This guy has made so many DIY coolers and whatnot that I can’t keep track anymore, lol. That said, I do like that it’s highly portable and able to be easily run off solar power too…
Recently, I’ve been wanting to clean my own fireplace flue rather than having to pay somebody to do it. And, yes, I know there’s something to be said for having a qualified chimney sweep inspect it once a year, which I still plan to do, but for peace of mind until then I figured it couldn’t hurt to do it myself. As such, I started looking for DIY chimney sweeps.
The only problem, however, is that I REALLY don’t like climbing on my roof, especially since it has a rather steep pitch, but mostly because I’ve inherited my dad’s general fear of heights… you should see me trying to climb on my rooftop, it takes me at least ten minutes to do as I slowly shimmy my way way up there, lol. And getting down is even worse!
Anyway, rather than getting a traditional chimney sweep with a metal brush, the kind where I’d have to be on top of my roof, I found this Gardus Sooteater Rotary Chimney Cleaning System which allows me to keep my feet safely on the ground and to clean my flue from the bottom up:
The contents include the following (as shown in the photo below):
- Chimney sweep head
- 6 three-foot flexible rods
- Plastic sheet (to cover the fireplace opening)
- Drill bit adapter and wrench
I should note that I was a little concerned about the “flexible” rods because they didn’t seem that flexible to me at first glance, but I was wrong… they’re fairly flexible and I had no trouble with them. Time to get to work.
Now, here’s what the inside of the flue looked like before attempting my chimney sweep (after about a cord of wood). Clearly, there is some buildup, but it doesn’t look horrible compared to some photos I found online. Truth be told, I don’t really know what “normal” is so my opinion here doesn’t count for much:
The first thing I had to do was to trim the rotary head to be slightly larger than my flue diameter. I measured my flue diameter to be 5.5″ and, so, I trimmed the head to be about 6″ in diameter according to the directions:
I was a bit concerned about trimming the head to be THAT short because I felt like it may not clean the flue well enough if, for example, the head slid along one side of the flue pipe as I worked up the flue. I read online, however, that as it speeds up the head will tend to center itself and properly clean all of the flue. In addition, if I’d chosen to NOT trim the head to fit as directed that it may not clean well enough because it wouldn’t properly scrape the flue wall. Ultimately, I took the internet’s word for it and trimmed the head as directed.
Next, I cut out some of the plastic sheeting to fit my fireplace and taped it in place with some duct tape, though I left the bottom open so I could fit the chimney sweep inside, like so:
The directions, however, stated I should have poked a hole in the center of the plastic and taped the entire sheet in place; by now I figured I knew more than the manufacturer and, so, I ignored that recommendation… hopefully that wouldn’t come back to haunt me.
I quickly started to work my way up the flue and it was surprisingly easy to do. Here’s what it looked like after I’d added a few extensions:
I was done in only a few minutes, but I did slow down as I got near the top because I was worried about knocking off or otherwise ruining my chimney cap. Here’s what I got out of the flue pipe:
It was a good several scoops of what I’m assuming is first stage creosote because it was black, light, and fluffy. And, just out of curiosity, I wondered what my chimney flue looked like when I was done:
As you might be able to tell, half of the flue looked like it was cleaned well. The other half (where the red arrow points) didn’t look very cleaned, which is something I’d worried about when I cut the head strings so short. From what I could tell, however, it did seem to clean all of the flue pipe further up, at least, from what I could see. It was really just the bottom few feet where it didn’t clean because the head never centered itself. Oh, well, I think that next time I’ll try to replace the head strings and cut them a bit longer or really focus on the bottom section.
Ultimately, I’d say my DIY chimney sweep was a success. I was able to use my old 14.4 volt cordless drill (even though I was worried about not having enough torque) and I didn’t make a mess either by not fully sealing the door opening with plastic and tape… which also means I get to stay married for a little while longer. 🙂
One thing I do like about this system is that apparently I can replace the head strings on my own with weed-eater string (it just needs to be the right diameter) which means I can do this on my own again in the future, and very inexpensively.
I also think that next time I might try to work my way from the top down (but still keep my feet on the ground) as I saw this guy do here:
Overall, I’m fairly pleased with the Gardus Sooteater Rotary Chimney Cleaning System. It allowed me to clean out my chimney flue without having to climb on my rooftop (which I would have dreaded), was easy to do, can be reused, and didn’t cost much.
That said, I’m still probably going to have a qualified chimney sweep come out before next season starts and check it out just to be sure.
Let’s play a game! When I say “prepping,” what is the first thing that comes to your mind? What about “survival?”
My guess is that most of you immediately thought of food, water, or other survival gear. And those are great answers. We can’t live long without food and water. But if you had an abundant storehouse of those supplies yet didn’t have other important items, your life could still be uncomfortable or, worse… in jeopardy.
There are lots of important considerations that need serious attention, but in this article, we’ll be focusing on just one: CLOTHING.
During normal, peaceful times, we use clothing primarily as a covering, a social cue, and a statement. During times of emergency when new clothing isn’t readily available, it’s often a lifesaver.
We can die much faster from exposure to the elements than we can die of starvation or even dehydration. Exposure in certain environments can certainly accelerate dehydration, but because there are threats that come from exposure during different seasons, it’s critically important that we have adequate clothing.
Where Do Clothes Come From?
When young children are asked where eggs or milk come from, they often respond, “The store.” That response would be funny if it weren’t so sad. They aren’t kidding; we’re disconnected from the source of our food. It’s just far more convenient and productive to buy our food than it is to grow it, so people move into the cities and buy what they need.
Similarly, if you asked kids — or even adults! — where clothes come from, we’re likely to respond, “The store.” That’s true for us today, but it wasn’t as true for our grandparents, great grandparents, and earlier generations. They would often buy fabric and then sew clothing as needs arose. In that era, learning to sew was a right of passage. That skill has largely been lost to recent generations.
So what would we do if clothing wasn’t available to buy for a while? Would you panic as your children’s clothes wore out and started to hang like rags from their bodies? Imagine your anxiety as snow sets in to see that your child had outgrown his shoes. What would you do if you couldn’t purchase a larger pair?
It’s hard to imagine not being able to purchase clothing off the rack since it’s so easy to do today. There are stores within minutes of most of our homes that stock all sorts of sizes, colors, and styles. Today’s ease of access to ready-made clothing could quickly change for a number of reasons, including:
- A pandemic could force people to stay home from work and avoid public places.
- Hyperinflation could also impact availability. As the value of currency plummets, people race to spend their money on necessities and tangible goods before the value of their money falls further. All sorts of goods become hard to find.
- An EMP could stop normal methods of production and distribution.
- Job loss or other financial strain could make buying clothing for your family difficult for a time.
If you have a supply of clothing on hand for future needs, however, it will ease the worry of clothing, which could really help. These scenarios don’t seem real or possible to many because we’ve had it so good for so long. The fact that most people haven’t seen times where clothing isn’t readily available doesn’t mean that it can’t happen!
Prior to the Great Depression things seemed pretty good. Prior to the hyperinflation of the Weimar Republic things were probably going fine. History repeats itself, and those who stick their fingers in their ears, pretending that it can’t happen here, will be least prepared when it someday does.
Shopping in Advance of the Need
Buy and store extra clothing. Try to select quality clothing that will be as durable and functional as possible. The good news is that you can save considerable money when you buy clothing in advance of your need.
Think about it, if you wear through a pair of shoes you’ll need to go get a new pair right now, because you don’t want to go to work tomorrow with your foot hanging out the side of your shoe. 😉
Because you need the shoes now, you head to the mall, visit one or two stores, and purchase the best available combination of product and price. Right now might not be the best time to purchase a pair of shoes at a really good price. The same shoes might cost half as much in a month or two when that store has a big clearance sale. When you buy in advance of your need, you can search out and find quality products at rock-bottom prices, then buy them to set aside UNTIL you need them.
It’s a known fact that you WILL need to buy shoes again at some point, as well as pants, and shirts, and socks, etc. These things wear out over time, so buying them in advance is extremely practical. Buying clothing this way for adults is fairly easy. They typically won’t be growing taller. Hopefully, they won’t be growing much in the other direction either! Kids are a little trickier. Their growth can be pretty explosive at times. When you’re buying season-specific clothing, you have to make an educated guess on the size they’ll need when that season rolls around.
Where to Find Quality Clothing at the Best Prices
You can certainly go to the retail store of your choice and buy several sizes ahead, but a better choice may be to find more highly discounted options. Because you’re buying in ADVANCE of your need, you can take your time, finding high quality items that have minimal cost. We like to frequent yard sales, thrift shops, craigslist (or similar sites), and the really good sales at factory outlet stores. We also buy ahead for the next year when seasonal clothes go on clearance at department stores.
Black Friday is coming up. It’s THE day where Americans often go wild, buying loads of plastic things and shiny objects to give as Christmas gifts. Sometimes people buy things simply because they’re on sale. Rather than limiting your Black Friday shopping to toys and gadgets, look for really attractive clothing offerings that have a special markdown that weekend. You may find deals a specific stores, or you may have your best luck online with sites like fatwallet.com or slickdeals.net. We’ve purchased some items off eBay and Amazon too.
Stop by your local Goodwill or other thrift stores in your community to get familiar with their offerings and pricing. You could also try some of the consignment stores in your area like Plato’s Closet, Kid-to-Kid, or Once Upon a Child for lightly used name-brand clothing at deeply discounted pricing.
Yard sales have been a really great source during the summer months when they are abundant. You can frequent the neighborhoods that tend to have really nice stuff. Oftentimes, they just want to clear their extra stuff out, so you can get items at $1 or less for each piece. That’s not always the case, and there are instances where you’d be thrilled to pay more for certain items, but savings can be significant. When you show up toward the end of a yard sale, the savings get even better. People may say that you can fill a bag for $5, for example, or they may beg you to just take whatever you want (free), so they don’t have to haul it back inside.
Even if the clothing is free, you’ll want to select quality pieces that will serve you well and you’ll actually want to wear. We don’t want to cross a line into senseless hoarding, of course. Buy heavy coats, sweaters, warm socks, and boots during the hot months of the year when they aren’t needed. Many department stores will sell their seasonal inventory at up to 75% off normal prices as seasons change.
If you’re buying in advance, you can find brand-name clothes that you’re excited to wear for FAR less than you would normally spend if you were shopping in-season as needs arise. Organize and set aside items that need to be grown into or that need to wait for another season. Occasionally you may guess wrong about sizing or some other detail and won’t be able to use the clothes, but when you find a great deal, you can afford a few mistakes!
It’s also a good idea to hang onto clothing that is still in good shape and can be passed down to your younger children. To make finding the clothes easier when they are needed in the future, group the clothing by size and season if possible. If you can find really good clothing at great prices, then it shouldn’t take long to accumulate clothing several sizes ahead. This isn’t JUST emergency clothing, it’s clothing that will be worn when it fits and as it’s needed. Because you accumulate when you find the right item at the right price, you will rarely find yourself having to pay retail prices for clothing. You’ll end up saving significant money on clothing your family.
It’s Not Just About Ready-Made Clothing
In addition to storing clothes, you can also store buttons, zippers, snaps, bolts of fabric, and thread. The fabric can be used for anything you don’t have on hand that you later find you need. Denim is extremely durable, so it would be a fantastic fabric to keep on hand. Polar fleece is warm, comfortable, and dries quickly. There are many other fabrics used for different purposes. The more simple and plain the pattern, the easier it will be to use the fabric for a wide variety of purposes.
What if you can’t sew? Should you still store fabric? Yes! First of all, the fabric is an insurance policy of sorts. Hopefully your accumulation of pre-made clothing that we just discussed will get you through a crisis just fine until clothing becomes more available. If not, bolts of fabric provide some flexibility. You can certainly take lessons and practice to acquire sewing skill. It’s a valuable thing to know. You could probably learn a great deal, at least as a starting point, on YouTube. Learning to patch and repair shoes and clothing is another useful skill to pick up. If you know a few skills and have the equipment available, you can patch holes, modify hems, and address other needs to prolong the life of your shoes and clothes.
Here are a few extra items that you may want to have on hand for repairs:
- Shoe Goo or Freesole (strong adhesives specifically used for shoe repair)
- Replacement shoe laces
- Leather conditioner
- Patch fabric (which could be taken from the good parts of worn out clothing)
Even if you don’t WANT to learn how to sew, other people DO have that talent and could sew clothes for you in exchange for some fabric, food, or other need. If nothing else, the fabric could be an excellent barter item if ready-made clothing is too expensive or unavailable for a time.
Learning to knit or crochet is another useful still to pick up. Again, you’re likely to be able to learn those stills, at least at a basic level, through YouTube. If you have yarn on hand and know how to use it, you could make a beanie, a sweater, socks, or a blanket, for example.
This is a big project and these are important prepping supplies, but don’t get overwhelmed. It’s an elephant that you’ll just need to eat a bite at a time, so to speak. To get started, follow these steps:
- Take inventory of what your family members already have and what they currently need in terms of shoes, winter boots, clothing, coats, gloves, etc.
- Make a list of the sizes that everyone is your home is currently wearing.
- Determine the amount of money you can afford to set aside for clothing accumulation each month.
- Decide on a strategy for accumulation. Are you going to hit yard sales or a second hand shop, for example?
- Keep track of the clothing you acquire. Keeping a master list on paper or digitally will help you to know where you stand at any given moment. It will help you avoid situations where you have 24 shirts but no pants for a particular child.
- If you have rewards credit cards with stores like Kohls or Cabelas, consider using accumulated points to purchase quality snow boots or other clothing items with.
- Organize and store your collection in a place and grouping that makes them easy to access as needed.
Prepping isn’t easy, but you’re going to feel great after collecting the clothing that your family needs, knowing that you have a clothing buffer. You’ll be fine, even if ready-made clothing is hard to come by for a year or two. In the meantime, you’ll be saving a sizable sum and still wearing really high-quality, name-brand clothing, if so desired. Once you catch the spirit, it’s actually fun and your whole family can get involved in the process of watching for good deals!
Dave Greene is the father of six children, and a long-time Prepper. The desire to protect and provide for his kids provides him with major fuel for this passion. He founded Tools of Survival in 2012, to help families become better prepared. In the years since, Dave has taught classes on survival equipment, mindset, and techniques in a variety of venues.
Are you planning a trip into the tundra this winter? Do you love the allure cold-weather camping — a crackling fire, snuggling in a sleeping bag, roasting marshmallows? Do you worry about weather you’ll be equipped well for surviving a winter camping trip?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then you certainly are not alone. Tens of thousands of people camp during the winter season every year — and not only do they have a great time, but they’re able to stay warm and comfy. You can follow in their footsteps by packing the right materials and items to get you through the trip with efficiency and safety.
Read on to learn our eight pro tips for surviving a cold-weather camping trip. Whether it’s your first trip or your twentieth, there’s something for you to learn in this guide.
Let’s get started…
Tip #1: Thinking About Fire Won’t Help You
Let’s get things straight from the start. When you are out in the cold freezing your…toes…off, just thinking about fire isn’t going to help you. You actually need a source of heat that is legitimate, safe and dependable. To that end, make sure you have a primary heat source and a backup.
An example of this would be to purchase a butane lighter that is pressurized as your main heating source. You can immediately spark a fire without a lot of effort. Your secondary source could be to go old school and pack dryer lint in plastic baggies along with matches in another one so that you have a source of fire and a way to keep it going.
Make sure you pack enough of your fire-starter kit for the duration of your time at the campsite — so five matches and one baggie of dryer lint a day should do.
Another option if you have room is to pack a small battery-operated cooker so that you can warm up fish, beans and other food that you have caught or packed for the trip.
Tip #2: Plan Your Actual Campsite
In the winter especially, it’s important to pick your campsite carefully. That’s because if the sun isn’t shining your way, you’re more likely to be colder — or to have to overcompensate with a roaring fire.
One each thing you can do is to note where you see the sun first when you wake up at sunrise. From there, re position your tent so that the sun is shining directly on your tent. Also, pay attention to how the wind is blowing. You want to angle your tent so that the door is not in the direct path of the wind. Overall, these two simple adjustments will help you stay warmer at your campsite by taking advantage of the sun’s natural state.
Tip #3: Don’t Hibernate in Your Sleeping Bag
What you say? But yes, it’s true. Some of the most experienced winter campers don’t bury their heads in their sleeping bags at night. Instead, they wear three wool hats and wrap their neck with a warm gator. When you cover your head in your sleeping bag, you will inevitably breathe into the sleeping bag and make it wet. This then makes you cold and clammy.
Instead, get into your sleeping bag, zip it up, cover your head and neck with sleep-safe, warm gear and keep your mouth exposed. You’ll stay warm and dry throughout the night.
Tip #4: Don’t Go to Sleep with the Sun
It’s a novice camper’s mistake to try to go to bed as soon as the sun goes to sleep. But what you’ll find when this happens is that you wake up at 3 a.m. and you’re ready to eat or go to the bathroom! You don’t want to have to do this because winter camping means it’s cold!
Instead, try to extend the amount of time you stay awake at the campsite by playing a game with fellow campers around the fire, telling ghost stories, roasting marshmallows and even reading with a headlamp in your tent. Turn in about 9 or 10 p.m., and you’ll be golden — ready to rise with the sun on a winter’s morning.
Tip #5: Leave Your PJs at Home
When camping during the winter, there’s absolutely no reason to strip down from your day clothes and get into pajamas. Instead, just wear your clothes to bed. You’ll stay warmer — and you always can get showered and freshened up in the morning if you need to at the campsite.
Another great way to add warmth to your sleeping experience: Fill a heatproof hot-water bag with water heated on the campfire and put it in the bottom of your sleeping bag. You’ll be warm for several hours with this economical and easy trick.
When you get up in the morning, just remember to hang up all of your clothing and your sleeping bag to dry. It’s likely that condensation and sweat will have made these items moist and you cannot go back to bed with them wet if you want to stay warm.
Tip #6: Stay Warm and Cozy By Packing the Right Clothing
There is nothing worse than getting wet and cold on your camping trip and not having enough to change into to stay warm. To this end, make sure you are packing many layers that can be added and stripped away based upon the weather.
In addition, don’t forget about the material that your clothing is made of — as this can greatly enhance your camping experience. For example, wool socks are excellent for cold nights and hiking throughout the day. You’ll want long underwear to wear beneath your clothing most days. In addition, any clothing item made of moisture-wicking material will help keep you dry. What happens when your clothes get wet because of sweat is that you actually get cold. So avoid that with a moisture-wicking pair of underwear or shirt.
Tip #7: Add Warm Accessories
Your clothes will keep you warm, but did you know you could still be cold? You lose most of the heat from your body, for example, when you head isn’t properly covered. To help lessen the chances that you’ll still feel a chill, make sure you add warm accessories to your packing list.
For example, you’ll want a soft wool hat for your head. Purchase polyester liners for your gloves. Buy packets of toe warmers to throw into your boots, and finally, wrap your ears with a pair of warm shooter’s earmuffs that will not only shield your ears from the cold wind but will cut down on the amount of noise you hear as you are hiking and hunting. With the right accessories, you’ll be toasty and comfortable no matter where you find yourself camping during the winter.
Tip #8: Gulp Your Water
There are few things you actually can survive without in the wild. You can go without food for a good amount of time — but you cannot live without water. Without water, your body will get dehydrated and you will become weak. You’ll need to make sure you have more than enough water around you at all times.
If you think you may be going into an area without a freshwater source, then go ahead and invest in a water bottle or bag that can purify any stream of water. You’ll simply need to have a good sun source so that the sun rays can reach the water directly and start the purification process. Another option is to start a fire and boil all of the water at your campsite to make sure it is free of impurities. It’s always better to be safe than to get sick from drinking contaminated water.
Don’t Leave Home Without These Items
If you’ve forgotten a cold-weather item on your camping trip once, you’ll probably never do it again! That’s because when it is cold in the wild — it means pain is certainly coming for your body. So make sure you are prepared by keeping this guide of eight pro tips with you as you pack. Then, check it twice before you head out on your trip.
Many of these items are lightweight, so you won’t be adding a ton of weight to your pack simply by throwing in that extra pair of polyester liners for your gloves or that extra pair of pure-wool socks. Do yourself a favor and stay warm and safe on your next winter camping trip!
Ok, inflatable might be the wrong word to describe this sandbag as inflation implies air is involved, but it is certainly different than the traditional “fill your own” sandbags we’ve all come to despise, lol.
Anyway, I just recently ran into this SoSaveBag.com which perked my interest as it’s apparently a sandbag that actually swells when contacted with water:
“SOSAVE sandbag is an innovative instant sandbag sandbag. It is a jute bag with another inner bag as a special double layer structure bag. When it is dipped in the water, the functional material contained in the bag swells and increases its starting weight up to 50 times.In this way its volume becomes a flood defense barrier in case of water overflow.”
Interesting. I do wonder what the inner water absorbing material is… I can’t seem to find that out.
Regardless, it’s apparently reusable, biodegradable, lightweight, easily packed, etc., etc.
Unfortunately, I can’t seem to find a price for these either as ordering is via email which I didn’t have the patience for, plus I tried downloading some catalog but that failed too.
Seems there’s some work to be done on the website so I haven’t a clue how “above board” these folks are, especially since it’s all in China. Hopefully, these “sandless” sandbags are the real deal and something people can start to make use of.
Let me know if you have any experience with them or a similar product. Thanks.
What do you think about a tiny little house like this as a bug out retreat? This sure takes the idea of only needing a “roof over your head” to a new level, lol. Plus it seems like he hasn’t quite thought this out completely, though I do like the eventual idea of the add-on rooms, use of glass, and maybe a rocket stove heater too…
Not a bad plan so long as it doesn’t rain (or snow) on you and you’ve got a handy shovel…
I know the weather is warming up but it’s always a good idea to know how to heat a tent safely or really any small space for that matter. With that in mind, here’s 9 ideas to consider, several of which are commercially-made options but a few use natural ideas. No matter which you choose be sure to have plenty of ventilation and follow all proper safety considerations regarding carbon monoxide poisoning. Yes, it’s a potential danger even in a tent…
“When the weather starts changing from summer to fall or perhaps at the end of October most people put their tents away and wait until the following spring to get back out into nature’s wonderland.
However, this doesn’t necessarily have to happen. You can go camping almost year round if you set your mind to it. There are ways to keep your tent warm and comfortable no matter what the weather is outside.
Today, we are going to show you a number of ways to heat your tent and when you’ve finished reading you’ll see just how simple it is. We include the ordinary as well a couple of emergency ways to keep your tent warm in all kinds of weather. Let’s start off with one of the most popular ways today…”
I really like this guy, he always comes up with no-nonsense wilderness survival advice. Today he’s showing how to make a compact, lightweight portable survival shelter. You can skip to about the 2:55 mark to get to the idea…
I’d say if anybody knows how to dress for cold winter weather it’s the Russians, lol. You can skip to about the 2:15 mark to get to the discussion on clothes…