Monday, October 8, 2012

At the ready.

I'll admit it, I've been on something of a survivalist kick these past few days. Not that I'm currently making my escape plan for the fall of the civilized world, but the video some of these types put out are actually very interesting, both in a good, and a weird way.

First of all, I've been watching a lot of stuff by Sootch00. I don't know too much about his politics, aside from being a strong 2nd amendment supporter, but his dedication to "just being ready" is actually impressive. Its one thing to say 'what if the civilized world comes to an end tomorrow?", but it's another thing entirely to come up with some reasonable steps to take for the unlikely eventuality.

TNP, or The Nutnfancy Project, is a little less about survivalist and more about gear and firearms reviews with a very healthy dose of civic responsibility included. Despite what they have in common, I think what is more striking about Scootch and TNP's reviews are their differences in philosophy about general preparedness.

And I've just started watching ManePrepper's channel. This man is a no-shit, this-is-how-it-is, this-is-how-you-do-it perspective of crisis situations from a man with a military background to back up his statements.

The three of these men, something of  a random cross section of the "prepper" society, as it were, are just fascinating to watch for me. It would be easy to call them paranoid, but I don't think they are. I think that these are people who see preparations as a personal responsibility, just like putting on your seat belt before putting the car in drive. Weather or not the massive disasters they are planning for ever happen, I don't think any of them want the US to call into anarchy, their just more pessimistic about it's prospects than I am.

None the less, some of the vocabulary I have been exposed to is actually rather useful, and quite helpful for me, someone who is used to thinking things out, sometimes a little too much.

"Preppers": the modern evolution of the survivalists movement.

WROL: Without Rule of Law. I know that sounds a little out-there, but the aftermath of Katrina more or less silenced the silenced the last credible elements of society that were dismissive of how destructive people can be without authority to reign them in. The bottom line is that when civilization falls, even locally, and even for short periods of time, all hell can break loose.

Get-home-bag: This is the "what happens if I'm stranded?" kit that a lot of people put together and throw in the back of their car.

Bug-out-bag: This is the "I have to drop everything NOW and find safety" kit. Also called a 72-hour bag, it's meant to get an able-bodied person out of dodge for three (or more) days so that they can find a better situation, or make one for themselves.

EDC: Every Day Carry. It really is what it says and usually not much more, though there are some weapons or "prepper" connotations to the word.

All of that being said, there is a very real reason I am looking at this community right now. And no, I'm not about to start packing a 35 pound "Bug out bag" and looking over my shoulder for hidden federal agents. The reason is that these people do bring an important point of conversation to the social table; they are willing to ask "what if?" where a lot of others don't

Now, understand, we can very easily "what if" ourselves into paranoia and a stress related heart attack. But That extreme is no worse that going through life saying "I'll just stop by the gas station and pick that up" or "I'll hit Walmart later on"and having absolutely no idea what to do if that possibility was suddenly taken away.

Now, let me be clear, if society fell tomorrow  or if we were invaded, or if a plague broke out, I doubt that I could afford or fit enough supplies in a bag to make a major difference in the grand scheme of things.


What if I got a flat tire? -  I've already been down that road, and circumstances being what they were, I wound up dropping $20 in clean whites and toiletries for one night.

What if the car broke down? - Been here too, and let me tell you, help isn't as fast as you might like when its late and you're not completely sure of where you are. Just having a flashlight and a first aid kit was enough to keep my blood pressure down one time.

What if I had to walk in the rain? - Sure, I may not melt when I'm wet, but with the weather getting cold, sickness, fatigue or even shock (and possibly death) are the potential consequences of I'm not ready for what mother nature has in stock for me.

These, and a lot of other questions are what has prompted me to to add a few more things to my bag.

I went ahead and got a hydration pack for the previously mentioned bag. It was made for it, and it only cost ten bucks. It may seem a little over the top, but I figured with Oklahoma heat being what it is, if I am stuck, the ability to dodge into a restaurant or gas station and load up on two liters of water is worth ten bucks. Also, I'm actually thinking about getting some long hikes in in the later months of this year.

Thermal Underwear: Speaking of cold, I had to be out in our fine state's idea of a brisk autumn. Bottom line, I've seen, first hand, how fast a person can let cold enough to take them off their feet. I now have a clean pair of thermals sealed in a Ziploc in my bag right now in case I have to change into something warmer.

Camp towel. This one is a duel purpose item. First of all, the bag in't huge, and I do walk every day, meaning I need to shower. This thing is small enough to jam into my toiletries kit, less than a tenth the size of my normal towel, so space alone is worth it.

But... there is also the very real issue of getting wet when its dangerous. like I said before, cold and wet can be dangerous or even lethal. The ability to dive into a bathroom, or even under a tree and dry off before changing could make the different between simple discomfort or serious illness or injury.

Straps and carabiners: I know, this sounds like I'm going off the deep end for a guy who sits at a desk all day. The truth is, however, that none of the stuff I buy could ever hold my weight, or even the bag's for that matter. All I really have are two clips and two straps to lash stuff like a jacket, or maybe another, smaller pack to it if need be. Its not that I'm planning on anything. I just like to keep my options open.

And going back to the rain comment from before, I added a small poncho to the bag. On top of that are  two Cliff bars to the back compartment, and I condensed down the  first air kit, getting rid of the red box for space sake. Its all still a work in progress, but none the less, I am happy with what I have. In the end, the point, at least for me, isn't to be ready for anything  Its to not be so unprepared for the predictable stuff that I feel like an idiot after the fact.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

My new Bag

So, I decided to so a little building the other day. One of the things I really enjoy about my time as a firefighter and a security officer was the ability to “kit out”, to put all sorts of cool stuff on my person. By the time I was done with my nearly thee year stint as a security guard, I had a really nice mid-range kit for a belt, first air kit, gloves, baton, sidearm, cell phone… like I said… really nice, and it looked sharp too.

Well, this time, I took a lot of that philosophy and applied it to my new life as a commuting computer tech for Dell computers. Granted, in terms of risk, there isn't a   lot of overlap in what I faced as a security guard or a firefighter and what I face now. Still, preparedness is not something one just casts aside.

First of all, I wanted to show you a video. This guy has a ton of stuff on YouTube, and I've probably seen a lot of it, but not most. This video, entitled “bug out bag” is a really good starting point for me in this conversation. Now, let me be clear, I am not building a bug out bag, and I don’t want to. But the logic and the mechanics he puts into this are applicable to other, more “every day” situations.

Again, I'm not trying to copy this, or suggest that anyone else should. But the philosophy of "What do I need for what?" and "What might I need?" is very sound.

A good personal case in point; just the other day I was stuck in Oklahoma city with a flat Tire. Aside from being half an hour late to dinner with friends because of having to put on the spare, I was stuck down there overnight because the tire place didn't have my size tires, and I know far, far better than to put 120 miles (60 home and 60 back to work) on a donut  Since I wouldn't be going home, I had to swing by Wal-Mart and get essentials, just getting underwear, a T-shirt, deodorant and socks was close to $20 by itself.

Now, add to this the fact that I was also wanting to start walking again during my lunch breaks at work. Originally, I took a small bag with a change of clothes, towel and some toiletries. Then, when lunch rolled around, I would grab the bag, walk to the locker room change, take my walk, come back, shower, and then get back to my desk. Add to that the fact that the locker room is about 7 minutes from my desk, and you have a pretty tight hour there. What I wanted to do was have something that I could just grab at my desk, walk, and then come back to the locker rooms and shower.

This is really important for me now, because one of the byproducts of my recent fight with (and victory over) cancer was that I put on some substantial weight, and need to up my activity level so I can get back down to a healthier weight.

The Outdoor products Sports bag.
The back:. 

So, let start with the bag itself; I got an Outdoor Products bag from Wal-Mart. $20.00s, and it even came with a water bottle. The construction looks solid, and I liked the fit. I don’t envision this lasting me years, but it is lasts 24 months I think it will have paid for itself.

The cup (with extra straw)

Now, on to the water bottle, its’ actually pretty cool. Aluminum and plastic, I think it’s about 30oz size. And it even came with an extra straw. All together not bad. I drink out of it at work all the time, and so long as I don't want to put anything hot in it, I should be fine. 

Cell phone/MP3 player holder. 

On, and that little black cell phone case; it didn't come with the bag. I salvaged it off my old laptop bag, its durable as hell, and secures right on the strap like it belongs there. This is actually cool because I like to listen to audiobooks (or Podiobooks) sometimes. 

Drinks pocket

The open mesh pockets on the side hold the water bottle, and whatever else I want. On one side I keep my drink packets and the extra straw. I’m debating expanding my selection a little, maybe even stocking some food there… any suggestions?

"Cool stuff" pocket

The other side is my “cool stuff” pocket. The thumb drives are just useful, and the cord you see there is good for charging my Kindle and my cell phone, from a wall outlet or a computer. So I’m really happy with it. The USB cord there is for my (somewhat old) MP3 player. I used to wear my Leatherman on my belt, and still do at times, but with me in an office chair now, this is actually more comfortable.

Again, I’m thinking of adding to that pocket. They make little “survival” kits all the time, and I’m thinking of looking into those and either getting one or copying it. Nothing too major, but matches, a sewing kit… useful stuff  if I'm ever stuck away from home a few days.

Now, before we get into the back pocket, let me just say I collected most of this stuff while I was dealing with cancer. Chemo screws with your body enough (at least in my case) that you need to be able to take care of even minor cuts quickly, Trust me, they don’t heal on their own some times.
Back pocket
These are the extras left over from my little personal “micro-trauma” kit. The Ziploc is for modularity and to keep them dry.

All told, it’s actually some really useful stuff, but all basic. The syringes on the left are not hypodermic. They are topic, doses of Phenergan gel, a potent anti-nausea drug that save my hide more than a few times when I was on chemo.

The actual “first aid kit” was a Wal-Mart number, but I added a few things. Most notably are the scissors, those are surgical tools I got a hold of; sharp as a razor and tough as steel.  The rest is self-explanatory. I don’t go into the kit that much, but it’s nice to have it on hand, good piece of mind.

Topical Antibiotic
Yeah… this I keep separate and available. I've had too many infected cuts in my life to forget how much an cut hurts when you let it sit all night and build up an infected mass. Never again, I tell you!

I liked the main compartment here because it wasn't segmented out; just one big space for stuff, and lots of stuff at that.

Main pocket... Lots of space.
“What’s with the Ziplocs?” you ask. Well, they are actually serving two purposes. First, they are protecting my backup clothes. If I’m out in the rain, or if something spills on the bag or whatever, I’m not up a creek. Also, cloth likes to compress, but it also likes to expand again. Those bags keep the volume under control in a really good way.

Case in point. Those two bags pack down really small, but what you’re looking at here is a decent “around the house” outfit If I’m at some one else’s home. I wouldn't want to do a job interview in that, but at least I have a fresh outfit that protects  my modesty.

Toiletries. Simple stuff, really, but enough to mean the difference between “just making it” and being presentable at work the next morning. Now that I am growing my hair out again, I’ll probably need a small bottle of shampoo in the next month or two, and a shaving kit as well.

Oh! One last pocket.  Right now, that is actually kept clear of stuff. But again, if I’m at work and in my office chair, I can drop my keys in there, or some loose change. Also, when I’m showering I tend to empty my pockets into it as a middle point between old pants and new ones. Its not huge, but it will hold everything in all of my pockets, so I am not complaining.

As for the remaining volume, that’s what I call "working space". Right now I can fit another clean set of whites, a fresh shirt and a large towel in there without maxing it out. This is perfect for a change after my walks. If I were going somewhere else, I image I could fit a lot in there lunch, my camera, some books… whatever. Like I said, its not a small space.

And as for comfort, I’m really not complain. I wear it for my walks, and walk about 1.3 miles each day and it isn't unpleasant to wear, even loaded down. I guess mine weighs in at about 15 pounds with everything in it.  I didn't get everything at once... but I think everything in there (less the clothes) probably adds up to $100, give or take. But that list was cobbled together over a few years too. 

As for the whole thing, it’s still a work in progress, and will change as my life changes. I’m thinking about finding someone with a vacuum sealer and putting the chance in clothes into  one of those bags. Iit could probably cut the volume down by a third if I did that. Like I said, I’m also thinking about a small ‘survival kit” for one of the pockets, just for piece of mind. And I definitely want to take that drink pouch and maybe make it into a little micro eatery/snack bar.

Thoughts? Suggestions? Feedback?