Solo Stove: Perfect for Backpacking, Bug Out, Emergencies

I’m sure you’re familiar (or at least have seen) the Solo Stove over the years, I know I have. For some reason I never bothered to buy one… what a mistake! Fortunately, I was sent one to review along with the accompanying pot 900.

I should point out that I’m NOT a huge backpacker so this stove is really more for bug out and occasional fun camping trips but if I were a backpacker this stove would probably be my first choice in nearly any situation unless, of course, I’m somewhere where it’s impossible to find anything to burn… in which case I wouldn’t be there. 😉

Let’s start from the beginning…

Fuel Costs Nothing

The Solo Stove is meant to burn biomass, that is, renewable fuel such as twigs which just happen to cost you nothing to gather. In fact, I merely had to gather a few small twigs (I’d actually gathered far too many twigs at first) to light a fire good enough to boil water with:


I like the idea of free fuel very much and have always shied away from backpacking stoves that used liquid fuel sources preferring to simply use a folding stove under which I could light a small fire.

While that works, it’s not efficient and I didn’t fully realize how inefficient it was until my experience with the Solo Stove, which brings me to…

Double-Walled Design

The stove is designed as a double-walled stove which funnels air through the holes on the outside bottom of the stove up between the two walls and, because of the design, preheats the air which then mixes with the fire inside the inner chamber via more holes on the inside top to create a more efficient burn. In the photo below, you’ll also notice the cooking ring upon which the pot 900 sits which also aids with adding the right amount of oxygen to the fire.

Personally, I could tell right away how much more efficient this fire was than a typical fire I would light underneath a folding stove. Here’s a shot of the stove working after only a few minutes of having lit it:


Compact and Lightweight

After un-boxing, I could quickly tell how lightweight the stove was as it’s made from stainless steel. The stove weighs all of 9 ounces while the accompanying pot weighs even less. Put together I barely noticed.

Size was actually a bit larger than I’d assumed seeing as though this is a backpacking stove where every last square inch counts but if you’re backpacking for two this stove would be perfect. Here’s a comparison of the stove and pot next to a can of green beans:


The pot can hold 30 ounces (with room to spare) if that helps you gauge size, enough to heat two cans of soup, or quickly heat a 15-ounce can of hearty chili as I did here:


The stove and pot both come with protective sleeves (shown below) and the best part is that the stove fits snugly inside the pot 900 to save space. In fact, the stove even fits inside the pot with the protective sleeve but just barely:


Cleanup Was Relatively Easy

If you’re impatient like I am you may not want to wait long enough for the fire to settle down properly and you’ll wind up with a less efficient burn and wind up making a sooty mess like this:


…and that was after only ONE use! Fortunately, cleanup is easy with a wet sponge and a little elbow grease but out in the field you’re probably going to have to live with it and just clean it when you get home.

As for the stove, let cool completely and dump out the ashes:


A few more things of note…

The cooking ring fits nicely inside the stove for packing:


And, like I mentioned above, the stove fits snugly inside the pot. Toss in some matches and tinder and you’ve got yourself a ready-to-go cooking solution for bug out or any emergency. 🙂

Last, but not least, though I don’t have photos, the stove includes two fold-away handles (you can sort of see one on the right in the photo above) as well as a rubber-lined handle for the pot lid. I can say that the pot does get warm to the touch and so do the handles but not enough to burn me.

Overall, I cooked three items in the stove: oatmeal, chili, and boiled water for hot chocolate for my kids (they sort of smiled here):


I can say that the Solo Stove is everything I would want in a backpacking or bug out stove: it’s lightweight, compact, uses free fuel, it’s durable and super efficient… they really though this stove design through, in my humble opinion.

Each time I used it I had a fire going in minutes and cooking my food or heating water to a boil took only a few extra minutes beyond that.

It really is fast and easy. If you’re in the market for a quality backpacking or bug out stove, choose this one, you’ll be glad you did…

I Finally Figured Out How to Truly be Prepared…

I think I’ve finally done it. No, I haven’t solved world peace or determined precisely what Dark Energy is but I do believe I figured out how to truly be prepared.

Are you ready for it? It’s a shocker…

And it’s not about realizing anything miraculous or even about planning for any one scenario. Instead, it’s about taking a thought or concept to complete exhaustion. In the business world it would be similar to the “5 Whys” question which is basically asking the “why…” question over and over until you can no longer do so and, therefore, have found the root cause as to “why” something happened (or didn’t happen).

The concept is a good one to employ and one that can be applied to prepping. But, rather than asking “why” you’re simply trying to go as far as you can with any one concept or scenario.

Take the car troubles I’ve had over the years. A few years ago I went on a 200+ mile trip and had a flat tire. It turns out that I didn’t have an appropriate lug nut wrench even though I had seemingly everything else. Where did it go, I don’t know.

Recently, and after switching to a SUV, I found out that I didn’t have a wheel lock key to remove one of the five lug nuts on my tires, again, after getting a flat hundreds of miles from home.

Even more recently I found out that even though I added a scissor jack to my tire-changing preps that it wasn’t quite appropriate to jack up the SUV up in order to remove the tire! I actually needed a piece of 4×4 to get it done. I obviously didn’t have this particular problem with the sedan I had years ago.

You might be saying: “Stop travelling for goodness sakes!” I hear you. But disasters (big or small) don’t care where I’m at or what I’m doing at the time. They’re going to strike and I have to be able to deal with them.

I’ve found, however, that I’m still more reactive to emergencies rather than proactive. I can see that I start down a road to prepare for something and do “just enough” to feel like I’m prepared but never quite take it to complete exhaustion.

If we go back to the tire changing example, I’m sure I could have dealt with these issues well before it became one if I’d just bothered to ask a few logical questions:

  • Do I REALLY have the proper equipment to change a tire (e.g., lug wrench, jack, lock key, etc)?
  • Can I remove the tire (e.g., need the lock key)? And have actually tried it rather than assumed it?
  • Can I replace/repair a tire on my own if need be (e.g., tire plug kit, tire sealant, a complete spare)?
  • Is my spare in good shape, aired up, etc (e.g., tire pump of some sort)?
  • Can I air up a flat tire (e.g., I have an air pump)?
  • Can I call for help or a tow (e.g., AAA service or perhaps a friend or family member)?

Best of all, I could have actually tried to replace a tire (either using the spare or just to have removed one of the tires) to ensure I had everything I needed to get it done and there were no holes in the process such as the locking lug nut or the fact that my scissors jack was too short.

Again, this may seem like an overly simplistic example but it’s precisely these types of scenarios where we learn! Personally, I learned that even though I had a variety of tools and supplies to deal with tire flats, I didn’t actually have what I needed (at that particular time) to get it done. And it was ALWAYS just one thing I was missing. Go figure.

The point is that if I’d bothered to not only ask the questions but to truly ask as many conceivable questions as I can about changing a flat tire I would have quickly found the flaws in my preps and this blog post would never have happened. 😉

No doubt this strategy can be used for anything regarding your preps, you just have to ask. Better yet… you just have to DO!

Prep Like You’re 100 Miles from Civilization, Then Prep Like Everyone is Within 100 Miles of YOU!

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how best to explain preparing for a SHTF situation. FYI, SHTF or WROL is basically a scenario where the “world as you know it” has gone completely to hell and there’s no expectation that it will return to normal anytime soon.

Anyway, it hit me that the BEST want to explain the concept, IMO, is like this: Prepare Like You’re 100 Miles from Civilization, Then Prepare Like Everyone is Within 100 Miles of YOU!

What exactly do I mean?

It’s simple really. Start by pretending like you literally live in the middle of nowhere. Your nearest neighbor is across the river and over the mountain so-to-speak and the nearest town is at least a few days walk away. Perhaps living somewhere in Alaska would be a good example.

The question is: how would you need to prepare for this scenario?

Prepare Like You’re 100 Miles from Civilization

Well, you certainly wouldn’t be running to Walmart every 15 minutes because you forgot something to make tonight’s meal! The first thing you have to do is to PLAN AHEAD. This mean stockpiling necessities such as food, medicine, sundries, and really anything and everything one could possibly need to live for months or years. It’s a giant goal to be sure.

The second thing you would need is to be seriously SELF SUFFICIENT.

This means collecting and purifying your own water and I’m not talking about a few water barrels and pool shock. You need to think bigger than that… like cisterns and gravity water filters. Granted, you could do this with barrels and IBC totes if you must.

Food would need to be stockpiled for years instead of months. Gardening, hunting, and trapping would be must-dos as well. So too would be preserving said food supplies via canning, dehydrating and more. These are skills our ancestors once had that many of us do not.

Power would be another big one. An off-grid power setup–be it solar, wind, or hydro–would be a must as well. Fuel storage would be on the order of barrels and not jugs. Certainly there’s more to it but these are a good start to thinking “in the right direction.”

In essence, you need to think BIGGER and MORE!

Third, realize that there is:

  • no more Walmart
  • no grocery stores
  • no public utilities
  • no police
  • no fire department
  • no hospitals
  • no doctors
  • no medicine
  • no hardware store
  • no mechanic
  • no seamstress

… you get the idea. You’ve got what you’ve got. You know what you know. You’re on your own. You either have it or you don’t. Eventually you’ll probably be able to barter but I don’t see that happening for quite some time.

Once you’ve worked to prepare like you live nowhere near civilization, now you need to plan like everyone is nearby… and I mean EVERYONE.

Prepare Like Everyone Lives Within 100 Miles of You

Obviously, this isn’t possible but I’d imagine it sure can seem that way during a SHTF scenario. What do I mean, though?

Well, the biggest assumption is that nearly everyone out there is NOT like you. They are not prepared. They did not bother to stockpile any food, water, medicine, and so on. Their 401k’s and IRA’s are worthless. And their kids are hungry.

What do YOU think they’re going to do?

They sure as shit aren’t going to just sit there staring at the wall until they die. Well, most of them won’t. They WILL, however, go on the hunt. They’ll search out anything that’s of use and eventually they will come looking for you and yours.

And they won’t care if you have a family of your own or children who would starve just like theirs. At this point it’s literally either you or them and I’ll guarantee they don’t care about you. That’s just the way things are, the way we’re “programmed” to survive.

You need to consider this and act like everyone around you wants your stuff. As such, you need to do these things:

  1. Keep your mouth shut. I’ve failed at this (at least online) but you don’t have to. Don’t let ANYONE know what you’re doing or what you have. This includes neighbors, friends, and even family. The only exception is if you fully expect to survive SHTF with any of these folks. I think the WW2 saying “loose lips sink ships” is a good one to follow. You’ve been warned.
  2. Keep all of your operations on the “down low” once SHTF has occurred. That is, enact and follow all of those pesky OSPEC rules–light, noise, odor discipline–to avoid unwanted visitors as much as possible. Despite your best efforts it’s a distinct possibility that somebody will come snooping around so you’d better have a plan for that too.
  3. Be prepared to distract, dissuade, or deal the aforementioned prying eyes be it via diversion loot, outright charity, or lethal force. Your choice as deemed appropriate.
  4. If/when SHTF occurs you need to do everything in your power to look, act, feel, smell, and otherwise be like everyone else. You shouldn’t be clean shaved, have “extra” pounds, wear clean clothes, etc… at least not out in public. If you stand out then you’re going to be a target. Don’t be a target.
  5. Avoid interaction with others at all costs! The more people who know that you exist the more chance there is of someone becoming interested in your “goings about” than should be. Remember that times are different. Those that survived any length of time have either prepared (meaning they’re more like you) or they’re likely ruthless, cunning, deceptive, and probably not very good people.
  6. Pray. A lot. You and I are going to need more help than we realize!

The sad truth is that SHTF here in America will be one hell of a horrible ride if for no reason other than it shifts everyone’s paradigm from having everything I need taken care of (relatively speaking) to I’ve got nothing, now what do I do?

All I can say now is: “Good luck to you and yours.”

A Tale of Two 24 Hour Power Outages…

Twenty-four hours doesn’t sound like a long time, does it? After all, twenty-four hours is a single day… a mere fraction of the week. Sadly, a single day usually passes like the blink of an eye when things are normal. During an emergency (such as a power outage) twenty-four hours could seem like an eternity!

Let’s see what life would be like for The Smiths (an unprepared family) and The Millers (a prepared family) during such a power outage:

Friday, 6:33 am

The Smiths The Millers
Mr. Smith wakes up wondering why his alarm didn’t go off. Darn it! Late for work. No time to do much but get dressed and grab a cup of coffee. Unfortunately, the coffee machine is set to start brewing after the power went out… guess he’ll have to settle for coffee at work. Mr. Miller woke up right on time (6:00 am) thanks to his battery-backup alarm clock only to realize the power was out. No problem, he thought… grab a few Sterno cans from the camping gear to heat individual cups of water and we’ll have single serving coffee in no time.

Friday, 7:10 am

The Smiths The Millers
Mrs. Smith gets the kids ready for school only to realize they haven’t made their lunches yet. She briefly considered letting them eat at school but realized she doesn’t have enough money in her purse to do so. Since she figured the power will come back on shortly like it usually does she has her kids make their lunches like normal. Ten minutes later she walks into the kitchen to find that lunches had been made as instructed only the refrigerator door was left wide open the entire time! Mrs. Miller gets the kids ready for school only to realize that, though lunches had not been made yet, it’s best to keep the refrigerator closed as much as possible. As such, she figured she would treat the kids to lunches at school… pizza day always makes them happy. Since she always ensures she has some cash on hand she gives each of them $5 and tells them to have a good day at school. She makes a note to start having the kids make their lunches the night before.

Friday, 7:50 am

The Smiths The Millers
Mr. Smith is in a hurry today but being a good husband and father (and already being late for work) offers to drop off the kids at school which Mrs. Smith quickly accepts since she’s late for work herself. On his way to drop the kids off Mr. Smith realizes he’s nearly on empty! No time to get gas… a bit of math says he can make it to work and probably home too if need be but he’ll try to get gas on his way home if he can. Mr. Miller always takes the kids to school on his way to work. As he always ensures there is at least a half of a tank of gas in each vehicle at all times there were no worries of being able to make it to work and back. He’ll try to get gas on his way home if he can.

Friday, 5:32 pm

The Smiths The Millers
Mr. and Mrs. Smith tend to return home around the same time each day. Neither of the Smith’s were able to stop by the gas station on their way home and, sadly, are both near empty. Regardless, they have bigger problem as they both realize the power hasn’t returned. Now they’re getting frustrated and want to call the local power company but can’t look it up because the power is out and the cell phone coverage has been spotty all day. Since it’s rather chilly outside they hurry inside to warm up. Mr. and Mrs. Miller tend to return home around the same time each day. Fortunately, Mrs. Smith was able to get away during lunch and fill up her car. Mr. Smith knew this because they had been able to stay in contact via text messaging throughout the day regardless of the spotty cell phone coverage. Mr. Smith wasn’t able to get to the gas station but he was able to contact the power company (he has the number programmed in his phone) to learn the problem is more widespread than initially assumed. Since it’s rather chilly outside they hurry inside to warm up.

Friday, 5:35 pm

The Smiths The Millers
As they live in the upper latitudes and it’s winter, The Smith’s walk inside to find their kids not on their electronics but, instead, huddled around a single flashlight, bundled up in their coats and mittens, all eating cereal. Wondering why they’re eating cereal and before dinner, no less, the oldest recalled mom stating this morning that if the power didn’t come back on they would either need to eat everything or throw it out. The kids figured they were doing a good thing trying to eat food in the refrigerator. 🙂 Regardless, the youngest complained that the milk tasted warm but she ate it all anyway. Seems the power didn’t come back on like it normally does. Hopefully the kids won’t get sick eating bad milk! Now, what to do about it being a bit too cold in here? As they live in the upper latitudes and it’s winter, The Millers walk inside to find their kids not on their electronics but, instead, huddled around the wood stove (the oldest got it started since she’d been taught well), surrounded by a myriad of flashlights and lanterns, all playing a board game. The youngest wanted to eat cereal for dinner but the older ones knew mom and day wouldn’t be happy to hear they’d spoiled their dinner so they distracted the youngest by playing a board game. Realizing that the power had been off all day long dad figured he should run the generator but instead opted to connect the inverter to the car and “top off” the fridge since there was no real reason to drag out that generator just for the fridge. Mom then instructed the kids to put away most of the lights and lanterns and to get ready for dinner.

Friday, 6:15 pm

The Smiths The Millers
Mrs. Smith had planned on cooking a nice meat lasagna she had been thawing in the refrigerator since the previous night but now realized she had no way to cook it since the oven doesn’t work. Moreover, she’s beginning to wonder now if it’s honestly safe to eat since the refrigerator is obviously warmer than it should be. Time for plan B: cook some steaks on the BBQ! Hey, disasters aren’t always all bad, are they? Now, how to thaw them quickly? Mrs. Miller had made some tasty-looking chicken enchiladas–as one of her freezer meals she keeps handy–which has been thawing in the refrigerator since the previous night. Although she could get out the propane camp oven to cook it she figured everyone would be happier eating some steaks on the BBQ! Hey, disasters aren’t always all bad, are they? To thaw them quickly and safely, she simply submerged the still-packaged steaks in cold water for about 30 minutes to get them to thaw faster. Now to cook them.

Friday, 6:50 pm

The Smiths The Millers
Mr. Smith fired up the BBQ grill, wondering how much propane he has left and if it will be enough to not only thaw the still frozen steaks but to cook them as well. The kids also wanted green beans and, though he didn’t bother to purchase a BBQ grill with a side burner, he figured he *should* be able to heat them in a pot if he shoved over the steaks enough. Hopefully they didn’t ALSO want mashed potatoes. Mr. Miller fired up the BBQ grill, knowing full well that this tank had plenty of propane left by reading the propane gauge. Even so, he has a few in storage just in case. The kids choose green beans as their side dish and since this BBQ stove has a side burner it was easy to heat up a few cans. The kids also wanted some baked potatoes so mom wrapped them in aluminum foil and tossed them on the grill for a while before cooking the steaks.

Friday, 7:55 pm

The Smiths The Millers
Mr. Smith eventually got the steaks to first thaw and then cook properly, thankfully, but it took longer than expected and he never did try to cook mashed potatoes. Everyone sits down to eat with their typical dinner settings only to realize that dishes are going to be a bit more difficult to clean with no hot water. Maybe they’ll just wait until tomorrow. The Millers are sitting down to a tasty and fun BBQ meal. To avoid lots of dishes later Mrs. Miller gets into their supply of paper goods and plastic silverware which is typically never used but for such occasions. Once finished, into the trash everything goes and now it’s time for some family fun time.

Friday, 8:25 pm

The Smiths The Millers
Dinner is finished but the kids are whiny since they’re bored with no video games, no television, no internet, and absolutely NOTHING to do as they repeatedly point out. Where did we put those board games, Mrs. Smith wonders to herself? Dinner is finished and the kids are excited to have a family fun night playing a variety of board games, from Chutes and Ladders to Candyland and more! Heck, why not try the Doom and Bloom SURVIVAL! Board Game?

Friday, 8:55 pm

The Smiths The Millers
After about a half hour of attempting to entertain the kids without electronics, the parents give up and send the kids to bed. The youngest protests over and over again because she’s scared of the dark with no Emergency Light. To make matters worse the middle child whines that the house is getting downright frigid! She’s right. It’s cold in here. Mom and dad give in and let the kids sleep on their floor .The kids quickly gather up all of their blankets and pillows and make a bed on the floor. Perhaps everyone will be cuddling in the same bed later that night? The family is still having fun playing board games but it’s getting time to put the youngest to bed. She protests but their emergency lights also function as a night light so there’s no fussing to be had. The middle child attempts to complain that it’s “too cold” in here but she knows good and well that the wood stove is heating the house just fine and will continue to do so throughout the night. The oldest knows better and just goes to bed.

Saturday, 6:00 am

The Smiths The Millers
The weekends should be a day to sleep in but Mr. Smith always enjoyed waking up early on Saturday and Sunday to watch the sun come up while enjoying his morning coffee. Sadly, the power still hasn’t come back on, the coffee isn’t brewing, and it’s really is near freezing inside. To make matters worse, he’s almost positive much of the food in the refrigerator is going bad and the freezer food is beginning to drip with condensation. If the power outage lasts into the night he’s not sure if he has enough propane to cook another meal, enough batteries to power a flashlight (let alone a second flashlight), or enough gasoline in the cars to get to the store and back… plus the cell phones are about dead! He begins to wonder how his neighbors are fairing and if they’d be able to share whatever they might have? The weekends should be a day to sleep in but Mr. Miller always enjoyed waking up early on Saturday and Sunday to watch the sun come up while enjoying his morning coffee. Sadly, the power still hasn’t come back on and the coffee isn’t brewing. No problem. Since he had prepared for this eventuality he got out their camping coffee percolator and setup the #10 can stove the night before just in case. In no time at all he’ll have hot water boiling and fresh, hot coffee. Since he had plenty of propane (as well as other cooking options such as a solar oven) there were no worries about cooking meals. He figured if the power outage went on long enough he would have the kids switch to a solar lantern to conserve batteries. He also wondered how the neighbors were doing. After all, he wouldn’t want old Mrs. Jenkins to go hungry or freeze. As soon as the sun rose he would go check on her and possibly offer some emergency buckets to their other neighbors.

Saturday, 6:33 am

The Smiths The Millers
Just as Mr. Smith began wondering which neighbor would be the BEST people to go talk to, the power kicked back on. A faint bit of disbelief and a certain amount of joy crept across his face. Wow, he though. It’s only been twenty-four hours and I can’t believe how long that power outage seemed to last! Fortunately, he didn’t have to go begging the neighbors this time but might go see how they’re doing and to see how they fared through the night. After all, the Millers have three kids just like he did. Just then the youngest scrambled downstairs asking for pancakes. Ok, honey, we’ll make pancakes. He forgot all about his worries and went back to “life as usual.” Just as Mr. Miller went into the basement to grab a few charity emergency buckets for the neighbors the lights flickered on. He paused for a moment and confident the power was going to stay on, returned upstairs to finish his coffee. He figured he would still go check on old Mrs. Jenkins just to be sure she was fine. He also figured he would stop by the neighbors to see how they had fared through the night and to possibly plant “the seed” to prepare for this the next time it happens or worse. After all, the Smiths had three young kids just like he did. Just then the youngest scrambled downstairs asking for pancakes. Ok, honey, we’ll make pancakes. He reminded himself that it’s “good to be prepared” for precisely these scenarios.

How about you? Which family are YOU going to be???

Image Credit
Image Credit

Focus on Powering a Chest Freezer Filled with Freezer Meals

As much of a fan as I am of bulk foods as well as freeze dried foods (of late), I understand that not everyone sees things the same as me, which is fine. In fact, bulk foods take both work and sometimes equipment (such as a grain grinder) to make use of them whereas freeze dried foods can seem like an additional expense that may not quite fit your needs or interests right now.

That’s understandable. Freezer meals, on the other hand, are something that you will make use of over time and the best part is that they’re already made and cooked! If you and your family are literally trying to make it through a lengthy emergency then I’m sure grinding wheat and making meals are NOT at the top of the “want to do” list. Freezer meals are already done and ready to eat once heated.

But why a chest freezer, specifically? Why not choose to power a refrigerator?

Though refrigerators are significantly more efficient these days, they’re still much larger (usually around 20 cubic feet) than an average chest freezer (usually between 3.5-7.0 cubic feet). It’s just a given that when you have more space to keep cool there’s more energy required to do so.

In addition, it’s my understanding that the automatic defrost feature of refrigerators use a significant amount of power and since chest freezers require manual defrost you have that day-to-day energy savings.

Moreover, a chest freezer obviously keeps ALL of the contents well below freezing which means it should have to run less often to maintain the same temperature. Beyond that, I’m sure a chest freezer door stays closed more often than the refrigerator and therefore needs to work less too. 😉

Of course, there are many factors that go into the efficiency of both refrigerators and freezers, from ambient temperatures to Energy Star ratings, relative sizes, and how full their compartments are (the fuller the better).

Ultimately, all of this means that a chest freezer is going to run less often and require less power day-to-day than any typical refrigerator/freezer combo. For long term emergencies this is a good thing!

Step 1: Pick Your Freezer Meals

The first step is to realize that you CAN make quite a few freezer meals for cheap. This site lays it all out for you (note that she does charge from $2.50-5.00 for some of the printable posts):

I’m sure she has more freezer meal ideas so take a look around when you get time.

Step 2: Purchase Plenty of Tupperware

Buy lots and lots of Tupperware. No need to spend a lot of money here… just go to Walmart or Target and get dozens of meal-sized containers or shop Amazon for freezer meal containers if you prefer.

Step 3: Get a Chest Freezer

Get a chest freezer and NOT an upright freezer as chest freezers are purportedly 10-25% more efficient. Once upon a time we had an upright freezer but about the only thing that we used it for was to store dozens of loaves of bread that we purchased from a local co-op. Eventually, we got rid of that and swapped it for a smaller chest freezer.

What you purchase is up to you. There are no doubt many makes, sizes, and price ranges but somewhere around the 5.0 cubit foot chest freezer should be enough space for a few dozen meals.

If you purchase one new you can easily spend a few hundred dollars but if you look locally for sales or even on Craigslist you can often find them MUCH cheaper. Considering that the typical chest freezer can last a decade or more without a problem I wouldn’t be too concerned with purchasing one used.

Step 4: Figure out How to Power It

While you can purchase a generator for this purpose (among others) I find it’s a much better plan to simply purchase a quality 800 watt inverter and connect that to your vehicle battery… I detail the idea in the first part of this post. So long as you have gasoline to run your vehicle you’ll be able to keep a tiny chest freezer running for weeks or months which is plenty long enough to work your way through the meals.

Step 5: Get to Making Your Meals!

Just go back up to step 1 and start finding meal plans you want to follow and get to work. Be sure to label them with what they are and the date made. Finally, learn to play a good game of Tetris to make them all fit in the chest freezer ensuring you have a good rotation of meals throughout so that you’re not always eating the same meal.

What say you? Have you tried this idea specifically for emergencies or not? What works better?


29 Survival Uses for Zip Ties

A few weeks ago I noticed an interesting post on uses for zip ties but quite a few of them weren’t actually related to survival and preparedness and so I thought I would put together a list of ways you might be able to use heavy duty zip ties for survival tasks. Here’s what I came up with–from my own thoughts and assorted sources (such as Sensible Prepper)–feel free to add your own in the comments:

  1. Mend gear if there are holes, zippers broke off, buttons missing, etc
  2. Handcuff bad guys
  3. Attach gear (such as a portable solar panel) to a backpack
  4. Cinch down gear and clothing to save space
  5. Emergency shoe laces
  6. Secure the bottoms of pants leg to keep “creepy crawlies” out
  7. Secure zippers (such as on a duffel bag) to provide evidence of tampering
  8. Create a grab handle for things that are difficult to grab otherwise (or for one-handed options)
  9. Secure a split or bandages
  10. If you had no other choice as a tourniquet
  11. Repair holes in chainlink fences or other fencing material
  12. Make it easy for a knife to open when removed from pants pocket
  13. Quickly erect a survival shelter using a tarp with grommet holes
  14. Makeshift snare
  15. Organizing gear and supplies and to keep them together (such as cables and cords)
  16. Makeshift hanger for nearly anything
  17. Makeshift belt (enough put together would hold up your pants)
  18. Snowtire mod (such as a few around your shoes or a dozen on a bicycle tire)
  19. Use in place of cordage to tie poles together, for example
  20. For use in the garden to hold up tomato vines or whatever
  21. Use in place of a hair bandana
  22. An assortment of home and car repairs (e.g., various car parts that may be hanging down)
  23. Make a net to catch expended brass at the shooting range 🙂
  24. Secure the materials to setup an expedient water catchment system
  25. Attach various supplies to your keychain quickly (e.g., a mini bic lighter)
  26. Seal the end of a bag or tote that otherwise won’t seal (to keep the contents from falling out or possibly even to make it water-tight)
  27. Quickly attach your knife to a long pole as a hunting spear, though, paracord would be much more reliable
  28. Makeshift fishing pole when tired around a sturdy branch
  29. Trail markers (the colored ones)

What survival uses would you add?

7 Unexpected People to Add to Your Survival Group for the New Year

Image Credit
Image Credit

I know the topic of who to include in a survival group has been tackled elsewhere many times. Usually, the advice is to include obvious skill-sets such as doctor or nurse or EMT, somebody with law enforcement or military experience, a mechanic or handyman, an outdoorsman or hunter, and so on. These are the “easy” ones to consider.

What about “other” skill sets? You know, the ones that could be surprisingly useful to your survival endeavors but maybe not be quite as glamorous as the aforementioned? I’d suggest the following several occupations and/or skill sets to consider:

  1. Engineer – You might consider a mechanic or handyman as the same thing as an engineer but they couldn’t be different. A mechanic might be good at working on engines but completely useless when it comes to any engineering discipline such as those skills a person like Engineer775 (Scott Hunt) brings to the table. Granted, he’s a rather unique example but he’s precisely what we’re looking for in an engineer. Realize that there are different types of engineers (e.g., civil, mechanical, electrical, etc) so they’re not all created equally. As such, it may be useful to include different types of engineers in the group. The point is that they’re a bit nerdy but the right kind of nerdy for SHTF survival. 😉
  2. Teacher – A year and a half of homeschooling has shown me that teaching is MUCH harder than it looks! There are some people–like my brother in law–who are born to teach… I am not. That said, there’s plenty of skills that a teacher can bring to the table when it comes to relating ideas and concepts to others, be they children or adults. At the very least teachers often have a calm demeanor that most of society do not possess, in my opinion. Suffice it to say that a teacher is a person worth adding to your group for the simple fact that they may be able to relate ideas and information unlike most.
  3. Historian – This one is my personal favorite. I’m sure you’ve heard of the phrase “those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” I’d say those are words to live by. This person isn’t just about teaching ancient Egypt to a group of fourth graders but, rather, about things like being able to explain what an old piece of equipment is, perhaps how a battle worked out, about people from other countries (such as cultural normality and morals), about governments of previous civilizations, and so on. Like engineers, historians can be very specialized too but somebody like the museum historian who the folks on the television show Pawnstars call in from time to time would be ideal; in fact, he would be awesome!
  4. Linguist – Somebody who can speak a variety of languages could certainly be useful, from Spanish to Mandarin, French, and so on as we may well encounter people who simply don’t speak English. Wouldn’t it be nice to at least have a clue what they’re saying, particularly if they don’t realize YOU know? Hmmm… perhaps it’s time to brush up on a few foreign language dvds?
  5. Construction – If SHTF goes on long enough you may need somebody who can build/repair structures and do so safely. A person well versed in construction techniques could be just the one you’re looking for to bring society back from the grips of death!
  6. Gunsmith – There’s a shit-ton I don’t know about firearms. I’d like somebody who works on them daily to teach me and keep them in good working order. Plus they probably have dozens upon dozens of weapons to bring to the group which is a definite a huge benefit!
  7. Chef / Cook – I don’t know about you but the best I can do is to follow a recipe and hope it turns out alright. If you’re anything like me then how are you going to make a bland meal of rice and beans turn into a magical masterpiece day-in and day-out? Odds are YOU won’t, but a chef can. Seeing as though very real problems like appetite fatigue can bring morale down big time, a chef could be the best addition to your group.

I also briefly considered people like an electrician, plumber, and veterinarian but figured that a mechanic / handyman could fill in for the electrician or plumber in most cases and if you’re lucky enough to have a doctor or nurse in your group then a veterinarian wouldn’t be tops on the list. Otherwise, a veterinarian could be a useful addition. I also briefly thought about including a locksmith but enough brute force or a pair of bolt cutters would work out a lot faster in most cases.

What say you? Are any of the above useful people / skills to include or not? What people and skills would you include that aren’t listed?

OxyLED Q6 Smart Rechargeable LED Flashlight Review

I received this OxyLED® Q6 Led Lamp / Lantern for review and I can honestly say that I was surprised at how useful of a light it’s turning out to be.

Thought I have many lights–in the form of flashlights, lanterns, and headlamps–I’ve never had a flashlight like this, in that, it’s sort of like a lantern but it only illuminates 180 degrees. The best I can describe it is like a self-contained handheld fluorescent light that you would otherwise hang from the ceiling of a garage or workshop… that’s how I see it, anyway.

For starters, here’s some specs on the light from Amazon:

  • 4 brightness settings (dim, normal, bright, and supernova) + a blinking flash mode
  • High-power natural spectrum led provide 200 lumens of illumination, CRI(color rendering index)>70
  • Built-in long life rechargeable battery with Mini USB cable
  • Durable, drop resistant construction; Long Life, Energy saving, Rated for 36,000 hours of use

Now, the OxyLED came delivered in a rather sturdy box that reminds me of a long-neck matchstick box. In fact, it makes a good carrying case:


The first thing I noticed when I removed the light from the box was how lightweight it was. The stats say it weighs in at a mere 4.2 ounces which is among the lightest (if not the lightest) flashlight I own. I think it weighs even less than the d.light LED Solar Area Lantern which is without a doubt the lightest actual lantern I own (mostly since it doesn’t use any batteries). Overall dimensions are 8″ x 1.3″.

There really isn’t much to the light. On one side is the light, the other side is shielded. There’s also two lanyards that you can attach to the ends of the the light:


On one end you’ll find a mini USB port for charging the light and a small button that acts as the on/off and brightness selection button:


Battery / Charging

The battery is expected to last 3 to 72 hours depending on mode selected. The life of the light is expected to be >36,000 hours but that’s assuming 2% brightness and/or 500 charges. Honestly, this light should last for years of use camping, hiking, or for preparedness.

If it wasn’t clear, the light is mean to be rechargeable and does NOT use or take external batteries. To charge the light simply plug into a computer/laptop or portable powerbank and a few hours later you’re back in business. While charging there’s a small red led that blinks next to the USB port. When fully charged the led stays solid red. If the battery is getting low the red led will blink fast three times when cycling during use. It’s all really easy.

Cycling Through Modes

As for use, you simply cycle through the settings using the on/off button. These settings are: dim (2% of full brightness), normal (50% of full brightness), bright (75% of full brightness), and supernova (100% of full brightness). There’s also a flashing mode which, like all lights that include them, is annoying. I still have no idea why anybody thinks that’s useful… unless you’re a bicyclist perhaps.

I do want to point out that I feel there’s at least one cycle that’s not needed, most likely the 75% brightness mode as it just makes you have to cycle through one more setting than needed. Again, I would do without the blinking mode too. Now, I do like the dim (2% brightness) mode quite a bit and I do like that it’s the first mode when cycled on.

The difference in brightness between modes is readily discernible, a problem that many LED lights seem to have. In other words, some lights are difficult to tell if it’s on low, high, or something else… this one is easy to tell.

You can also hold down the on/off button for two seconds to get it to turn off rather than cycling through the modes.


Overall, it’s quite comfortable to hold. With a lanyard around your wrist you shouldn’t drop the light but it would have been nice if the lanyards were adjustable. Beyond that, you can slip it in your pocket and probably have a bit of it sticking out but not too bad. With the provided lanyards you can even hang it easily. Here’s the light hanging from a hanger in my boy’s closet (the darkest room in the house) and on dim mode:


Some Concerns

I can say that I was at first concerned that the on/off button was so small and barely sticks out beyond the end of the light. After days of use this is no longer a concern as it’s easier to push and cycle than I originally feared but I’d imagine that if you’re in a hurry to turn on the light it’s not the easiest of buttons to find simply by feel.

If for some reason a lanyard breaks the small attachment points are not wide enough to, for example, fish paracord though as a replacement. You would have to remove a single strand of paracord and fish that through. I can see why they made the eyelets so small (to keep them from snagging) but it would have been nice to somehow make them larger and/or include a folding attachment option to one or both ends. No big deal, just something I noticed.

It’s not rated for getting wet, even in the rain. In fairness, none of the lanterns I own are rated for that. With that in mind, the OxyLED is put together in such a way as I would be surprised if it couldn’t withstand a good amount of rain before giving out. I haven’t tried it, that’s just a guess.


This is where the  OxyLED® Q6 Led Lamp / Lantern really “shines” through, if you will. I compared it to a few other lanterns that I have, including an inexpensive Dorcy Mini LED Lantern which runs on 4 AA batteries and is great for kids, the d.light LED Solar Area Lantern which is solar recharged, and the Rayovac Sportsman LED Lantern which runs on 3 D-cell batteries.

Overall, I was quite surprised at how bright even the dim setting was. In fact, it was as bright as the AA-cell Dorcy if not brighter (Dorcy is on left, OxyLED is on right):


I did other comparisons, even comparing full brightness modes to the Rayvac D-cell (Rayovac is on the left, OxyLED on the right):


Granted, the OxyLED disperses light differently than a traditional lantern and I know it’s a bit difficult to tell but I’d say the OxyLED might even have been brighter than the Rayovac. Technically, that’s not true (the OxyLED is 200 lumens whereas the Rayvac is 240 lumens) but it sure seems that way. Beyond that, the OxyLED isn’t going to last nearly as long as the Rayovac on a single charge but I was surprised at the brightness nonetheless.

Overall, I currently have no problem recommending an OxyLED® Q6 Led Lamp / Lantern  to you for the price. It seems to be a well-built, compact, rechargeable light that I’ll happily take camping and hiking time and again.


How to buy a Police Scanner Radio for your Go Bag

Go bags are a critical part of any survival plan. While there are many components that make up a successful go bag, a communication device is required. While there is no shortage of emergency communication devices on the market, in this article we’ll review what a police scanner radio is, how it works, and what to consider when buying.

What is a Police Scanner Radio?

A scanner, commonly referred to as a police scanner radio, police scanner or scanner radio, allows users to listen to real-time, unfiltered radio communication. A scanner operates similar to an AM/FM radio in that it receives signals but cannot transmit.

Why do I need a Police Scanner Radio for my Go Bag?

A scanner is a great addition to any go bag as it provides users access to real-time information during an emergency. Popular things to listen to during emergencies include:

  1. NOAA (weather)
  2. Police, fire & other EMS communication
  3. Military communication
  4. Emergency responder communication
  5. Marine communication
  6. Ham radio communication

Police Scanner Radio Types

There are three types of police scanner radios

  1. Handheld
  2. Mobile (vehicle)
  3. Base (home or office)

For an emergency, you will want to purchase a handheld scanner as you can put in your go bag and bring with you wherever you go.

Police Scanner Radio Format

Scanners pick up three different frequency formats:

  1. Digital
  2. Trunked
  3. Analog

Similar to how an AM/FM radio picks up either AM or FM frequencies, scanners pick up either digital, trunked or analog frequencies. For emergencies you will want a digital scanner because:

  1. If you have an analog or trunked scanner, you will not be able to hear digital signals.
  2. Digital scanners can pick up trunked and analog signals in addition to digital so you will be able to listen to all emergency communication regardless of format.
  3. Frequency formats are different all over the US and vary depending on state, county, department and federal agency which can be very confusing.
  4. If your area does not require a digital format currently, in an emergency ,federal communication may be set which will use digital format or you may be moved to an area that uses digital.
  5. All emergency communication will be digital at some point.


Programming police scanner radios use to be a daunting process but new digital scanners are able to scan all frequencies in your area and save them into your scanner in minutes. You will want to buy a scanner with ‘quick scan’ capabilities which almost all newer digital scanner have.

Things to buy with a Police Scanner Radio

Handheld scanners can operate for 6-8 hours on a single charge. As most scanners take 4 AA batteries, you will want to have ample batteries as charging anything in an emergency may not be an option. We recommend at least a one week supply of batteries or 224 AA batteries.

A scanner antenna can increase what you can pick up on your scanner. While most scanner antennas are for vehicles or homes/bases, you may want to consider one for your handheld device.

What Police Scanner Radio to Buy

To be prepared for every emergency you will want to buy a phase two digital police scanner radio. There are several to choose from but we recommend either the BCD436HP or the HomePatrol-2 which are both excellent scanners and a great addition to any go bag.

About the Author

Luke Huebner is the founder and owner of Zip Scanners which specializes in police scanner radios, scanner antennas & scanner accessories. Zip Scanners hosts a large Scanner Resources & Learning Center to educate consumers about scanners.

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16+ Abrasives and Lubricants for SHTF

It’s easy to get focused on the items we NEED for survival and forget about everything else. Water, food, ammo, and so on are the easy ones to think about. But what about all the other stuff that makes life easier but just aren’t nearly as sexy when it comes to SHTF blog posts?

There’s a lot to be considered but today I’m thinking, in particular, about abrasives and lubricants for SHTF. I use these terms very loosely so please don’t go by any standard definitions. In general, abrasives wear stuff away, lubricants make things move more easily.

That said, both abrasives and lubricants can be just the thing you NEED to make YOUR life easier during SHTF. Here’s some ideas of what I have in mind (in no particular order)…

Abrasives for SHTF

Lubricants for SHTF

As you can see, there are several ideas and many, many possible subsets to consider. The point is that the above referenced items can make YOUR life easier day-in and day-out now and during a SHTF situation. What would you add?