Choosing the Right Survival Knife

choosing-the-right-survival-knifeOne of your best friends in the wilderness is your knife.  It can help you build a shelter, dress game, or gut a fish.  It can also be used to defend yourself from zombies and other predators.

When choosing the right survival knife, usefulness and durability are the prime concerns.

  • Forget cool:  If you’re buying a knife because it looks cool, great – assuming you’re gonna put it on display and never use it.  If you are going to actually use your knife, buy something practical, not something flashy.  If it looks awesome, it’s probably useless.
  • Size matters:  Don’t get an over sized knife in an attempt to do everything with it.  It will do nothing well.  If you need to chop wood or clear brush, you’ll do well to pack a parang or machete for that purpose.  Otherwise, remember that you will need to do detail work at some point, and trying to do that with a huge knife is going to suck.
  • Solid construction:  Many knifes are built cheaply, with a blade that is attached to a handle.  This results in a weak spot where they are joined.  Instead, look for a blade labeled full tang – this means that there is a single piece of metal to which the grip of the handle is mounted.
  • Quality matters:  You want something durable that can take a beating and still hold an edge.  This means steel, and ideally carbon steel.
  • Like a glove:  Find a grip that suits you.  Your knife needs to feel comfortable to the point that it seems like a natural extension of your hand.  Also, the grip should be made of a non-slip material.  You don’t want a knife that becomes your worst enemy when your hand is wet or sweaty.
  • Put it away:  Get a knife that comes with a sheath, and make sure it fits well.  It shouldn’t move or rattle at all.

By following these guidelines, you’ll be sure to find a knife that will suit your every need when the shit hits the fan.

 

Photo credit: mikepetrucci

4 Simple Ways to Make Fire

ways-to-make-fireFire is one of those things that’s become trivial in our daily lives.  Turn the knob on your stove, push the automatic starter on your gas grill, or click your butane lighter, and there it is.  Of course, you can do all of that using electricity, too – meaning you might never see an actual flame all day.

We’ve come a long way from having to rely on and maintain a fire as a necessary part of life.  Yet, when we’re on the run from the zombies, we probably won’t be able to simply push a button to cook our food or heat our shelters.  It’s time you learn how to start a fire properly, before you need it.

This is not a definitive list, but this post will outline a few of the easier methods for creating that essential first spark.  If you want more of a challenge, you could always try rubbing sticks together.

1 – Strikers

This is the modern upgrade of the flint and steel combination.  The materials differ from brand to brand, but the idea is the same: Strike object A against object B, get a spark.

Swedish Firesteel – Uses a ferrocerium rod, and is considered to be the class of this space of firestarters.

Gerber 31-000699 Bear Grylls Survival Series Fire Starter – Also uses a ferrocerium rod.  Gerber is a very trusted name in survival gear, and this item is self contained in a waterproof housing in which you can also store tinder.

Magnesium block – These are a little bit cheaper, and the spark isn’t quite as hot.  If you’re on a tight budget, or if you’re just looking for something to practice with, this is a fair place to start.

There are also some models designed to be operated with one hand.  This could be useful if your zombie hunting ends in a terrible chainsaw accident.

Spark-lite – Designed for, and used by the military.

BlastMatch – I have not used one of these, but I have heard it is one of the easiest methods of starting a fire.

 

2 – Steel wool + battery

This is one of those things you probably would never consider until you’ve seen it in action, and you most likely have both items already at home.  Just touch both ends of a battery to a bit of steel wool, and the steel wool catches fire immediately.  It also burns long enough to give you a bit of time if you’re not a fire summoning deity.

One note, that should be obvious – it’s much, much easier to make this happen when the positive and negative ends of a battery are close together (such as a standard 9-volt, or the battery from a cellphone or digital camera.)

See it in action on YouTube by clicking here.

 

3 – Matches & lighters

Not much of a surprise here, right?  Remember, the goal isn’t to be a pompous asshole and show off how awesome you are at making fire with cool tools.  The goal is survival.  Make it as easy as possible on yourself.

Matches come in a variety of forms, from pocket matchbooks, to waterproof, to wind and water proof.

As far as lighters go, butane flames are impressive, but once they run out of fuel you’re stuck.  With a regular lighter fluid lighter, you can still get sparks from the flint when they’re empty.  Save yourself the cash and buy disposable bics instead of a fancy Zippo for your pack.

 

4 – Road flares

A road flare can be used to start a fire, and can also serve a dual purpose in your pack as a 30 minute torch.  Expensive on a per-use basis, but definitely worth carrying as a backup to another firestarter for emergencies.

 

Of course, this is just the beginning.  In order to build a fire you’ll need tinder ready to catch the spark, and firewood to maintain the flames.  We’ll save those for another article.

Photo credit: quinn.anya

How to Purify Water and Make it Safe to Drink

How to Make Water Safe to DrinkWhen life as we know it stops, aka when the zombies show up, civilization will go downhill very fast.  You have to assume that things we take for granted, like clean, running water, and electricity will be gone in a matter of hours.  Despite your current lifestyle probably being very tech-heavy, you can actually live without electricity.

Water is a different story.

It’s recommended that you drink a bare minimum of 1 liter of water per day in a survival situation just to avoid dehydration.  This amount is much lower than you actually require, and your requirements go up based on the temperature, and your amount of physical activity.  In other words, one of your first thoughts after you evade the zombies should be where to find water.

This is well and good, however water is heavy.  A liter of water weighs approximately 2.2 pounds.  To carry a three day supply in your bug out bag isn’t too bad, even for a family – and especially if you can spread it out among a few people.

If you are in a long-term safe house, such as a bunker or fortified area, you can easily stockpile clean water in every container available while it’s still running.  This will hopefully last you a long while, but even that supply is indefinite.

What this means, is that any way you cut it, you’re eventually going to need to be able to make your own drinking water.  Luckily, there are several ways to do this effectively, although they all have their disadvantages.

Boiling

Boiling is a great way to make water potable, although it is a bit cumbersome.  You need a container to boil the water in, fuel to feed the fire, and a way to start the fire.  It becomes even more of a hassle if you have a large group and only 1 small pot to boil it in.

It does have advantages, though.  You don’t need a thermometer, because it’s very easy to tell when water is boiling.  It also kills most of the bad shit that might make you sick.

Survival guides and people on the internet recommend various boiling times to make water safe.  Some say 2 minutes is okay, some recommend at least 10 minutes, but 20 is better.  Don’t listen to any of them.

Both the CDC and EPA recommend the following: boil water vigorously for 1 minute, or for 3 minutes if you’re at an altitude above 2000m (6562ft).

More than that is wasteful, you’re expending extra energy maintaining your fire, and losing good water in the form of steam.

Also of note is that by boiling it, you’re already playing it safe!

The truth is, pasteurization occurs at 149º F, well below the boiling point of water.  Also, by maintaining a lower temperature for longer durations, you can achieve pasteurization.  The difficulty is knowing what the temperature actually is.

So, to play it safe, stick to the boiling for 1 minute rule, unless absolutely necessary.

 

Distillation

Distilling water is a great way to make it drinkable, and the only way to make salt water drinkable.  In this process, you convert your dirty water to steam, and capture the vapor, leaving behind the impurities.  You then condense the vapor back into pure water.

There are 2 primary ways to do this.

The first, and more difficult in a survival situation, is to build a contraption that you can heat with a fire, and condense the water in cooling tubes.  This is the method used by distilleries and you can view examples here.

The easier way to make this happen is to use a solar still.  The basic idea is that you use the power of the sun to evaporate the water, the vapor condenses on a sheet of plastic (shrink wrap, a trash bag, whatever is handy), and collects in the smaller container.

The biggest benefits of a solar still are it’s versatility, and that the sun does much of the work for you, once it’s built.  The downside is that it can take a lot of effort to build, and possibly to maintain if you need to keep sourcing more water.

Many solar stills start with a hole in the ground, but you can use any large container (if you hole up at Wal-mart, think kiddy pool).  The dirty water can be from a mud hole, salt water, plants, wet sand, or even urine.

For a good illustration of this in action, check out this video.  There are many videos on YouTube, just search for “solar still”.  Everyone seems to have their own method of building one.

 

Chemical treatments

One of the easier ways to clean water is to add a chemical that is safe for you, but will kill the parasites or bacteria that might be present.  The drawback is that it might not kill everything.  Cryptosporidium is especially tolerant to chlorine disinfection. although not immune.

To treat water, you can use 2 drops of household bleach per quart of water.  This amount is approximately 1/8th of a teaspoon per gallon.

Be wary of the date on the bleach.  It has a shelf life of only 6 months until it starts losing it’s potency.

Another way to treat your water is by using a tablet product.  These generally have much longer shelf lives, maybe up to 5 years.  And, they work in about 30 minutes.

 

Filtering

Perhaps the easiest way to get drinking water is to filter it.  This doesn’t mean passing it through a coffee filter though.  You need special equipment, and it’s not cheap.

With that said, you should at least check it out.  The Amazon page description says: “The most rugged, longest lasting microfilter available. Chosen by the U.S. military and expeditions due to it’s extreme durability and dependability. For those who want the best.”

If you go this route, all you have to do is pump the water directly out of the stream or pond, and directly into your canteen or bottle.  Then just clean and maintain the filter.

 

Other things to consider

  • Collected rainwater or melted snow isn’t necessarily safe to drink just because it didn’t come from a pond or stream.  It should be considered dirty until you treat it.
  • Collection of rainwater in your area might be illegal!  Now, obviously you could give a fuck about the law when the zombies show up, but be wary of your local laws if you’re just testing these practices.
  • Once treated, water needs to be covered, ideally with a tight-fitting lid (such as a water bottle).  Uncovered water can become re-contaminated.

Note:  Water safety is almost never 100% guaranteed.  It’s one of those “most likely this will be fine” acceptability rates.  This is not meant to scare you, simply to make you aware of the situation.

Photo credit: brook peterson

Dropbox: Survival For Your Digital Life


Although technology has simplified a great many things, sharing files with friends is still a hassle for many people.

Some sharing sites, such as Megaupload, have been shut down, which reduces the confidence that those who even knew such sites existed have in such a model.  These are definitely not the place to store important documents.

Email services are great, and most are encrypted, but generally limit you to files under 25mb, which is actually less than what my toaster’s file limit size is.  (The limit is imposed to curb spammers, but becomes impractical for most people today.)

Would you like to be able to share files with friends?  Back up important documents?  Access files on your home computer, at work, or in the school computer lab?

Dropbox makes this all really easy, and it’s completely free to use!

With Dropbox you can:

  • Automatically back up important files
  • Access your files on any computer or mobile device with an internet connection
  • Sync files on multiple computers
  • Edited files are automatically updated in all locations
  • Share files with others
  • Restore lost files

Further, Dropbox is encrypted and secure, to make sure that your important files stay private.  (Note: password security is always vital.)

This is a great service, and completely free to use.  And, if you ever have to bug out due to zombies, you’ll be glad that all the files in your Dropbox are secure and accessible wherever you go.

Sign up for free here!