an expensive shelter in the case of an “explosion” from an American commercial nuclear reactor (that will never happen).  They’re both con artists.  Beware of con artists.

In closing:

…We are not given to know all the ripples our words and deeds might produce. In this as in all things, God is good. What man could bear to live with the knowledge that his lightest utterances would disrupt the entire future of Man? It’s for the best that we deem ourselves, and our effects, finite. I wouldn’t want to be able to see too far ahead; it would distract me from what I must do today.

But in reflecting on the above exchange, and the one before it, it occurs to me that the one and only predictable thing in life is its end: we shall all die. At the Particular Judgment, when I must answer to God for my deeds in life, a verdict will be rendered from which there is no appeal. It will be clear to me from the absolute self-knowledge conferred by one’s entrance to eternity that it could be no other way, and all I will be able to say is So it is.

May God bless and keep you all (quote via WRSA).

Nineteen Snowy Days Of Survival

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 5 months ago

Gene Penaflor of San Francisco made it 19 days in the Northern California wilderness with no help.

The 72-year-old hunter who was lost for more than two weeks in a California forest survived by eating squirrels and other animals he shot with his rifle, and by making fires and packing leaves and grasses around his body to stay warm, his family said Monday.

Gene Penaflor of San Francisco was found Saturday in Mendocino National Forest by other hunters who carried him to safety in a makeshift stretcher, the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement.

Penaflor disappeared after heading out with a partner during the first week of deer hunting season in the rugged mountains of Northern California, a trip he takes annually. The forest is about 160 miles north of San Francisco.

“He goes hunting every year, and he comes home every year,” his daughter-in-law Deborah Penaflor said Monday outside Gene Penaflor’s small home in the Bernal Heights neighborhood. “We’d gotten a little complacent that he would always come back.”

Gene Penaflor separated from his hunting partner for a couple of hours as usual to stalk deer. While they were apart, Gene Penaflor fell, hit his head and passed out, Deborah Penaflor said.

He woke up after spending what appeared to be a full day unconscious, with his chin and lip badly gashed. He noticed fog and morning dew and realized he’d been out for a while, Deborah Penaflor said.

Gene Penaflor had a lighter, a knife and water with him when he went hunting. But his daughter-in-law said the knife and water bottle somehow got lost in the fall. She had no further details.

Still, he was able use his rifle to kill squirrels to sustain him while he awaited rescue. He also found water in a nearby drainage.

To stay warm, Gene Penaflor made small fires and packed leaves and grasses around his body. When it rained or snowed, he crawled under a large log and managed to stay dry, authorities said.

“He knew at some point he was going to die, but he figured he’d last as long as he could,” sheriff’s Detective Andrew Porter told the Ukiah Daily Journal (http://bit.ly/1ekjENg ).

[ … ]

“I didn’t panic because panic will kill me right away. I knew that,” Gene Penaflor said to a KTVU-TV reporter upon his arrival home.

Mr. Penaflor was in the very large 53,887-acre Yuki Wilderness area (web site here), and was found 19 days after he went missing by a group of hunters.  He also ate snakes and lizards to stay alive, and attempts to signal helicopters by smoke failed.  Finally, a massive search effort with dogs to find him failed.

He fell in steep, rocky, treacherous terrain.  This underscores the risk of solo backpacking as well as the improbability of lone wolf scenarios.

Unfortunately he lost his container and his cutting tool in the fall.  I would have gone back to find them.  At least he had his rifle with him and that likely saved his life by giving him a source of food.

Whether alone or not, I would have never entered a wilderness this large or terrain this difficult without at least the following in a day pack or one day patrol bag: large tactical or fixed-blade knife, tactical flashlight, 50-100 feet of 550 cord, a heavy gauge rubberized rain poncho, stainless steel container for boiling water, fire stating kit, wind/rain parka, gun (if I wasn’t hunting with a rifle I would be carrying at least a handgun) and extra ammunition.

I have discussed this before but it bears repeating.  My fire starting kit would include a lighter and matches, as many pieces of match-light charcoal as nights I expected to be in the wilderness (one briquette per fire), and several balls of cotton soaked in petroleum jelly for rapid ignition.

Surviving this 19 day journey without fire would have been impossible.  It’s remarkable that he was able to find sufficient shelter from the rain and snow to survive.  With a large Poncho and 550 cord one can always build shelter (at least in wooded areas) within one to two minutes.  Assuming that you are using trekking poles you don’t even have to be in a wooded area.

Even with this kit the total weight of your can ruck can be kept to 15-20 pounds, which is a small price to pay for survival.  Kudos to Mr. Penaflor for his survival, and with every report like this we learn more about what it takes to make it in the wilderness with minimal resources.  Plan, purchase, prepare and practice.

Matt Bracken: Alas, Brave New Babylon

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 6 months ago

Matt Bracken is said to be a write of dystopian fiction, but more about this in a moment.  Western Rifle Shooter’s Association had a piece up publishing some of Matt’s most recent work, “Alas, Brave New Babylon.”  Matt’s story follows one man’s journey who intends to begin it by hiking part of the Appalachian Trail, but soon finds himself on a far different path than the one he intended.

In time, our friend finds himself gazing into the distance to see what signs of life were there.

I could see a few miles across to the next ridges, and I did a slow, methodical sweeping search. The next mountains were miles out of the Nantahala National Forest, and homes were built on their slopes. But there was no visible smoke, no man-made sounds of planes or trucks or industrial machinery. No moving vehicles, no signs of life at all.

It was hard to tell from that far away, but it appeared that many of the homes had been burned or otherwise destroyed. The isolated vacation homes of urban retirees were low-hanging fruit for bands of marauders. The bandits who survived the first winter were hardened killers, practiced at stealth, sniping, ambush, and laying siege. All the homes I could see appeared abandoned, but perhaps that was long-range camouflage, crafted to discourage bandits from making the cross-valley hikes. It didn’t pay to advertise your continued survival in times of starvation.

The one-time history teacher turns reflective at one point and gives a dispassionate assessment of the causes or genesis of the collapse in which he finds himself.

Before the collapse, the high-def screens had allowed each watcher to choose from a virtual infinity of customizable fantasies, but there was usually nothing behind those magical glass windows but a plasterboard wall and another stark habitation cubicle built the other way around for the next inhabitant over. Within the dying hive there was no incoming food, fuel, or running water. Not even electricity to move the stale air.

Soon after the screens went black, the pharmacy-dispensed medications ran out as well, the cold-turkey withdrawal pouring more fuel on our raging social fires. Our Brave New World featured Huxley’s “Christianity without the tears,” until the Soma was gone. A gram is better than a damn, until there are no more grams left but plenty of damnation to go around—and people are damned mad when they’re starving.

If you ask me, looking back, our society went mad long before the Rupture. Who could honestly believe that modern first-world economies could continue to borrow half their annual operating costs from their own future generations, and from foreign banks and foreign governments that were likewise borrowing from their future generations? When in history has that sweetly delusional practice ever lasted more than a few generations before cracking up? Never, that I am aware of.

Frankly, for the rapidly diminishing minority of us left who were neither mathematically nor historically illiterate, the years before the Rupture were like living on the slopes of Vesuvius around AD seventy-something, while sniffing the stink of sulfur on the wind. What’s all that smoking and rumbling? a few of us asked. Smiling mainstream media news anchors answered: We’re not sure, but rest easy. Top government experts are studying it, and they will have a full report ready soon.

In the meantime, pop another Soma and switch back to Celebrity Nation. A gram is better than a damn, so why not make it two? Who needs old-fashioned morality when we have fashioned a brave new reality better suited to our own modern tastes? New and improved, by Ford! Just Google it. Remember Google? Gone with the wind.

I’m just a former world history teacher, but I believe that the edifice of Western Civilization was already rotten and hollowed out long before the final collapse—and it was an inside job by cultural traitors. The final toppling required only a light touch. By the end the Fabians’ disciples in politics and education had rendered Western man impotent, emasculated, ridiculed for his very maleness. Men were unneeded and unwanted by the brave new world’s brave new mommies.

And what of modern woman? Increasing numbers were too busy with their newly unleashed career opportunities and personal ambitions to have children. Or they were simply too busy partying through their fertile years to bother to produce a next generation.

I said that Matt was considered to be a dystopian fiction writer.  This is fiction, true enough, but it isn’t make-believe.  If you think this cannot happen, then you must believe that our unfunded liabilities don’t matter; that we can continue to print money to pay for the usury on our national debt; that we don’t need the gold standard; that half the nation can continue to bilk the other half of its wealth without consequences.

You must believe that those cities going bankrupt are just a fantasy, and surely there won’t be more to come; that Greece was just bad management by the financiers and governors; that regardless of what else happens, there will be an endless supply of electricity, gasoline, food, money, medical care and habitable domiciles.

You must believe that you can be your own God, making laws that comfort you while they dishonor your creator; and that at death your body cools to ambient temperature and you cease to exist.

And if you believe all of those things you are to be pitied.  Matt’s story is interesting, and perhaps in the future Matt will send me a pre-publication copy for review.  His prose is inspiring, fascinating, and completely mesmerizing.  It’s difficult to turn away from it, and that’s the end to which what any good writer aspires.

But belief in the false things that appear to be the cause of the rupture is pitiable not just because those things are wrong.  And wrong, they are.  The house of cards that is our monetary system will not last forever.  Greece will quickly turn into America, except on a much larger scale and longer timetable, when something sets off the disturbance and people figure out that their money isn’t really theirs.  That it isn’t really in the bank, isn’t really in paper form there in a vault on main street, and that the bank cannot hand it to them.

Fractional reserve banking means that in a run on the bank, the bank cannot give them 10 cents on the dollar because their money has been loaned out more ten times over, and the electronic money system contains many more dollars than really exists, or another way of saying it, contains as many dollars as the federal reserve wants it to contain.  But printing more money to fill the needs doesn’t work because that deflates the value of existing dollars and makes money worthless, thereby making the federal reserve worthless.  And thus, the horns of the dilemma are born.

So believe in false gods like Keynesian economics is only part of the sadness.  The worst of it, in my opinion, is that a man dies like he lives.  And die he will.  We won’t all remain vertical in any upcoming catastrophe, and even if we do, we won’t get out of this alive.  We will all die at some point, and it’s how we perish that’s important.  What did we believe, what did we do, how did we live, and how will we meet out maker?

And this makes Matt’s analysis of the genesis of the collapse – through the eyes of his character – even more important than what happens to the character.


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