Tag Archives: Self-sufficiency

The Easy Way to Start a Wood Fire

Fire, and all it represents, is one of the building blocks of survival along with food, water, and shelter.  Fire will cook the food, purify the water, and heat the shelter.  For that reason, it should come as no surprise that fire starting tools and paraphernalia are one of the first things newbie preppers acquire when they are first getting started.

Acquiring tools is all well and good and not to be discounted.  The real test, however, lies in the ability to actually start a wood fire. To that end, there are as many ways to start a wood fire as there are preppers.  Everyone has their favorite method, even if it is inefficient and poorly executed.  Most likely, they simply do not know of a better way.

Help is on its way. Ron Brown, friend of Backdoor Survival and author of the Non-Electric Lighting Series of books and eBooks, knows how to light fires.  He has been doing it for over 50 years, and he is here today to teach us how.

Ron Brown’s Easy Way to Start a Wood Fire


I’ve probably started upwards of 10,000 wood fires in my life. My parents heated with wood when I was a child and I, myself, have heated with wood most of my adult life.

Still, 10,000 sounds like a lot.

I keep a box of strike-anywhere wooden matches beside the stove. I use about one box a year. The boxes hold 250 matches (though some hold 300). At that rate it would take 30-40 years to light 10,000 fires. Then again, I’m 75 years old.

The purpose of this article is to share with you what I’ve learned; to share with you the easiest way I know of to light a fire.


At the onset, we need to recognize that your objectives and my objectives might not be the same. My objectives are simple: (1) to start a fire, (2) as easily as possible, (3) with as high a success rate as possible, and (4) as safely as possible.

I feel no obligation whatsoever to start a fire the way grandpa did. Or how the American Indians did. Or how the aborigines in the Australian outback still do it today.

I have a camping buddy who feels that if it takes more than one match to light the campfire then it is not a proper fire. It’s his Boy Scout religion. I’m sure he constantly fights the urge to dump a bucket of water on my campfire and force me to start over and do it right this time.

In his heart of hearts he knows that my fire is inferior to his. It’s like new math. Okay, so I got the right answer. But I didn’t use sanctioned methodology so, in his eyes, my answer doesn’t qualify as an answer even though the result is correct.

How about you? Do you want a fire? Or do you want to play primitive? Only you can answer that. For my part, my aspiration is to keep my fanny warm and cook supper. I just wanna get the fire going. How can I say this politely? Screw primitive.

So Here’s How You Do the Doin’

In general terms, we’re going to:

(1) assemble a stack of firewood ready for burning
(2) insert, into the stack, a patch of cloth soaked in kerosene
(3) light the patch with a match

Done. The fire is started.

For “insertion into the stack” I, personally, use some long-nose needle-nose pliers from the Dollar Store. Cheapies. They work great.

The Easy Way to Start a Wood Fire

Basically, that’s all there is to it. Lesson over. (Although the devil, as they say, is in the details.)

Firewood. The firewood needs to be seasoned, dry. Not green. Not wet. It should be split so that it has sharp edges, something for the flame to bite into. Split wood is easier to start than round wood (i.e. round like wooden pencils).

The Stack. You can skip the so-called bird’s nest, the tinder, and the kindling. If the wood is both dry and split, you can start out with wood the size of your wrist. Starting out with “real” firewood saves mega time compared to starting out with newspaper and wood shavings and building the fire up with successively larger pieces.

The pieces in the stack can be parallel to each other (just like you would carry them in an armload of firewood). The stack does not need to have successive layers crisscrossed. Nor must it be set up teepee-fashion.

The Cloth Patches. Cotton works better than synthetic fabrics. Synthetics will not absorb and hold as much kerosene as cotton. Discarded blue jeans, T-shirts, sweat shirts, and athletic socks will all fill the bill.

A patch of cloth 4″ x 4″ is a good size but please realize that a 4″ x 4″ piece from a handkerchief will not soak up as much kerosene as a 4″ x 4″ piece from a Turkish bath towel. Of course, when you get to the actual fire building, you can always use two pieces.

  • Safety. Here I need to add a word about spontaneous combustion. I started out as an industrial arts teacher. I learned that all of the high school industrial arts shops in New York State have a red-painted metal can with a spring-loaded cover labeled “oily rags.” Why? Because oily rags are subject to spontaneous combustion.

It’s a fact known to everyone of my grandfather’s generation but to no-one of my children’s generation. I invite non-believers to Google for “spontaneous combustion oily rags” and do their homework before scoffing.

Consider this from back in the day:  “Spontaneous combustion [is] . . . the ignition of bodies by the internal development of heat without the application of an external flame. It not infrequently takes place among heaps of rags . . . lubricated with oil . . .” – Encyclopedia Americana, 1919

Storing Patches. When I tear up my rags into 4″ x 4″ pieces, I start with the used (and oily) shop clothes in my workshop. I do this in the fall and spend a couple of hours cutting up enough rags to last for the whole upcoming year.

Starting with the shop cloths means that many of the pieces I’m cutting up will be oily right from the get-go. So, after tearing or cutting my rags into pieces, I store them (before use) in empty metal paint cans (one-gallon size). I can tap down the lid with a rubber mallet and make an air-tight seal. When needed, I can pry open the lid, just like opening a gallon of paint, with a screwdriver.

Four or five one-gallon cans of cloth patches, tightly packed, are enough for the whole upcoming year.

Marinating the Patches in Kerosene. Gallon sizes are fine for on-the-shelf storage but are not convenient for day-to-day handling so I buy pint-size cans of wood stain from the Dollar Store. “Stain cans” are much easier to clean out than paint cans.

These pint-size cans are metal so there’s no danger of breakage. They’re air tight so they don’t leak on other gear. They’re easily pried open with a screwdriver and easily resealed with finger pressure.

I pack a pint-size can with dry patches (taken from a gallon can) then pour kerosene into the pint-size can, letting it saturate the cloth all the way to the bottom. I prepare a couple of pint-size cans at a time. In use, when the first pint-size can is empty, I start using the second. In the days that follow, before the second can is empty, I refill the first.

Matches. The source of ignition can be matches or a cigarette lighter or sparks from a magnesium/flint striker or steel wool touching both terminals of a 9-volt battery. Your choice. The easiest technique (and “easy” is the theme of this article) is to use a strike-anywhere wooden kitchen match.

Diamond (brand) still makes strike-anywhere matches. They are for sale today in mom-and-pop grocery stores as well as eBay. Interestingly, although strike-anywhere matches can be purchased on eBay and sent through the mail, “strike-on-box” is all you’ll find in the big-box stores like Wal-Mart. And don’t bother searching for Ohio Blue Tip. Diamond bought them out years ago.

Gaye’s Note:  Our local supermarket in Friday Harbor told us that they do not stock the strike-anywhere matches because they self-combust.  Urban legend or CYA?  Who knows.  Amazon sells them.

Incidentally, if the tiny white tip (the “strike anywhere” part) breaks off the head of the match, the match will still light if you rub it against the “sandpaper” panel on the side of the box. But you already knew that, right?

AND, don’t forget that you can carry fire from another source. A twig, a splinter, or a rolled-and-twisted sheet of paper can be used to carry fire from a stove burner, a candle, or a kerosene lamp to the fire you are building.

Still, the EASIEST ignition source is a strike-anywhere wooden kitchen match.

The Easy Way to Start a Wood Fire

Kerosene. Throughout this write-up I’ve said “kerosene” because it’s something everyone is familiar with. Actually, diesel fuel is the better choice.

The odor we associate with both kerosene and diesel fuel comes from the sulfur content.

There are two grades of kerosene, K1 and K2. The K2 grade is intended for use in appliances that are vented to the outside (a home-heating furnace with a chimney, for example). K2 kerosene contains 3000 ppm (parts per million) sulfur.

K1 kerosene is intended for appliances that are not vented to the outside (kerosene lamps, for example). K1 kerosene contains 400 ppm sulfur. You can confirm this with online MSDS sheets. Just Google for “k1 kerosene sulfur.”

In the bad old days, before 1993, diesel fuel contained 5000 ppm sulfur. Between 1993 and 2006, “low-sulfur” diesel fuel with 500 ppm was introduced. Since then, diesel fuel with “ultra-low” sulfur (15 ppm) has been mandated for on-road use.

Sulfur in Diesel

Point is, if you use my fire-starting method but want to avoid a kerosene smell inside the house, then today’s diesel fuel with 15 ppm sulfur is a better choice than K1 kerosene with 400 ppm.

“But what if I don’t have any kerosene or diesel fuel? What if the stuff really does hit the fan? OMG. Armageddon is here. The sky is falling. The sky is falling.”

Easy there, big fella. There are lots of materials you can substitute for kerosene. They might not smell good. They might smoke. They might be flammable (e.g. gasoline) rather than combustible (e.g. kerosene). In which case you must exercise some brain cells to avoid – POOF! – losing your eyebrows. But you can start a fire, no doubt about it.

Here are some alternate fuels with which to saturate your cloth patches:

Coleman fuel
Mineral spirits
Paint thinner
Linseed oil
Vicks VapoRub
Preparation H
Motor oil
Brake fluid
Power steering fluid
Mineral oil (laxative)
Baby oil
Hydraulic oil
70% isopropyl rubbing alcohol
151-proof rum
Everclear (brand) 190-proof grain alcohol
Sierra Silver (brand) 150-proof tequila
Denatured alcohol (used as shellac thinner and as fuel in marine stoves)
Heet or Drygas (methanol)
Charcoal lighter fluid
Cigarette lighter fluid
Automotive starting fluid (ether)
Lacquer thinner
WD-40 (penetrating oil)
Cooking oil (olive oil and similar)
Hoppe’s 9 (gun cleaning solvent)
Oil-based wood stain
Many kinds of cologne, after-shave lotion and perfume

Many aerosol spray cans (for insect repellent, paint, and hair spray) contain a flammable propellant. Here you’ll have to experiment to see what works; you cannot trust what it says on the label. Spray a postage-stamp-size cloth patch and see if it will light with a match. (TIP: When lighting, hold the patch with tweezers or needle nose pliers.)

Candle wax dripped onto a cloth patch works well. You can also rub (firmly) a candle or a bar of soap or a bar of paraffin canning wax into your patch (both sides, please). If you have a choice, avoid the soap. Scorching soap does not smell good.

Have I, personally, tried all these things? Yes.

“But that’s not the way grandpa lit a fire. Or The Waltons. Or Little House on the Prairie. That’s not how the Boy Scouts do it.”

Sorry ’bout that. You want romance? Nostalgia? A merit badge? Or a fire? Come on. The kids are starting to shiver. Wouldn’t you settle for a fire?

Russian Fireplace

My “Russian fireplace” in action.

The photo above is my “Russian Fireplace”.  It’s all ceramic (no metal parts). In use, you close the stove door (thereby hiding the flame). The brick soaks up heat from the fire and then then radiates heat out into the room. You do not feed in one piece of wood at a time. This kind of stove runs at top speed or at zero, nothing in between. It runs flat out until only ashes remain. Then you start again.

That means starting two or three fires per day from scratch. Five months x 2 fires/day = 300 per heating season.

The Final Word

Why is it that humans seek out the challenge of doing something easy in a complicated fashion?  I know that I do.  I don’t know about you, but going forward I want to embrace easy.  I want to embrace simple,  I want to do the least amount of work necessary to get the job done with the fewest number of tools, implements, and gizmos.

I don’t know if it is even possible to back away from technology and incorporate the simplest of pioneer skills into our daily lives.  We can try, though.  Starting a wood fire the easy way will give us a good start.

Once again, I would like to thank Ron for his contribution and support of Backdoor Survival.  If you are interested in learning more about what he has to say, be sure to check out his books in the Non-Electric Lighting Series and also his real claim to fame, The Amazing 2000-Hour Flashlight.

Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!

Bargain Bin:  Below you will find links to the items related to today’s article.  Of course, in addition to these items, you will want to check out Ron’s Non-Electric Lighting Series of books and eBooks.

Diamond GreenLight Kitchen Matches – 3 Pack (Strike anywhere):  Our local supermarket in Friday Harbor told us that they do not stock the strike-anywhere matches because they self-combust.  Urban legend or CYA?  Who knows.

BIC Disposable Classic Lighter With Child Guard:  This six pack of Bic lighters is reasonably priced but check around since these often go on sale locally.  BICs just work – every time.

Zippo Street Chrome Pocket Lighter:  Zippo has been creating virtually indestructible, windproof refillable lighters for more than 75 years. The Zippo Street Chrome pocket lighter is no exception. This lighter features a classic textured chrome finish and carries the same lifetime guarantee–to either work or be fixed by Zippo free of charge–for life. This lighter uses butane fuel. All wearable parts including flints and wicks are replaceable.  Every prepper should own at least one Zippo!

UCO Stormproof Matches, Waterproof and Windproof with 15 Second Burn Time – 25 Matches:  A ZIPPO or BIC lighter are always good to have but it would not hurt to have some stormproof matches as well.

Fire Cord 550 Paracord, Black:  This is really neat stuff that I am putting through its paces right now.  Basically, it is 7 strand Paracord + 1 strand of Fire Cord added as fire tinder.  Like I said, need stuff.

Live Fire Fire Starter | Backdoor Survival

Live Fire Original Emergency Fire Starter: This emergency fire starter is compact and a cinch to use. Completely waterproof! I know because I tried to drown my tin in salt water.  The Live Fire Sport is the same product, but in an even smaller, 1 inch by 2 inch tin.

Light My Fire Swedish FireSteel:  This “Scout” is the one I own. Using this basic pocket fire-starter, you can get a nice fire going under almost any conditions. This is a small, compact version and is my personal favorite.

The NEW 2000-Hour Flashlight:  The first edition of this book (“The AMAZING 2000-Hour Flashlight”) contained 54 illustrations. This edition (“The NEW 2000-Hour Flashlight”) contains 128 illustrations.  Using off-the shelf supplies costing less than $10, you can modify a lantern-style flashlight to run for 2,000 hours!  Only 99 cents for the eBook version.


Need something from Amazon (and who doesn’t)? I earn a small commission from purchases made when you begin your Amazon shopping experience here. You still get great Amazon service and the price is the same, no matter what.

Amazon has a feature called Shop Amazon – Most Wished For Items. This is an easy tool for finding products that people are ‘wishing” for and in this way you know what the top products are.  All you need to do is select the category from the left hand side of the screen.

The Amazon Top Most Wished For and Best Selling Outdoor Items
Emergency Preparedness Items from Amazon.com
Shop Amazon Tactical – Great Selection of Optics, Knives, Cases, Equipment
Amazon Gift Cards

Help support Backdoor Survival. Purchases earn a small commission and for that I thank you!


This article was written by Gaye Levy from Backdoor Survival

Gaye Levy started Backdoor Survival so that she could share her angst and concern about our deteriorating economy and its impact on ordinary, middle-class folks. She also wanted to become a prepper of the highest order and to share her knowledge as she learned it along the way. On Backdoor Survival you will find survival and preparedness tools and tips for creating a self-reliant lifestyle through thoughtful prepping and optimism.

To read more from Gaye, visit her website, Backdoor Survival. You can also follow Gaye on FacebookTwitterGoogle+ and Pinterest or purchase her eBook, The Prepper’s Guide to Food Storage on Amazon.com.

This article was written by Gaye Levy and can be viewed here:


Preppers: Be Careful What you Wish for

Preppers: Be Careful What you Wish for

“Let it all burn to the ground! I’ll be up in the hills with my survival group, two years’ worth of food and a ton of supplies. You can stay here and die. In fact, I hope you all die so I can walk back down here when you are dead and take all of your stuff that you were too stupid to protect.”

Have you ever heard someone talk like that about the end of the world as we know it? I have many times. It is usually on survival forum posts or in the comments of prepper blogs that we hear this vitriol spewed from people who seem to eagerly anticipate a horrible SHTF event. I can’t even grasp the stupidity of comments like that and have to believe that anyone who says anything remotely similar is suffering from a serious lack of intelligence, maturity or both.

How could anyone in their right mind want chaos and anarchy? Who would wish destruction on our entire civilization?

There is another side to this topic though and that is a connected, but slightly different yearning I believe on the part of some preppers, who secretly hope in some small way for TEOTWAWKI in their lives also. This desire isn’t to see anyone harmed although they are probably aware this possibility must come with the territory. It is also not to take advantage of anyone like the comment above. Some preppers might be looking forward to “the big reset” caused by some global catastrophe, not because they are anarchists who want destruction, but are instead searching for something more personal and intimate to the human experience.

I believe that some people are secretly OK with the prospect of TEOTWAWKI because of how our society has become pathetic on some fronts, due to technological advances and nanny state bureaucracies. With all the advancements of science and industry, we have forgotten some of our native abilities and our lives are devoid of the challenges that strengthened and tested our forefathers. When the biggest fear is losing electricity, what has our life as human beings become? When everyone gets a trophy just for showing up, what is the point of striving in the contest of life? If your social life is plunged into a panic due to a brief outage on Facebook, how meaningful is that life? If even sledding must be banned due to the fear of lawsuits, how screwed up are our priorities? If the only answer to getting what you want is to riot, protest or a court battle, how weak have we become as a species, or perhaps more accurately; how much control have we willingly given away?

The Pioneer Spirit is not lost, it is searching for you

This thought has been bouncing around in my brain for some time, but it took another show on NatGeo to bring the concept to the front of my consciousness. I so rarely watch TV and if I do it is almost always National Geographic and that is why so many of my articles feature thoughts gleaned from that network. I do not own stock in them, but I watched the first episode of a show called The Pioneers. This show isn’t radically different from a lot of other reality based shows out there; camera crews follow people carefully selected, no doubt to get along and argue with each other at all the right times, but the premise is “a social experiment that follows four couples for three months as they trade in their 21st-century comforts for covered wagons, campfires, and the harsh reality of life on the American prairie.”

Pioneer Preppers

Cast of the Pioneers on National Geographic.

The main motivation for the couples interviewed generally was to get back to the spirit of the pioneers, our ancestors and see if they could complete a wagon voyage across the prairies of America. This would be without any modern conveniences naturally and the only survival toolsthey are given in the show were common to the 1800’s. In watching that first show I realized that so many of us are yearning for the same type of challenge, but most of us could not and would not appear on any reality show to see how we actually fared. I think that pioneer spirit is in our DNA somehow and our modern society doesn’t give us many chances to exercise this deep down yearning, so that, almost unconscious desire, manifests itself in a tacit longing for a return to a more challenging time.

Sure, you could go off the grid, drop out of society and hike up into the woods but most of us wouldn’t do that willingly unless our lives depended on it and even if we did, the rest of society wouldn’t follow along so it wouldn’t really be the way the pioneers lived life would it? A TEOTWAWKI event would be the great impetus, depending on the disaster, for a mandatory return to a simpler, harsher life. If a great calamity happened, you wouldn’t have to quit your job or turn off your cell phone. You wouldn’t have any choice about growing a garden or trying to repair holes in your jeans. Life would be completely different and you would finally see how you are able to stand up to the challenges of a world that doesn’t come with so many shortcuts.

You don’t have to wait for the end of the world

I can relate to the thoughts I mention above because in some small way I would like to see how I could rise to the challenges faced by our pioneer relatives. I fully understand that life was much harder back then so I don’t want to foolishly wish a return to the 1800’s on any of us, but a big reset would seem to be the quickest, maybe not the least painful way to start over on a lot of things.

If you have similar thoughts there are things you can do now though to try to make sure you are prepared if something happens that does cause us all to lose the modern conveniences that we love and rely on so much to make life easier and more entertaining. You can not only be more prepared, there are ways to test yourself in the process, they just require some effort and planning.

  • Turn off the power – This is the easiest thing you can do to experience a little pain without really sacrificing too much. Just flip the main breaker on Friday night and go all weekend, maybe even a week to see how you handle living without power. How will youcook when the grid is down? What will you do when the lights are out? How will you stay warm or cool?
  • Go hiking for a month – Always wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail? Plan a month-long hiking excursion without the benefit of resupply points along the way. This would bebugging out without the roving bands of looters to worry about.
  • Stop buying anything for a month – Could you go without buying anything for a month? We have plenty of food stored, but still make weekly trips to the grocery store. If you had to go without leaving your house for a month could you do that?
  • Turn off the water – This is much harder than electricity at some points of the year. When you have to haul your water and filter it every time you need it, you will appreciate what those pioneers had to do. You might take fewer showers.
  • Try using the bathroom outside for a week – Nothing says ‘I’m a Pioneer’ like pooping in the woods on a cold dark night. If that isn’t enough for you, lose the toilet paper also.
  • Walk or ride a bike everywhere – The new car you have is not very ‘Pioneer’ is it? Try walking the kids to soccer practice for a week. I bet that traveling league wouldn’t work out so well.

I understand the allure of wanting to be tested – to go back to a world without so much noise, where you have to be self-reliant or else you die, but the downside is we easily forget just how difficult that life was. Sure, an EMP for example could send us back to the 1800’s without killing a lot of people immediately, but there would be a large loss of life as the lack of electricity affected people in so many ways. Many people, maybe your own children or spouse could die from simple infections if they were unable to receive antibiotics. Women would die in greater numbers during childbirth. There wouldn’t be a 911 to call if your house caught fire. Retirement? The only way you would get to retire is when you died.

Living like the Pioneers for us wouldn’t be anything like Little House on the Prairie. Your home town would probably look more like a third world slum for generations. Don’t believe me? Have you seen the garbage that piles up after only 10 days? Do you know anyone with horses? Wood-working tools that don’t require power? Wagons for the horses to pull? Steam locomotives or the knowledge to build any of these things?

We may all get to see what it is like living like the Pioneers one day but if I am being honest, I don’t want to go through that turmoil if I have a choice. I don’t want it for myself or my family or anyone in the world. It is one thing to think about it from my sofa watching a reality TV show drinking a cold adult beverage, but if the 1800’s came knocking on my door I know that eventually, probably faster than I like, I would regret the loss in a very real way. As a prepper I do try to plan for scenarios like this but I always try to remind myself that my preparations are for worst case scenarios and that I would really be much happier if these plans I make never saw the light of day. As a society, I might think we need a big reset, but I for one don’t want to go through the death and destruction to get there. If it happens, I’ll deal with it, but I am not wishing that on anyone.

Preppers: Be Careful What you Wish for was written by Pat Henry with Prepper Journal and can be viewed here:


Getting Started Prepping

Getting Started in Prepping

There are many routes people take to this word of Prepping. Some have watched Doomsday Preppers on Nat Geo. Others have found the word scouring blogs out there as almost every mainstream media outlet has had some coverage of the phenomenon. Others have been personally touched by tragedy or worry that they could be someday, so they investigate for themselves. No matter what your reason for searching for prepper, everyone has to start somewhere, but in the beginning it can be a little overwhelming. Today I wanted to share some tips for those getting started in prepping that are easy and will increase your odds for survival without breaking the bank.

Now I know that there are those who have more experience than others. The learning curve is not the same for everyone and neither are the concerns, resources or methods of approaching a journey towards preparedness. Some people view prepping as simply what our great grandmothers did. Some will consider the skills, habits and traits of preppers more suited to the term survivalist. It doesn’t matter what you call it. Whether we are talking about prepping or survival, the root issue both labels are trying to address is living. Living or staying alive even when things get bad.

Why should you start prepping?

I have been interviewed a few times and almost without fail, the first question I get is something like “So how did you get into prepping?”. To me that question is still a little odd, but the majority of people out there go through life without realizing just how easily things can turn upside down. The “normal” that you expect every day when you wake up and look our your window could change overnight and this isn’t something out of a fictional disaster movie; it happens to many people every day.

What disasters am I talking about? You can look at any year and pick dozens of situations where people needed assistance or were affected by earthquakes, tropical storms, hurricanes, floods, wildfires, tornadoes. In 2011 alone there were 99 major disaster declarations and that doesn’t count things like riots and the turmoil that we see in other countries that could be visiting our shores with the right circumstances. Life can be messy and many people have decided after looking at recent history, that it makes sense to start preparing.


A garden is a great extension of your long-term prepping plan, but don’t expect that to feed you in a crisis unless it is well established ahead of time.

Each person likely has their own idea of what they are prepping for. Just like the willing victims interviewed on Doomsday Preppers, I think most of us have something we are worried about more so than anything else, but the great thing about prepping is that preparing for one disaster can also help you with almost any other disaster in large measure. We all need the same basic things to live so preparedness supplies aren’t a waste if your expected tragedy never occurs. Actually, I hope nothing ever happens and I personally get to look back many, many years from now and say I was wrong. I am betting I am not though. Time will tell.

Will Prepping cost you a fortune?

One aspect of prepping is the cost and this is usually because there is an almost immediate focus on prepping supplies you will need in any particular disaster. When I was getting started in prepping, I first conducted a lot of research but in the back of my mind I kept a running list of all of the things I felt I needed. It is the same for most preppers. When you learn about all of the items to consider in a disaster or a collapse, you realize – maybe for the first time, that you could be on your own. The absence of police departments, fire and rescue, electric companies, grocery stores and super Walmart’s leave a big hole in the acquirement portion of our lives. Unless you plan on living a very sparse existence, most of us feel like we should stock up on supplies we consider vital to survival before they are gone for good do to shortage or inability to get to those same supplies.

Unless you already are living on a farm growing all of your own food, what will you do if thegrocery stores are out? What will you do for electricity if something happens to the electric grid? What will you do if the police have all walked off the job and a group of thugs is milling around your yard?

I think it is realistic to say that purchasing some prepping supplies will cost you money. Could you make all of these your own? No, you can’t and anyone who tells you that all they need is a sharp knife won’t be alive for very long. Yes, I know Bear Grylls and Les Stroud and a whole bunch of other guys do this every week on reality TV, but listen to me. That isn’t you on the screen and it isn’t reality at all to expect to live in the wild on scavenged grubs, fish or the occasional victim of your snares for 99.99% of us.


Emergency water storage could be found in the tap if you act quickly after a crisis. The WaterBob (pictured) allows you to store 100 gallons in the tub. You can use it for drinking or hygiene after the tap runs dry.

Yes, we did come from sturdier stock back in the days and some people still possess many of those skills today. Pioneers wandered around and made a life for themselves without all of the conveniences of modern life. We can relearn those skills and we can put aspects of that life into practice, but unless you are independently wealthy, don’t need to work a job or take care of kids to pay that mortgage on your home, the time you have is limited. I recommend a short-term and a long term approach to prepping that anyone can follow.

What are simple steps you can take right now to increase your odds of survival?

Let’s assume for the sake of argument that preppers have a higher likelihood of facing some situation in their lives that temporarily renders them at the mercy of their surroundings. I will take things like regional weather events, economic issues, employment shortages first. Getting stuck in the wilderness with your arm under a boulder is not what we are prepping for. Could that happen? Sure but that is a different survival experience that I think is related but not directly the subject of prepping.

As I said above, everyone needs the same things in order to live. You need water, food, shelter and security. These are constants that don’t change regardless of the crisis or disaster you are living in. Your prepping should first and foremost address your ability to meet those needs for yourself and your family. How much food and water do you need? What shelter considerations would you have and what possible security risks could you face? These are questions that are worthy of their own post but there are some guidelines I believe will work for most everyone in most situations.


Food is one of the most important prepping items and it should be the easiest to acquire. You don’t need to plan for a year’s worth of food right off the bat. Start smaller and begin with an extra week if you don’t have anything. Work your way up after that. Some great food staples that will store for a long time in cool, dry conditions and are extremely economical when you look at it are the following:

  • Rice –You can buy smaller bags at stores like Walmart or go to Sam’s and get the 50lb bags for real cost savings. Buy 2 50lb bags of rice and you will spend about $30. Seriously! Each bag has hundreds of servings.
  • Beans – What goes good with rice? Beans and you can purchase these at the same time. A ten pound bag of pinto beans is about $7. Buy 3 bags and now you have 100 pounds of rice and 30 pounds of beans for less than $50. You can feed a family of 4 for a month with that. Will everyone hate you when it’s over? Probably not if they aren’t starving. You might need to crack a window though…
  • Seasonings – But some seasonings will make those beans and rice go down much better so stop and get salt, pepper, maybe bouillon cubes or hot sauce to spice things up. All of this should be less than $100.
7 gallons of water

7 gallons of water in an easy to stack container. Make sure you have at least one of these for each person in your house.


Water can be shut off. Water pipes can freeze so it is important to keep a supply of water in your home. The good news is you can fill up a lot of water jugs very cheaply from your faucet. I like the 7 gallon water containers because they hold a lot, stack easily and are just about the max anyone will want to lug around for very long. Get at least 1 of these for each person in your home and you will have a weeks’ worth of water for everyone. The more you have the better off you are.


Usually we are talking about staying out of the elements. There isn’t much you can do for heat unless you have electricity and if you have that… Cold weather will kill people more usually so simply planning for colder weather should be part of your preps. Do you have extra warm blankets, or sleeping bags, hats, gloves and scarfs? Shelter should be one thing that most of us don’t have to worry about as long as we have a place to go.


Each person has different priorities, beliefs and values when it comes to security. For me, I have chosen firearms because they make the most sense to me. If you are just getting started prepping and are a legal adult with not much money to spare, I might recommend a shotgun or a pistol as your first self-defense weapon. Shotguns have their advantages – you don’t generally need a permit to purchase one and they are multi-use weapons. You can use them for security and hunting game. Pistols are concealable and most semi-automatics carry more ammo than a shotgun. The choice is up to you. A very decent shotgun can be purchased new for ~$200. Respectable handguns are about double that, but you can find models for much cheaper if you shop around. Make sure you are competently trained in whatever weapon you chose first and get a supply of ammo. I recommend BulkAmmo.com for their good prices and amazingly fast shipping. You can get 25 rounds of 12 gauge buckshot for $8. Pistol ammo is roughly $26 for a box of 50 hollow points.

So the total is roughly $500 to get you enough food, water and a security option to survive for at least a week and possibly more. Are there more things to consider? Yes of course and we have a good selection of articles I think that cover most of the big ticket items. For additional reading if you are just getting started prepping, I might recommend the following:



Getting Started in Prepping was written by Pat Henry with Prepper Journal and can be viewed here:


10 Excuses for Not Prepping That Could Get You Killed

10 Excuses for Not Prepping That Could Get You Killed

Prepping is something that takes time, some level of commitment and usually finds its roots in some motivating reason or lifestyle characteristics. Preppers intentionally work toward a goal or measurement that can be held up to life for comparison. By preparing to have food stored over the winter, you may have a measurement of how long you can feed your family with those foods you are storing away. Food storage is just one example, but being prepared to a level that most would agree is some measure above their peers, takes work and it is so easy to make excuses to get out of that work.

Prepping follows life and comes, at least in my instance, in phases. There are times when I am more motivated by events in the news to get prepared. There are days when I have a little extra money and I can spend it on some piece of gear I have been meaning to acquire and there are times when I don’t really do anything that you can say would be a common trait of a prepper. I just exist and go about my day like anyone else.

There are phases to everything in life and certainly you can’t stay in a state of high alert all the time or you would eventually burn out. I plan on writing about that topic soon, but for this post I wanted to talk about the excuses people make to not start prepping in the first place. These comforting snippets we say either because we believe them to be true or use them as our get out of jail free card. By simply saying a problem doesn’t, exist we absolve ourselves of any guilt we might feel by doing nothing. It is far easier to say words than to act and today I wanted to try to address some of the excuses for not prepping that I have heard in the brief time I have been doing this.

The audience for these excuses are anyone who thinks prepping or getting prepared for emergencies in life is foolish.


Nothing will ever happen to me – This excuse has several evil step sisters and believe it or not some people believe that you can rely on the bible to escape having to do anything. If you believe something bad will happen to you, you obviously don’t have faith do you? I do have faith but I believe God gives us many things we can use to protect our lives. God has absolute control over everything I believe but he also gave us free will. We can choose to jump off a cliff and I am pretty sure anyone who tries that will die. An often quoted verse from the Bible is Proverbs 22:3 which says:

The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.

I know how simple it is to pull a verse out of the Bible, devoid of all context and frame it in a way to match your argument, but this one for me seems consistent with so many other stories, parables and lessons from the Bible. God does intervene in the lives of people, but he also tells them what to do and expects them to follow suit in order to save themselves. Bad things happen all the time and I don’t think it is foolish to guard yourself against danger. If you can see problems happening down the road that could cause you harm and you do nothing about it, you will likely pay the price – one way or another.

The government will come to my rescue – This excuse for not prepping should be the one that anyone with half a brain would know is false. Government was not made to come and fly you off the roof of your home if it floods. You were given reason, logic and intelligence of self-preservation, if nothing else that should be guiding you to safety. Counting on the Government to save you is a waste of time in my opinion and I don’t want to wait around on anyone for the safety of my family. If a bad guy comes to my door, kicks it in and comes inside and says he is going to kill me and rape my wife do you think I am going to be calling 911?

Prepping is multi-faceted, but the core issue is taking responsibility for your own health and safetyinto your own hands. Don’t expect the government to show up and put you on a boat to happy town. You should have been prepared enough to get out-of-town before you needed to.

The banks will never close in America – They didn’t close in Greece or Cyprus did they? The banks most certainly didn’t close in Argentina either in 2002. Banks certainly wouldn’t have any reason not to give you the money you deposited with them because they are good honest people who have your own interests at heart. Yeah, if you believe that, I have some ocean front property in Arizona to sell you. Banks are if nothing else, in this business to make a profit. Some would say they are making obscene profits and I don’t dispute that but what I do know is they don’t have to give you your money. Ever.

When you deposit your money in a bank, they consider your money theirs and you as an uninsured creditor. You are simply loaning them the money, they get to do whatever they please and if they lose your money due to shady business practices, oh well. Too bad. Don’t believe for a second that if something goes south in the world of finance, that you have any guarantee of access to your money. They may open up in a couple of weeks if they are forced to close and only allow you to get out a small amount each week. Don’t let this happen to you. Make sure you have alternate plans for at least some portion of your finances.

What could possibly go wrong?

What could possibly go wrong?

There is no way the super markets will ever run out of food – Super markets depend on deliveries of food. They don’t make those pretty bottles, cans and bags in the back room. Just like they don’t make clothes in the store in the mall you go to. When the supply is gone, it has to be replenished. Some people get hung up on the amount of days that a typical grocery store has worth of food on hand. I have heard three days of food as a good guideline and for normal shopping that is probably right. When you go into the store, you will see how many packages of bread of the type you like to eat, maybe 2 dozen packages? What if that store was filled with hundreds of people in one day? How long do you think that food would last?

The grocery store should not be your last resort for food. The grocery store should augment the supply you already have at home which should be more than enough to eat for at least one month. I recommend a year, but you have to start somewhere. You don’t want to be the person walking into the grocery store after panic buying and complaining that there is no food. You won’t win any prizes for guessing incorrectly how much food they have on hand.

The government would never take your guns – I have two words for you, Martial Law. It was most recently implemented in a large-scale during hurricane Katrina and when that happened, they went door to door and confiscated firearms from law-abiding people. They didn’t go into crack town and take the guns away from the gangs, they took them from little old ladies. With the right reason, the government already has laws/orders on the books to confiscate firearms and if you think that could never happen, you must also think the government writes fairy-tales down to amuse themselves. Don’t believe me, just look at the video below.

You might think no person needs guns and that is fine if that is your belief, but I want to have something I can protect myself with. The only reason to take guns away from law-abiding citizens is to remove their ability to fight back. You may also think that the government doesn’t seem worried about anything and they would tell us if we were in trouble. I don’t think that is the case.

I will point out just some of the more interesting Executive Orders that are on the books currently. I am not saying which administration wrote these, but they are still current, so the government has some idea that bad times are possible or else, why the need for the following?

  • EXECUTIVE ORDER 10990 allows the government to take over all modes of transportation and control of highways and seaports.
  • EXECUTIVE ORDER 10995 allows the government to seize and control the communication media.
  • EXECUTIVE ORDER 10997 allows the government to take over all electrical power, gas, petroleum, fuels and minerals.
  • EXECUTIVE ORDER 10998 allows the government to take over all food resources and farms.
  • EXECUTIVE ORDER 11000 allows the government to mobilize civilians into work brigades under government supervision.
  • EXECUTIVE ORDER 11001 allows the government to take over all health, education and welfare functions.
  • EXECUTIVE ORDER 11002 designates the Postmaster General to operate a national registration of all persons.
  • EXECUTIVE ORDER 11003 allows the government to take over all airports and aircraft, including commercial aircraft.
  • EXECUTIVE ORDER 11004 allows the Housing and Finance Authority to relocate communities, build new housing with public funds, designate areas to be abandoned, and establish new locations for populations.
  • EXECUTIVE ORDER 11005 allows the government to take over railroads, inland waterways and public storage facilities.
  • EXECUTIVE ORDER 11051 specifies the responsibility of the Office of Emergency Planning and gives authorization to put all Executive Orders into effect in times of increased international tensions and economic or financial crisis.
  • EXECUTIVE ORDER 11310 grants authority to the Department of Justice to enforce the plans set out in Executive Orders, to institute industrial support, to establish judicial and legislative liaison, to control all aliens, to operate penal and correctional institutions, and to advise and assist the President.
  • EXECUTIVE ORDER 11049 assigns emergency preparedness function to federal departments and agencies, consolidating 21 operative Executive Orders issued over a fifteen year period.
  • EXECUTIVE ORDER 11921 allows the Federal Emergency Preparedness Agency to develop plans to establish control over the mechanisms of production and distribution, of energy sources, wages, salaries, credit and the flow of money in U.S. financial institution in any undefined national emergency. It also provides that when a state of emergency is declared by the President, Congress cannot review the action for six months. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has broad powers in every aspect of the nation.

I can hear someone saying now – “Well, of course the government is in control of those things, I mean they are the government right”? Read it again and take a look at the topics covered by these Executive Orders. The government has plans for things going so bad that they will have to come in and control every aspect of our lives. They see the potential for disaster. Shouldn’t you?

FEMA recommends three days’ worth of food so that should be enough – The last time we had a good winter storm, the roads weren’t cleared near my home for a week. Yes, we got out but that was a simple storm. What if something really bad happens? Do you think three days is enough? What if the power is out during that same storm for 5 days? Would you want to trust that no matter what the situation was, that it would be over, all sorted out, cleaned up and back to normal in three days?

FEMA’s recommendations in my opinion are better than nothing, but they should not be considered all you need. You need to plan for feeding your family forever, not just for three days. Granted, we can’t put millions of pounds of food in our homes, but they still don’t have New Orleans back to the way it was before Katrina. Sure you can buy groceries now, but do you want to take the risk that three days is all you need?

I don’t have money to spend on prepping supplies – What do you spend your money on? Do you get your nails done? Do you pay hundreds of dollars for satellite TV? What about that Xbox? How many times a week do you get a $4 coffee? Are you paying for some music download service so you can hear all of the Johnny Mathis you want anytime, anywhere?

Most of us spend money we don’t need to spend on some luxuries and I do it too, but I have made preparations for my family. I did sacrifice on some of the things I wanted so I could havesupplies to keep my family fed, with clean water and shelter and security if our house disappeared tomorrow. Life is all about priorities for most of what we do. If you can look at your family while they are starving and say, sorry Johnny, I had to have the Prime Time ESPN package so I couldn’t buy any more groceries for you, that is on your head.

I don’t have room for extra food in my house – Unless you are living in a van down by the river, you have room. If you don’t have room, get rid of some of the stuff in your house. You can store food under beds, in bookshelves, in your kitchen cabinets, in hall closets, under your kid’s beds, behind the chairs in the living room. There are places to put food if you are looking and not having any place to store food is no excuse. Do you have room for that flat screen TV?

I don’t want people to think I am crazy – I don’t want to see my family hurt or suffering. I don’t care what people think about me as long as my family is safe and alive. I would happily be the brunt of a million jokes than have to look at my family and apologize for not doing what I could to take care of them.

Even if you are completely alone, what do you care what anyone thinks about you? You brush your teeth so you don’t get cavities I hope. You have health insurance if you get sick and car insurance if you get in a wreck. Why is having a little insurance for other emergencies so crazy? Get over yourself and start taking steps to be prepared or you could end up dead. Yes, if you don’t do anything to help yourself, if you keep your head in the sand you might be caught up in a world you don’t like. The worst thing that could happen to preppers if we are wrong is that we spent some money on food that lasts 25 years or guns we never have to use. Which side of that reality do you want to be on?

I am not perfect and I wouldn’t hold my preps up as the end all be all, but I am on that journey toward preparedness. I like to think I am pretty far down that road and I am just trying to get as many others on the path as possible. What do you have to lose besides your life?

10 Excuses for Not Prepping That Could Get You Killed was written by Pat Henry with Prepper Journal and can be viewed here:


Lifesaving Survival Tips to Keep You Alive in the Wilderness

A growing number of people are planning for bad things to happen. We take care to study the threats we see around us including those both very likely and some not as likely. We do this so we can try to be prepared for events that put ourselves or our family or friends in danger. Our preparations require some study of the potential events you see affecting you, the development of plans for mitigating the risks of these events and actions to place your readiness above where it is now. We prepare.

Most prepping, when you look at the activities of a majority of people, is largely study – via prepper blogs, movies and internet searches and the purchasing of survival supplies. It is fine for me to sit here and make the most marvelous plans for whisking my family to safety, but just as with anything in life, if I don’t practice that plan I could fail miserably. Have you ever sworn you knew something cold but at the moment you were called on to deliver this knowledge inside of your head, your mind went blank? That pause, the frozen – deer in the headlights look is not what you want to be showing when lives are on the line. The best way to prevent freezing up is to get out and practice survival now when there is no risk to your safety.

The survival tips below are suggestions on how you can move from the planning and preparing phase to actual readiness as much as possible. We all need to get out from behind the computer and get out in the world. Nothing can guaranty you will survive any and all manner of emergencies. If you blow your knee out and a giant wall of water is 50 feet away, you are likely going for a swim, but if you take time now to immerse yourself somewhat in the situations you fear, it can make your chances of survival much higher and increase your faith in your own abilities.

Get in shape – Not this one again! Yes, I know it has been beaten to death but there is a reason why people from every survival website, prepping blog, TV show, movie, survival expert or prepper fiction author and podcast host will bring up physical fitness. There is a reason why the most highly trained warriors I can imagine, our Special Forces are in such great physical shape, they exercise. A lot. Now, I am not advocating you start anything near to a Navy Seal workout program, Lord knows I am not the pinnacle of fitness. I don’t believe you have to be a ripped, buff, Soldier of Fortune centerfold model, but lets agree that your worst case scenario is likely going to require you to be at the top of your game. Do what you can now to get into shape. There won’t be any gym memberships when the world ends.

Hike through different conditions – Bugging Out is a universal concept in Prepping and you may be ready to grab your BOB, lace up your hiking boots, strap on your trusty Semi-Automatic weapon and head out in the forest, but you might want to try other conditions as well. I don’t live in the desert, but if SHTF, I could find myself needing to cross one to survive or make it back home. Don’t just hike around your neighborhood, go to a state park, in another state. Get experience with hiking different terrain. Try different weather conditions also. We might cancel a weekend backpacking trip if the forecast called for rain or snow, but going out and experiencing these conditions will give you more knowledge with what works and what doesn’t. Real life experience is far better than reading any manual or how-to.

Your watch can be a compass – Yes, you don’t need to carry a fancy Suunto Compass, but they do come in handy. If you are in the Northern Hemisphere and you find yourself lost (without a compass), you can use a watch to tell you which way is north. This can even work with digital watches and smart phones with a little imagination.

Go it alone – I am all for going camping with friends or family, but there is also something to be said for going out on your own, especially if you are afraid of being alone. If this is you, plan a simple, safe trip out for a night. Make sure you plan everything out and let people know where you are going and when you will return. A night in the woods alone, especially when it is cold outside can be an interesting experience. I have hunted like this on more than one occasion and even though I wasn’t afraid of being alone, the trips out and back with nobody but yourself to rely on left me with a sense of accomplishment. It’s a small thing but confidence is important to the mental aspect of survival.

Turn off the lights and get comfortable with the dark – Are you afraid of being in the dark? Get over that fear right now. When you are out camping alone, turn off the lights and try navigating around your camp in the dark for a while. Take that headlamp with you for safety, but try living without the light for a night and see how you get by. When the batteries are all dead or ifelectronics have been made inoperable due to an EMP, you will appreciate the experience. You will also be able to quickly see how much light that campfire puts off and how it never gets to the places you really need it to.

Top off the tank to stay warm – If you want to stay a little warmer on cold nights you can try a couple of different tricks before laying down in that sleeping bag. You could knock out 20 push ups, do 30 jumping jacks or just bound around your campsite for a minute to get your internal heat up. Not to the point of sweating, but just enough to get the blood circulating and a slight temperature increase. Another option is to eat snacks before going to sleep. This will keep you warmer as the body works to digest the food and will help you get better night’s sleep.

Don’t ditch your clothes – If you are lost in hotter climates, don’t leave all your clothes behind. Clothing can protect you from the elements and nighttime temperatures almost always drop way down. In the desert, temperatures can drop 60 degrees from daytime highs to nighttime lows so while during the day you may have thought all you needed was that bathing suit top and some shorts, you will wish you had more layers.

Melt snow with your body heat – You might not be able to start a fire to melt snow, but you can melt it with your own body heat. Place snow in a container and put that in your sleeping bag with you. Make sure this isn’t touching your skin but the heat from your body will warm that snow up and give you drinking water even without a source of fire.

Layer Up – to avoid bites from mosquitoes – Mosquitoes are the bane of my existence. I must be naturally yummy to them because they find me out during the summer months. Flies and mosquitoes are the only bad things about summer for me, but they sure can ruin a party. If you are like me, layer up to avoid their thirsty little beaks. Two layers of cool fabric will keep the mosquitoes at bay and keep you from getting bitten. In malaria locations, this could also keep you healthy.

Sunglasses for snow or homemade goggles – If you are lost in the snow and don’t have any eye protection from the glare, you could develop snow blindness. Snow blindness is when your cornea gets burned by Ultraviolet rays and symptoms could include a temporary loss of vision. Losing your eyesight is probably one of the worst things to happen if you are in a survival situation. Yes, I know getting eaten by a bear is worse, but we can prevent the risk of sun blindness by making your own DIY snow goggles from the bark of a tree or other material you have with you. I have seen cardboard used and even the trusty bandana.

Grass can keep you alive – I am not talking about the kind of grass you mow in your front yards, but grass has been used by people in colder climates for ages to keep warm and dry. In the book, Arctic Clothing, the writer relates a story about the Yup’ik people in Alaska using grass as lifesaving insulation under clothing when a person is cold and wet in the wilderness. By placing grass inside your clothes it acts as a barrier to the cold and moisture keeping the freezing water off your skin. Grass can also be used to keep feet warm and dry by wrapping your feet with grass and then putting them into your shoes.

Let the dogs out – Cold and wet feet can quickly put you out of commission so keeping them dry and free of frostbite in colder conditions is vital. Don’t sleep with your boots on. Take your boots and socks off if your feet are sweaty and wet. This will allow your feet to dry and if your boots are wet you can put them into your sleeping bag with you to dry them out. When you wake up your feet should be in much better shape.

Walk the walk – Practice what you are planning to do for survival. We usually discuss training with respect to firearm proficiency or medical skills but living outdoors, navigating in the wilderness, hauling all of your supplies on your back and making it home safely should be skills that you train yourself in as well. If walking into the wilderness causes you stress, take charge of that now while you can. Get out of your comfort zone while it is reasonably safe to do so and tackle these challenges now before you are confronted with them on someone else’s terms. You will be more prepared and these skills you learn could help you survive.


Lifesaving Survival Tips to Keep You Alive in the Wilderness was written by Pat Henry with Prepper Journal and can be viewed here: