How to Make a Water Bottle Survival Kit

I thought I would see how many useful survival items I could stuff into a small water bottle like this one (it’s 16-ounce, hard-sided):

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At 16-ounces it’s not a very big water bottle and that was a part of the challenge! Of course, you could choose a larger water bottle if you prefer and it doesn’t have to be hard-sided either. Since a water bottle is relatively small you could easily toss it into a bag, backpack, or the console of your car and not think twice about it.

Here’s what I was able to stuff inside:

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In no particular order:

  1. Vaseline and cotton ball fire starters – I made these a while back and since they’re fairly compact they got tossed in. Besides, fire-starting can be a crucial skill and anything you can include to make it easier is a plus.
  2. Bic lighters x 2 – I was originally going to add just one lighter which is probably sufficient but I figured I had room so I added another.
  3. Bandanna – I don’t think I’ve ever seen anybody try to stuff a bandanna into a small survival kit. Seeing as though they’re so useful I figured I would try to stuff one in there near the end. After some work I was able to do so.
  4. Stormproof Matches x 2 – If you’re going to add matches to a kit you may as well buy matches that you can rely upon. These matches are awesome! Again, I originally planned on adding just one box but two fit.
  5. Potable Aqua tabs – These don’t take up much room and it’s wise to have redundancy in any kit.
  6. Sweedish firesteel – I could have found a smaller firesteel to include (without the handle) but this is easier to grasp and it fit without a problem.
  7. Streamlight Nano flashlight (and mini USB drive) – I couldn’t think of any smaller flashlight than this one which is what I keep on my keychain. I thought about adding birthday candles but a flashlight is what I wanted. There are other small flashlights that I had laying around but this was the smallest. As for the USB drive, it’s attached to the light and I didn’t feel like separating them. 😉
  8. Mini multi-tool – I’m not even sure where I got this particular mini multi-tool but it’s just plenty small enough to fit inside the water bottle and just large enough to be useful.
  9. Roll of duct tape – This small roll of duct tape actually belongs on a keychain. If this were a survival kit I intended to keep, I would add more duct tape; just wrap it around an old Bic pen (cut to size) and you’re in business.
  10. Rescue Howler Whistle x 2 – Again, I only intended to add one whistle but I had room so I added another.
  11. McNett Frontier Water Filter Straw – This water filter straw is quite compact and can fit just about anywhere plus it makes drinking water easier while on the move.

Remember that this was just a first try. As you can tell I have fire-starting well covered with two bic lighters, two boxes of good matches, a firesteel, and Vaseline fire-starters. Similarly, I have water covered with the water filter straw and Potable Aqua tabs. And, of course, the hard-sided water bottle.

As for gear, I think the whistles are a good addition but I really only needed one. The flashlight (any small one would do) is a must-have in my opinion. Duct tape is always useful but I would want to add more. The multi-tool is ok but if I had a small enough knife I would have preferred that. Bandannas are also useful and it serves to hold everything in place.

I realize now that I could have also easily shoved in a few more potentially useful items such as wire ties, a needle and some thread, safety pins, maybe some small fishing equipment, and other small items like that. If I’d taken out a few of the duplicate items (the extra lighter, matches, whistle) these items–among others–would have easily fit.

Not quite sure what else to add to be honest. What about you? Have you tried this? If so, what did you include?

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Two Battery Storage Myths Debunked

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Storing batteries isn’t rocket science. Far from it. But sometimes it seems like batteries are a “mystical” part of preps and that they should be treated with “kid gloves” lest they fail you when most needed. Nope. Not at all.

In fact, the good news about batteries is that they can–and should–be treated very similarly to your food storage. Simply keep them in a cool, dry place and you’re good to go. Really.

[Note that the following advice is for any common battery type, e.g., alkaline or lithium batteries.]

Myth #1: Keep batteries in the fridge or freezer to increase longevity

While true that storing batteries in a colder environment is better than a hot one, there seems to be no benefit to storing batteries in the fridge or freezer. Personally, I used to do this because I thought it was the right thing to do but now I just keep them on a shelf with some other preps.

I should point out that excessive moisture levels can be a problem for batteries so you’ll want to store them in a place that has lower humidity levels, such as an air conditioned room in the home, perhaps the basement if it’s dry, or wherever. Places such as the bathroom or maybe the laundry room are NOT the best places to store them and even the fridge might pose more of a problem than a benefit due to higher humidity inside the fridge.

Myth #2: Batteries can only “go bad” when actually being used

Because batteries rely on chemical processes to provide power over time batteries will run down or “go bad” even if not used. And, while this isn’t usually an issue for most people because they tend to use batteries before any noticeable effects, it can become a problem for prepping purposes for the simple fact that you and I are likely to store more batteries than the “average Joe” and therefore not actually use them all before replenishing.

You can combat this problem by (1) actually using and rotating batteries from your preps and (2) purchasing “low self discharge” or LSD versions of batteries where possible. LSD batteries refer to rechargeable battery types and there’s none better than Eneloops. From my own experiences and because of testing by people far smarter than I, Eneloops are the way to go for reliability. As for alkaline batteries, just buy quality name brands like Energizer or Duracell.

Remember, so long as you treat your batteries similarly to your food storage–stored in a cool, dry place and rotated–then you have little to worry about.

I’m Thinking About Buying a Beekeeper Suit, Maybe You Should too

wasp-nestNow, I’m not saying I have the answer here but I’ve been thinking about buying a beekeeper’s suit lately, and it’s not because I plan on keeping bees anytime soon… someday I might like to try it.

Instead, I’m thinking about SHTF situations where I may have to deal with a hive of bees or, more likely, a nest of yellow-jackets or paper wasps. Granted, I’ve never bothered with a bee suit thus far but, then again, I’ve never had to REALLY deal with them on my own, at least, nothing more than a healthy wasps nest here and there.

The problem for me is this: what if something goes wrong and I get a few too many stings and wind up having a bad reaction? A reaction bad enough where I would need hospitalization? During SHTF the expectation is that proper medical care won’t be available and so it’s “every man for himself!”

With this in mind, and understanding that prevention is worth a pound of cure, I figured that I should have something at my disposal that could help me from becoming another statistic post-SHTF.

Of course, in most cases these insects are best left alone if possible but that’s not always feasible. Perhaps they’re just a nuisance to start with but could eventually become a serious threat to family, which is something I cannot allow. As such, I’ve been considering a beekeeper suit like this one:

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Personally, I like the idea of purchasing a professional-grade beekeeper suit because, well, it’s designed for the task! In particular, it has the all-in-one suit design and integrated hood (and gloves too).

Most beekeeping suits are made from cotton which apparently breathes much better than other options, such as this very inexpensive suit made from tyvek material. This may not seem like a big deal but I’d hate to pass out from heat exhaustion if I don’t have to.

Regardless, that got me to wondering whether I could just buy any old set of coveralls and a separate bee veil and call it good? I don’t honestly know.

My take is that I’d rather spend a few more bucks and get a product made for the job–even if it’s not the best option out there–than to find out the bees found an unexpected hole or several when I tried to piece something together. That would be a bad day times ten!

Of course, there are those people that don’t use anything special whatsoever, save for coveralls and nerves of steel… but that’s just not me 😉

I might also want to purchase a hive smoker too but figured I would start with a suit if I buy anything at all.

Honestly, I’m torn about buying a suit, figuring that the odds of me ever actually needing one are slim to none and that I could probably just makeshift something if I absolutely had to. Of course, then I get to thinking that if I’m actually in a situation where I’m contemplating wearing such a protective suit then I’m probably in a situation where I would REALLY appreciate having a suit on-hand. And that, in my opinion, is a bit part of what prepping is all about.

Hmmm… seems I’m trying to talk myself into buying one! What do you think? Is a bee suit useful? Or should I do something totally different? I know this person seems to despise bee suits altogether. So, for the person who doesn’t currently keep bees and has little expectation of needing a bee suit BUT doesn’t want to end up dead due to massive amounts of potentially avoidable stings SHTF+1, what should I do? Oh, and remember I’m actually more interested in avoid stings from yellow-jackets and wasps rather than bees.

Thanks in advance for your advice.

Are You Missing This Useful, Back-Saving Gardening Tool?

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I’ve never claimed to anything but a hobby gardener at best and even that’s to be debated at times. Sadly, as a hobby gardener I’ve purchased my fair share of dumb tools that promised to make my life easier. Time and again I’ve realized that there are only a few worthwhile gardening tools that I bother to use.

One of these tools is the trusty garden fork (also known as a spading fork) and not to be confused with a pitch fork, another tool I’m slightly fond of but not the subject of this post. FYI, according to Wikipedia a garden fork and pitch fork differ as such:

“Garden forks are slightly different from pitchforks, which are used for moving loose materials such as piled hay, compost, or manure. Garden forks have comparatively a fairly short, usually wooden handle, with a “D” or “T” end. Their tines are usually shorter, flatter, thicker, and more closely spaced.”

Basically, a garden fork is shorter and sturdier than a pitch fork, but there’s a bit more to it than that…

In particular, the “D” shaped handle of a garden fork makes it, IMO, significantly more useful than a pitchfork around the garden because the handle can be easily grasped such that you can apply leverage to twist and work the ground, from loosening soil to working plants or weeds out of the ground at the end of a growing season and even during the season too.

According to the OSU Extension Service:

“…’The single most useful, versatile tool for tillage and preparing the soil is a spading fork, a robust pitchfork-type tool,’ Miller said. This long-handled or D-handled tool helps to “fluff” up the soil to prepare it for planting and also mixes compost, lime, and fertilizer at least eight to 12 inches into the soil – if you add amendments before you dig. This tool also makes it easier to pull out weeds and get vegetable plants ready for the compost bin.”

Well, I doubt I could say it any better myself. If you want to save your back when working the soil–especially during preparation and at the end of the growing season–a garden fork is a truly useful tool, and one that you should include in your go-to set of gardening tools.

Hope this helps!

So You’ve Got Your EDC Covered, But What About Your Spouse?

keychain-edc-explainedIf your house is anything like mine then chances are that you’re the prepper and your spouse just goes along with things. It seems I’ve been at this long enough that she usually just sighs and says “whatever, dear!”

Recently, however, I got to really thinking about the saying “you’re only as prepared as what you have on you” and, though I’ve done my best to adhere to it personally, I think I’ve been woefully neglecting my wife’s EDC!

I’ve always figured that so long as I had gear with me as well as supplies in the car for her then that was good enough. After all, what are the chances she would ever be that far from me, our home, or the car? The odds are probably small but then again she might be on her own and unable to return to the car, so, there’s *that* potential problem.

Of course, I carry various gear on me from a simple pocket knife to multi-tool, firesteel, and more but there’s no way I could get her to carry half of this stuff… or was there?

Obviously, I knew she had to carry her keys around and so I got to searching the Net for “keyring EDC” ideas and found quite a few things that looked interesting, a few of which I’ve adopted.

Lighting

First, I should note that I’ve always kept a small keyring flashlight attached to our keys. We’ve had a Photon LED Mico-Light on our keychains for years and it’s worked flawlessly but recently I switched to the Streamlight Nano LED Light which I actually like even more since it’s significantly brighter and just as lightweight (and it uses typical watch batteries which can be replaced):

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Like I said, it’s a solid light and one that I recommend. We’ve found many situations where they come in handy just in everyday life. Adding a keychain light a no-brainer. Besides a light, the only other two items I’ve included up till now was a P-38 Can Opener (and I only bothered to do that because it took up no space at all) and a Corsair USB drive. And although I like the USB drive I really should have spent the money and purchased a more sturdy option.

Anyway, it’s obvious her keychain needed… more stuff.

Fire Starting

Now, as it only took my wife two days to notice I added this–in her defense she hadn’t gone anywhere in that time–I choose to add a way to start a fire to her keychain.

After searching, I wanted to go with something like this True Utility Key Ring Lighter but I couldn’t bring myself to spend more than a few dollars on this need and instead choose to add a mini bic lighter (buy them at your local Walmart to save money) as the following video shows:

 

Now, I also considered just adding a firesteel instead (or in addition to) but I didn’t because I never expected my wife to take up bushcrafting skills. I did, however, want to ensure she could light a fire whether she wanted to be able to or not and a bic lighter was the easiest way to do that.

Duct Tape

At first, I choose to try and wrap about a foot of duct tape around the mini bic lighter but that didn’t go so well. Reason being is that I used a paperclip as my attachment mechanism (as per the first video above) and I found that the more I wrapped the more creases I wound up with. If I had only wrapped once or twice it would have worked out fine.

As such, I only wrapped duct tape around the lighter a few times instead which probably equated to six inches at most. A few days later I redid this plan and went with the bic lighter mods shown in the second video above because I choose to add duct tape in a similar fashion to the following video which worked out a lot better (minus the fancy beads and clips) and equated to about two feet total:

Honestly, finding an old bic pen was the hardest part! And, FYI, you can get two applications out of a single bic pen if you’re careful when cutting.

Whistle: Signaling for help

Yes, there are whistles designed to fit on a keychain but I like these Rescue Howler Whistles which I think are far superior and, besides, they don’t take up too much space:

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Other Things I Could Have Added But Did Not…

Believe it or not, there are all sorts of keychain-sized items you can add, from scissors to nail clippers, mini multi-tools, telescoping pens, a compass, a watertight capsule for storing cash or whatever, key-shaped USB drive, key-shaped multi-tools, and more. Just search Amazon and you’ll find plenty of items to fill your keychain rather quickly. IMO, try and steer clear of most of these items unless you have an actual need.

Stuff I Still Somehow Want to Add…

The one item I wanted to add was pepper spray but even the keychain-sized ones are rather large. Perhaps in the future I’ll revisit EDC pepper spray again.

I also thought about adding some OTC meds since I had some small vials (like these) but decided against it as her keychain was getting a bit bulky as it was.

The last item she should probably have was a knife but I didn’t see any great options for keychain knives, though there are a few that might work, I just haven’t tried them yet. I did briefly consider a credit card knife which wasn’t very expensive but I do wonder how truly useful it would be, here’s what one looks like:

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If anyone has experience with them I would love to hear it.

Concluding Thoughts…

As you can see from the first photo her keychain not only has car and house keys, it also has:

  • a mini bic lighter
  • duct tape (about two feet)
  • a whistle
  • flashlight
  • can opener
  • USB drive (with pertinent info)

The thing is that I had to remember that I could only add so much before my wife balked and so I figured I could get away with the above and thus far I have.

Granted, there are other ways to carry some of these items, including in a wallet or purse. For instance, I prefer to keep a foot or two of duct tape wrapped around an old credit card in my wallet and have done so for years. Similarly, it’s a simple matter to add a p-38 can opener almost anywhere, whereas a “secret” stash of money in a wallet or purse (my wife carries a day planner) takes up no space.

Ultimately, I tried to add a few items that my wife could potentially use without overwhelming her and, of course, ensuring her keys could still fit in a pocket, well, sort of. 🙂

Prepping Supplies I Left Behind Due to Our Long Distance Move

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When we first planned to move ourselves from Kansas City to Seattle (about 2000 miles) we intended to rent a large U-haul van because that’s what we’ve always done when we moved. The thing is that we’ve never moved cross-country, not as an adult anyway, and the more we thought about it, driving a large vehicle that far during the winter didn’t sound like any fun let alone very safe.

So, we changed our plans and decided to rent a moving POD instead from 1800PackRat.com. Though there were other moving pod choices, 1800PackRat seemed to be the least expensive option. For the most part, the decision turned out to be cheaper and far easier on us since they not only dropped off the pod for us to load in Kansas City but also picked it up when we finished and even did the same in Seattle. Overall, we were quite happy with the service.

The problem, however, was that we were not only limited in storage space but apparently there’s a weight limit on the pods too, more on that in a moment. With regards to the pod storage space, we wound up downsizing and got rid of two rooms of furniture, a assortment of lawn equipment, and even left non-essentials like various holiday decorations and so on.

Despite my brother-in-law helping me play the greatest game of Tetris I could have imagined in the pod–and so we fit more stuff that I thought possible–we still had to leave some important stuff behind…

Food Storage

The weight issue turned out to be a bigger problem than I realized. There’s an 8000 pound weight limit that I had no idea how to gauge so I just shoved until I could shove no more. What happened was that I wound up shoving all of my food storage in the back of the pod because I wasn’t sure that I would be able to fit it and, well, we *had* to take the important things like couches and clothes. 😉

I figured if I couldn’t fit my food storage I would leave it in good hands and buy more when we moved. Fortunately, there was room and we shoved. The problem was that I was not only past my total weight limit of 8000 pounds but when the pod operator showed up to get the pod he couldn’t get the back end off the ground! Long story short, a good portion of my food storage was left behind. 🙁

Water Barrels

Beyond that, I only brought two 55-gallon water barrels leaving behind a few more. Moreover, I couldn’t bring the “holy grail” of water storage options (an IBC tote) because that took up way too much dead air space. I figured I could get an IBC tote when I moved but they seem to be difficult to procure here… I’ll keep trying.

Ammo

I was getting desperate to remove weight from the back end and wound up leaving a large box of ammo which I knew weighed quite a bit. In hindsight I should have brought it but, like I said, I was a bit desperate.

Fuel and Power

While I wasn’t quite sure about the pod rules regarding transporting fuels, I DID know my wife’s rules and that was not to screw up her stuff because of any of MY stuff! And, after my recent foul-up with leaking isopropyl alcohol all over some supplies I had, the last thing I needed was to leak gasoline all over our furniture!!

Granted, I should have just emptied the cans and not worried about it but I wasn’t sure if gasoline vapors would be an issue either and, like I said, I didn’t need to have the smell of gasoline all over our clothes and furniture for months on end and then to have my wife constantly remind me of my screw up. I did, however, take some propane as I figured that stuff was darn stable.

So, now I need to by a few new gas cans. Guess I haven’t bought any in a while as they’re super expensive!

I also wound up leaving a few solar-related items including some panels and batteries. This was more due to the fact that I wasn’t sure I could utilize solar power in and amongst all the trees I’m now living in.

Concluding Thoughts

If I had known better I would have packed the pod differently so that it would have been more likely that I could have taken more of my prep supplies. Specifically, I would have distributed the weight differently.

Fortunately, however, all is not lost. The currently plan is that I’ll return in the summer to gather what was not brought with us so it’s not a total loss but there is a several month gap so, of course, I’ll probably want to replace the majority of what I’m missing sooner than the summer.

I’ve already started working on food storage but have more to go. I REALLY want to get more water barrels and so I need to find a cheap source quickly. The ammo box I left wasn’t crucial but I’d prefer to have more rather than less and so I need to procure some more shotly too.

Ultimately, the moral of the story is to shove the preps in FIRST, don’t tell your wife, and then shrug when there’s no room for her fancy china. 😉

Moving is a Great Time to Organize Your Preps and Get Your Act Together Again!

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We’re fairly efficient movers as it seems we move every few years. One of these days I would like to NOT move and actually find a place we can truly call home… perhaps someday soon.

The thing with moving is that it’s a great time to not only de-clutter and purge your household possession but also your prepping supplies and gear as well. In fact, I took this opportunity to do a major overhaul and literally go through EVERYTHING I owned! Yes, it turned out to be a multi-day ordeal but I’m glad I did it.

You see, as organized as I like to be (and claim to be) things just get out of hand as the years pass. Stuff gets shoved wherever there’s space, sometimes gear doesn’t get put back where it belongs, ideas that sounded good at the time don’t work as time passes by, and so on.

It’s was time for a major overhaul.

Because the place we’re renting has a rather large workshop, I essentially laid out everything I had on counters and the floor and because to think about what I had…

Organizing the Tote Bins

Because I use a handful of large tote bins to organize smaller preps I decided I wanted to reorganize them first and foremost. So, I thought about how I might utilize my emergency supplies and wound up organizing the most likely to be used supplies in the first two bins.

Specifically, I choose to place things like lighting (lanterns, flashlights, candles, etc), emergency radios, and power-related stuff (inverters, charge controller, propane equipment, etc) in the first bin. I figured this stuff would be the most likely emergency supplies I would be looking for. Previously, it was strewn in all different bins.

The second bin wound up being things I thought I might need to get into if things got a bit worse, including assorted food and cooking supplies but, in all honesty, I probably wouldn’t be getting into most of this stuff as I already have the stuff I would use NOT in bins. Really, this stuff is just extra.

The same can be said for the remainder of my bins. I have one dedicated to sanitation and hygiene supplies that really just includes a bunch of “extra” supplies that I would never use unless I’m getting desperate. This bin includes supplies like extra toothbrushes, bar soap, trash bags, and plenty more.

Other bins include additional supplies that I don’t expect to utilize unless things get rough and could include anything, from rolls of paracord to fishing line, antibiotics, and even dental extraction forceps. Yup, if I’m getting into these bins things are bad. 😉

Stuff Not in Bins

Now, even though I’ve got things organized in bins how they make more sense to me, the majority of the preparedness gear that I WILL use really isn’t in buckets at all. This includes things like my Big Berkey water filter, grain mill, sun oven, firearms, dehydrator, water barrels, and more. Most of these things are just too big to fit in bins or are being used regularly.

I also took this opportunity to go through our bug out bags (that also double as vehicle kit bags). Long story short I went through each of them and did my best to ensure they were mirror images of each other so there’s no missing expectations or unexpected surprises.

I also overhauled my off-site cache. Previously my go-to cache was kept in a large 32-gallon trash barrel and was mostly just a hodgepodge of emergency supplies that I threw in there. Ok, it wasn’t *that* bad but it did need an overhaul. Now, the majority of my off-site supplies are in a sturdy locking tote. The only thing left to do is to ask the only people we know nearby to allow me to cache it at their place.

Vehicles Supplies

Last, I went through the one car we currently have and ensured it was ready to go. I made sure there were jumper cables, an assortment of flat tire repair supplies, assorted hand tools, fuses (a MUST!), flares, tie-down straps, various fluids (water, engine oil, antifreeze), flashlight, phone charger, pre-paid phone, and more. And, of course, I ensured it was mechanically sound, had proper fluid levels, correct tire pressure, and so on.

My Final Thoughts

All-in-all it was a long process that took me multiple days to finish. Maybe I didn’t have to go through everything but it was nice to reorganize my supplies in a way that made more sense to me. And, besides, I did find a few things I thought I was missing and even re-familiarized myself with some of the emergency supplies I keep but don’t regularly use.

Solar Suitcase: Self-Contained Portable Solar Power Station

Portable Solar Panels: Solar Suitcase
Portable Solar Power Station: Solar Suitcase

I’m a huge fan of solar power systems, in particular, those you can build yourself. But, I understand if you want something that’s already done for you. Enter the portable solar power station in the form of the Solar Suitcase.

This is a complete portable solar power kit where you can use both an DC and AC plug and get power out. They have kits that range anywhere from 10 watts output up to 500 watts output. This is important to understand because it’s NOT the same thing as a 10 or 500 watt solar panel.

Be sure to read the product descriptions to understand exactly what you’re getting with each particular solar suitcase before buying. For example, it seems the smallest 10-watt unit (PSK10) only outputs DC but also has a USB plug and even a radio whereas all other units output both DC and AC. They also have a 20-watt suitcase that boasts a lithium battery; it costs significantly more but lithiums are quite durable and hold a charge very well.

In addition, pay particular attention to the solar panel and battery capacity numbers as they differ a bit from unit to unit. Last, be sure to purchase one of the actual suitcases and not one of the multifunction generators kits if you want it all to be self-contained, which I think you would.

In my opinion, the featured 200 watt solar suitcase (currently on sale for $349) should be plenty to charge cell phones, a tablet, or run a laptop. Depending on your equipment you could also easily run some DC lighting or a radio too without any trouble. The largest solar suitcase option–at 500 watts power output–probably isn’t necessary for most situations.

The downsides to most of these suitcases is that you will have to drag it out every few months and recharge the battery because they will drain down. After all, the last thing you want is to expect to rely a piece of gear when you need it the most only to find it’s out of charge. Fortunately, it seems that some of the solar suitcases have the ability to accept AC input to charge the battery but not all of them.

Regardless, these solar suitcases look to be a reliable portable solar power station that will last for years to come.

Zip Grip Go: The World’s Simplest Snow Traction Device!

My buddy, Doug, pointed out this really cool alternative to snow chains made by ZipGripGo.com a week or two ago and I thought they were a great idea to share with you. In fact, if I had not already purchased a set of snow chains just a week or two before I was aware these existed, I probably would have went with this idea instead. Rather than explaining it myself, watch this video…

If zip ties alone aren’t quite your thing it seems they have a hybrid setup that combines the ease of zip ties with assurance of chains as shown here:

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Personally, I like the idea of a set of “snow chains” that I can rely upon but don’t take up much, if any, space in my trunk. In my opinion, if you’re looking for something that can be there just in case you ever needed them, consider these snow chain alternatives from ZipGripGo.com.