Bug Repellants

Bug Repellants

Any of my friends will tell you that I loath black flies and mosquitoes. They turn the perfect part of the spring into an obnoxious swat-fest. I remember the first time I went canoeing with my wife and father-in-law. He was gung-ho to find the best route and followed the directions of “seasoned” canoeists on an internet database. I should have inspected the route, but I assumed they knew where to go and how long it would take. It was not my first time canoeing, but being the better man, I let my father-in-law run the show. He will never live it down. It was toward the end of day one, when we ended up in a small lake. Actually, a large island, ringed by a small “lake”. Ok, it was a swamp. An island in the middle of a swamp. The map indicated a single swamp symbol, and that was more than enough apparently. When we got there it was about 3pm and as the day turned to night, the hordes of insects descended. First it was the black flies… because why not canoe during black fly season. And as soon as it dipped in temperature, the black flies would disappear and then for five minutes, everything was great. And then the mosquitoes. And they never left us alone until well after 8pm. Flying, Biting Insects Mosquitoes, black flies, deer flies and company, are the bane of every woodsman. I am not talking about the single mosquito that lands on your arm, I am talking about the cloud of mosquitoes that have nothing better to do than drain you...
Memory Mastery – Journaling

Memory Mastery – Journaling

In this article, I promise I will jumpstart your memory, allow you to recall details faster, and with more precision and to become your own survival mentor. And I won’t make you sign up for anything, pay for anything, or take elaborate steps to deceive you in any way. Step 1: Make A Journal A bit of a let down isn’t it? Did you think I would tell you about some new smart pill, or a 12 step mnemonic pattern? Nope, just start writing stuff down. Here is the caveat. You have to do it all the time, it must be hand written / drawn, and it needs to be only for you. Who Journals? I have been “journaling” for my entire life. Not a diary or one of those artsy watercolour scrap books you find on Google. I just wrote or drew anything that I found interesting in note books. It started with Mead spiral bound books of varying sizes and colours, then I tried 3-ring binders, mini notebooks and finally settled on The Large Ruled Notebook by Moleskin – they never change and I can always buy another of the exact same type. Also, hardback Moleskins are quite robust and can take a moderate amount of beatings which is going to happen when you carry around a journal all the time. At first I didn’t know that I was writing to my brain, I was just putting things down that  were cool. Cool words that I wanted to remember like lucid, or images that I wanted to come back to, but slowly the stuff that I was interested in stuck....
The Truth About Air Filters

The Truth About Air Filters

If you are like me, you are interested in the truth.  But when you go down the rabbit hole, things start to look very grey. Take furnace filters for example: I was at Home Depot and I was staring at wall-to-wall furnace filters. The prices were all over the place, from as low as $3.00 and going well over $50.00 for a single filter. And as a price, but also value-conscious consumer, I pulled up my phone and started Googling air filters. Then, in frustration, I bought a mid-level multi-pack. It is impossible to find a true answer, because everyone has stakes in the game. Home Depot employees would tell you, buy the HEPA-whatever because the store makes more money on it. An HVAC (Heating Venting Air Conditioning) specialist would tell you that all those filters are crap and what you need is an auxiliary system to scrub your air clean (for over $1000.00). Who is going to tell you the truth? I will tell you the truth. Well, as best as I can ascertain. How Your Filter Works Before I tell you what to buy, I would like to teach you what is happening in your HVAC system, assuming you have a forced air system. If you have a boiler system, then open a window. When your furnace turns on, air is drawn into the system (from an outside vent and also though large inside air-return vents) through the air-return ductwork. It is that large circular or rectangular box that runs along your basement ceiling. The air passes through the filter that is mounted between the air return...
The Bug-Out Paradigm

The Bug-Out Paradigm

In this short article I want to clarify my idea of what bugging-out and bugging-in really means.  I think there is a disconnect between reality and fiction in the preparedness world. The problem I see is that many people would have you believe that you need to go right off the deep end when you are preparing. I am sure that when you first get into prepping, you are inundated with images of camo clad survivalists with 80 lb. ruck sacks preparing to eek out a living in the woods or peppers with 10 years of supplies in their basement that run drills for evacuations from the zombie hordes. This is not reality.  Reality is boring. Everyday we all experience little emergencies. Our tank in our car is low on gas, we forget our lunch at home and have to go buy it, or we give ourselves a paper cut. These are tiny little emergencies. Once a week at least, I experience a subway shutdown. Someone is sick, there is a fire on the platform (apparently paper goes on the tracks and catches fire and everyone has to wait for a fire marshal to show up) or there is a jumper. It happens. Occasionally there is something wrong on the tracks and I have to walk from one stop to another. Not a big deal. If it is a particularly cold day (middle of January), then it becomes a bigger deal. If the power goes out in my house in early spring or early fall, whatever. If the power goes out in the winter or on the hottest days...
How To Make Dry Laundry Detergent

How To Make Dry Laundry Detergent

It took me a while to take the plunge into making my own laundry detergent. Reason #1 was because I watched a bunch of videos on how to make liquid concentrate. In this style of recipe, you have to boil the soap flakes and other ingredients in a giant pot until everything melts down, separate it out into other 5 gallon containers and then re-hydrate it with even more water. Basically it looked like a pain in the ass to make and from what I saw, took up a huge amount of room, and we are all tight on space. Reason #2 was if it is going to take up all this room and smell up the house while cooking the soapy mixture, my wife was going to be less than enthusiastic about doing something like this again. On a rather recent Survival Punk podcast episode, James (one of the hosts) talked about making a dry detergent mixture during a rainy day. I read his article over, checked out some other sources (as you should always do when embarking on a science experiment) and purchased the rather cheap ingredients at the local discount grocery store. All in all, I spent around $15.00 to $20.00 – the same price as a jug of detergent. Not bad. I have been using the recipe below for around 4 months and I doubt I will go back to the liquid concentrate. It is a huge difference in cost. The recipe below will make 50 mason jars of liquid detergent (100 large loads) in a single mason jar, and I still have most of the boxes of borax,...
WROL Hearsay

WROL Hearsay

Above image is a stock gas mask photo for effect. People are full of shit. I can’t tell you the number of articles, YouTube videos and podcasts where people speculate on what is going to happen in a WROL (Without Rule Of Law) situation. How people are going to barter, how there are going to be roving bands of outlaws, how the government is going to sweep in and take their stuff. How do they know? They don’t. Almost every one of them is not disaster management specialist. Few of them have even been in a collapse environment (save deployed military personal), and the majority of their information is made up.  How The Web Works So why do they do that? Well, if you don’t know how the web works, you need content. Real content is hard to come by. It takes time to research, interview, sort and then you maybe have a single article that took you a month to create. There is a reason that a newspaper has many, many people working on stories – because it takes time, money and effort to find factual information (if they are interested in this).  In the age of the web, if you have a website or channel, or podcast, you need hits – which means more and more content. And there are two ways that people get hits: Gear Reviews – especially the new and shiny stuff Contentious opinion If you talk about contentious gear, then you have hit the motherload. All I have to do is mention the Tom Brown Jr. Tracker T1 knife (ad a link for...
Cold Weather Work Gloves

Cold Weather Work Gloves

Out with the old, in with the new. What if instead: out with the new, in with the old? For the last couple of months, I have been testing a pair of Terra Nitrile Dipped Nylon Cold Weather work gloves. I have worn them around the house, out about the city (black gloves can basically go anywhere and no one notices), and as driving gloves (at the moment replacing my Hatch Street Guard gloves which are looking a little worse for wear). The Terra work gloves are a part of the new trend of using nitrile-dipped technology to “waterproof” your hands against the nasty wet stuff you deal with on a regular basis. And they do keep water and most muck out, provided that it doesn’t go much farther than your knuckles. Their rough grippy outer shell is great for dealing with recycling and garbage, and as with this pair of cold weather gloves, they are snow proof. But they are far from perfect. Basically, due to the waterproofing latex-esque layer of paint that keeps stuff out, they also keep moisture in. Even while driving, once the heater in the car kicks in at -30, they start to get… moist. Any real activity that involves any physical labour, the gloves actually get colder. This is because as you start to sweat (which is your body’s way of maintaining a consistent internal temperature of 37°C / 98.5°F when faced with a rising internal temperature), the water collects right against your skin and it conducts heat 25 times faster than when your hands are dry (see Survival Course, Shelter). So unless you...
Knotwork Containers

Knotwork Containers

For years, I have struggled with the problem of carrying objects using rope. Every time I take an object – say a cooler without handles – and strap it down , the weave starts to come loose from jostling as soon as I’m on the trail and the “package” begins its escape. This happens regardless of the shape – Jerry cans, 20 lb. propane cylinders, an oversized sleeping bag that doesn’t fit in my pack – they all free themselves eventually. But no more. While thumbing through an old craft book from 1975, I came across an article called Macramé Made Easy, alongside articles on pottery, stain glass work and chamois clothing. You probably remember Macramé from those old owls that people hung in their basements dangerously close to the wood stove. Or that collection of hanging plant baskets with the really fibrous brown jute. Macramé is a form of textile crafting using knotwork rather than weaving or knitting. And it is really simple. You just learned macramé. It was that easy. Oh, there are lots of techniques using different types of knots, but in essence, it’s just a series of knots. With this technique alone, you could easily fashion gill nets (by tying a series of reverse larkshead knots to a length of line), fish traps (using sapling hoops instead of a solid container),  and even a whole woven haversack- using 550 paracord and #36 bankline. In essence, you could make a whole fish net with this technique alone. Applications In the outdoors, macramé is perfect for creating woven containers for carrying large jugs of water, a 5-gallon bucket or any bulky awkward objects – add handles for a two-person carry. Attach your...
Winter Pack Sled Build

Winter Pack Sled Build

In 2004, my friends and I set out to conquer the winter wilderness. For years, we used a cabin deep in the woods as our three season destination. But never in the winter – we worried about the cold, but also, the logistics. How do you get 3 guys and their stuff miles into the woods in knee deep snow, assuming the worst terrain and weather? While sitting around drinking beers in my friend’s basement, I remembered an image from an old Boy Scout Field Guide. It showed three Scouts pulling a wood toboggan through the woods. They looked like they were enjoying themselves and it looked easy enough. What they failed to illustrate was anything greater than flat terrain, and how they got there in the first place. Back in the day, I only had access to a car, not a truck. So everything we decided to bring went in cardboard boxes (burnable?) and our cheap Canadian Tire wood toboggan went from the trunk and into the back seat. When we got to the trail, everything was dumped out of the car onto the cold snow. Almost immediately we were chilled and we stood around discussing optimal placement of the boxes and how we would lash everything together. We decided to pile the cardboard boxes onto a tarp on top of the toboggan and then lashed the whole contraption together with piss-poor knot tying. We used a long length of rope that I had on hand with caribeaners on either end, and a 1 1/2” belt harness that had 2 d-rings held between sliders. I brought a pair of...
Every Day Carry

Every Day Carry

EDC Check. For those who are veterans of survival and preparedness, if you think you are prepared and this article is old hat consider this: Where is your EDC bag / stuff? Is it on you right now? What is in it right this second? What does it cover? Have you ever used any of the stuff in it? I mean really used it? Does it have all the components needed to cover off your basic needs? Time to walk the walk. Buckle down, test your stuff. Make a real fire, check the expiration dates, etc.    Every time my mother-in-law picks up my backpack, she constantly exclaims “what’s in this” and “why is this bag so heavy”. While I wouldn’t say the bag is heavy, it does have some heft to it. I have gotten used to the weight of being prepared and I feel almost naked without my backpack – like when I have to go through airport security. What makes up the majority of the bulk of my daily backpack is my EDC or Every Day Carry kit. If I took all the contents out and laid them on the table, the few items that I really need on a daily basis are my wallet, keys and maybe a pack of gum. But I don’t want to carry what I just need, I want to carry what I may use. Whether it is an emergency or just daily life, my EDC helps me cover almost everything that comes my way. Every Day Carry What is Every Day Carry? EDC is the price of admission into preparedness. It is the most...