Let’s face it: prepping is a complex matter and it can be overwhelming to the newbie. Which knife to get? What foods should I stockpile? What disaster is most likely to affect me? How can I convince my spouse to join my efforts? Do I really need to buy all of this stuff? Where am I gonna keep everything? Should I buy MREs?
The truth is, there are a lot of newbie mistakes to be made and, some of them could cost you a lot of money… or worse.
Let’s see what some of the biggest ones are so you can side-step them.
Survival Mistake #1 – Don’t Buy Anything (Yet)
The best piece of advice I can give you is not to buy anything until you get to read more about survival. You need to figure out what your priorities are and what you should prep first because you can’t do everything at once. Since the prepping market is mainstream now, there are thousands of survival companies trying to sell stuff. You only have to buy what you decide you need, not what some sales letter tells you to.
Survival Mistake #2 – When You Do Buy, Perform Thorough Research
Doing research is actually really easy, it’s just that those who aren’t tech savvy don’t know how. All you have to do is do a few basic Google searches like these:
best survival knife
site:survivalistboards.com which knife is best
Then go to YouTube and Amazon and type the same thing. The cool thing about Amazon is that you can go through dozens and dozens of reviews from other users that tell you every problem they had with them. Negative reviews are the first ones I look at but beware some users have a habit of giving negative reviews to all products.
For example, once you’ve set your mind on 2 or 3 knives, you can do a few searches for each like so:
[knife name] review
[knife name] problem
[knife name] what do you think?
These will reveal potential problems with the knives you’re about to buy as well as alternative products.
Survival Mistake #3 – Don’t buy MREs
MREs sound like a good idea because – hey – if they’re good enough for the military, they must be good enough for you. Not only are MREs expensive but they taste very, very bad (more on why that is here). This is no way to start a stockpile as there are other foods that are cheaper, tastier and more nutritious. You can pick from: freeze-dried food, hard candy, energy bars and other snacks with a long shelf life are all good for your bug out bag because of the weight.
Survival Mistake #4 – Not Focusing on Their Skills
Buying things is easy; that’s why the vast majority of preppers do it instead of focusing on long-term survival plans. Well, purchasing survival tools and gear is only half the story. A fool with a tool is still a fool, the saying goes and skill will always trump guns, gear and a generous stockpile.
Some of the skills to work on include:
- developing your awareness (very useful in big cities where, more recently, there’s been an increased risk of riots and terrorist attacks in recent years)
- finding food and water in your vicinity (whether you live in a town or a city)
- being a better driver (in case you need to bug out in a hurry using your car)
- having good reaction time when SHTF (by doing drills, imagining how you’d react or, even better, by doing both)
- making shelter (though you may use the tarp you probably have in your BOB, you might be forced to make one out of natural resources)
- starting, keeping and then putting out a fire
- …and many more skills.
Survival Mistake #5 – Putting Too Much Stuff in Their BOBs
Man, I can still remember throwing my printed copy of the SAS Survival Guide in my bag – it was HEAVY. The whole thing felt incredibly light once I removed it! Right now, the heaviest thing in my BOB is my stainless steel water bottle, filled with water, of course.
Not everything belongs in your BOB. There’s a high probability that you’ll be bugging in during the next disaster and you need to have the necessary survival items to hunker down for days, even weeks.
The best ways to assemble your first bug out bag is to start with a checklist. Of course, before you add anything to, think really well in what scenarios it might be of use to you. Once you have it, start adding items one by one in decreasing order of important.
Survival Mistake #6 – Not Being In Shape
Speaking of heavy backpacks, do you know how long you can carry yours during a bug-out? Regardless of how much it weighs, you’ll find out just how exhausting it can be.
I found out the hard way when I tested it a couple of months ago. It was me, a friend and two girls. I was the only one with a backpack and I was left behind most of the times because of the weight I was carrying, despite me also wearing hiking boots and the trail being wet and even muddy at some point.
Survival Mistake #7 – Not Having an Emergency Plan
There are three types of preppers: those who will bug in, those who will bug out and those who will bug out but have no idea where. You don’t want to be in the latter category and if you’re prepping to bug in, you should still consider bugging out as an option. You just never know when your home or town becomes uninhabitable. I think the secret reason why most people decide to bug in is because it’s easier to prep for. Still, I insist you give both scenarios (bugging in and out) some serious thought.
Having an emergency plan is not complicated. You start by prepping for personal emergencies and small-scale disasters that can last up to 72 hours: tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, car crashes, heavy snow, flash floods etc. Just the ones that are more likely to happen to you, of course. You need a bug in plan, a bug out plan, a get home plan (in case you’re not at home when it happens) as well as a communications plan (so you stay informed with the latest developments).
Did you make any of those mistakes or others as a newbie? Leave a comment below.
When it comes to staying warm, your sleeping bag is the most important piece of gear you’ve got. As you sleep, your body’s metabolism naturally shuts down. You aren’t doing the physical activity typical to daylight hours, so your body isn’t generating enough heat. That makes it easier to get cold and even to fall into hypothermia. Besides all this, when hypothermia is coming on, your sleeping bag is the best defense against it.
With that in mind, buying a good sleeping bag is an important part of creating an effective bug out bag; especially for the wintertime. While you can get by with much less in the summer, or even sleeping out in the open, winter survival doesn’t leave that option.
The North Face is one of the biggest manufacturers of serious backpacking equipment there is. Their designs are created by people who use the equipment, ensuring useful innovation. Everything The North Face produces is high quality, which makes it not all surprising that I’ve picked them for having the best sleeping bag around.
The Furnace Sleeping Bag from The North Face is everything I could ask for in a sleeping bag.
A mummy style bag, it is designed for temperatures down to zero degrees Fahrenheit. It is filled with 550ProDown, natural goose down for warmth, as well as great compressibility. There’s also a Heatseeker Eco anit-compression insulation layer to act as a buffer between your body and the cold ground.
Although a mummy bag, the North Face Furnace Sleeping Bag has a more relaxed taper, giving you more room to move around. If you’re the type of person who tends to toss and turn in your sleep, that’s a great advantage. I know people who can’t sleep in a mummy bag, because they can’t move. Well, in this one, they could sleep just fine. There’s also a vaulted footbox, allowing more room for your feet in a natural, ergonomic position. All in all, a much more comfortable bag to sleep in.
Making the bag comfortable didn’t sacrifice anything in warmth though. A shaped hood and draft collar helps hold heat in, as well as a durable, as well as a full length draft tube alongside the zipper. The zipper has a glow in the dark zipper pull, so you can find your way out, even in the dark.
The exterior shell of the North Face Furnace Sleeping Bag is durable, embossed, water resistant polyester taffeta and the inside is a soft polyester taffeta lining. This helps keep the bag dryer, so that it will continue to keep you warm. The taffeta lining prevents the bag from sticking to your skin, while helping keep you warm and comfortable.
With all those great features, this bag lives up to its name of being “The Furnace.” But there’s one other feature, which may be the most important of all. This great sleeping bag weighs only 3 pounds, 8 ounces, packed up and ready to go. It stuffs into its included stuffsack, making a bundle that’s only 10″ in diameter by 19″ long.
Many people have a somewhat romanticized idea of bugging out. They see themselves camping out under the stars, cooking their freshly caught fried chicken over a campfire. The girl of their dreams is sitting there, waiting to enjoy dinner with them and someone is playing a guitar or maybe a violin in the background.
Unfortunately, reality isn’t that kind. If any of us are forced to bug out, it will be a definite survival situation, with all the problems that entails. Even catching that chicken rabbit will be a problem, let along being able to cook it out there in the wild. While cooking over a campfire does work and can actually work quite well, the first couple of times you try it will probably be a disaster. You’ll end up with burned, inedible whatever, rather than that sumptuous repast you were expecting.
Putting your expensive backpacking cookware directly into the fire is a good way to damage it. Your food will probably be burnt on the outside and raw in the middle as well. While you can cook over a campfire just fine, you need to know how to do it.
Cooking Over a Campfire
There are two basic methods for cooking over a campfire effectively. Actually, there are three, but I don’t think you’re going to be carrying a cast-iron Dutch oven in your bug out bag. The first is to put the pot on a flat rock, right next to the fire. Heat the rock first, by putting coals on it and allowing them to burn for a while. Then scoop them off with a stick or camp shovel, to put your pot on there. The second way is to suspend the pot over the fire.
There are several different ways of suspending a pot over the fire, such as making a tripod to suspend it from or putting a couple of poles into the ground to make something like a spit to hang it off of. But the easiest way to hang a pot over the fire is to cantilever a stick over the fire to hang the pot from.
In order to do this, cut a green stick that’s strong enough to hold the weight of the pot, without bending. You’ll want to have a fork in the stick at the hanging end, to put the wire handle of the pot into. The other end of the stick should lean on one of the rocks around your fire. Place the very end of the stick on the ground and hold it down with another rock. This should leave your stick angling up, with the highest point roughly over the center of your fire.
Using a Backpacking Stove
Your other option is to use a stove. Personally, I prefer this method, although I am rather picky about the type of stove that I’ll use. Stoves that require propane tanks, butane or liquid fuel force you to carry a supply of fuel with you. While that’s fine for a three day backpacking trip, it’s not so great for a bug out. When you run out of fuel, your stove becomes useless.
I prefer carrying a stove that allows me to burn sticks or other fuel that I find. While they might not be as easy to start as a butane stove, they are more reliable over the long haul. This is the actual stove I currently have in my bug out bag, although there are a number of other excellent models out there, such as the Titan from Solo Stove. One I have always been intrigued by and been tempted to buy is the BioLite Campstove. This little wood burning stove not only provides heat to cook your food, but somehow creates electricity to charge your cell phone at the same time.
Although I am not highly in favor of carrying a stove that requires special fuel, I also carry an Esbit stove with me, as a backup. If I happen to be somewhere where I can’t find sticks to burn or all of them are wet, this gives me a sure way of being able to make a cup of coffee or cook my food. Esbit makes a number of models, but this one is the one that I carry.
When SHTF you will need a rocket stove. This is because we’re going to have to find new ways of doing just about everything. One of those things will be cooking our food. Electric ranges aren’t going to work too good when there isn’t any electricity and it’s doubtful that gas will be available for gas ranges. That means most people will be cooking on their barbecue grills, in their fireplaces or over a wood burning stove. While all of these methods are workable, they aren’t as efficient as cooking on a rocket stove.
Rocket stoves are a rather unique invention which uses kindling sized sticks as fuel, burning them very hot and very efficiently. This creates a hotter fire than you can usually get out of kindling, as well as providing sufficient heat to cook with from very little fuel.
While I suppose it would be possible to use a rocket stove for heating, that’s really not what they are designed for. The rocket stove produces a lot of heat at the cooking “burner;” it doesn’t really radiate heat like a fireplace or wood burning stove would. This means that they aren’t an efficient heater, even though they are an efficient cooking stove.
Nobody really knows the origins of the rocket stove. Dr. Larry Winiarski described the principles in 1982, but in reality the rocket stove is based upon much older designs. The Mexican people, for example, have a stove which they call a “chimnea” which is very similar to a rocket stove, although it does not have a fuel magazine. Interestingly enough the Spanish word “chimnea” means “chimney.” Nevertheless, even without this magazine, the chimnea works essentially the same as a rocket stove.
How a Rocket Stove Works
Regardless of how a rocket stove is actually built, they are all essentially the same thing. The easiest way to think of it is as an elbow. One leg of the elbow is horizontal, while the other is vertical. This provides four separate functions for the rocket stove:
• Fuel magazine – To hold fuel that is going to be burnt and provide a means of feeding it into the combustion chamber. This is the horizontal portion of the elbow, leading up to the corner.
• Combustion chamber – Where the fuel is actually burnt. This is the corner of the elbow.
• Chimney –Like any chimney, it provides a means for smoke to escape. However, that isn’t its most important function. The chimney also provides a means for the heat that the stove produces to reach the food to be cooked.
• Heat exchanger – This is whatever is used to transfer the heat to the food being cooked, such as a pot sitting on top of the chimney.
A key element in the function of a rocket stove is the airflow through the stove. This requires that the openings at both ends of the elbow not be blocked. If a pot is put on the top of the chimney which totally covers it, airflow might be blocked. Although not as likely, the same thing can happen if too much fuel is placed in the rocket stove.
Airflow is controlled by simple convection. As the air inside the stove heats, it is drawn up the chimney. This creates low pressure in the combustion chamber, causing more air to be drawn in through the fuel magazine; providing a constant source of fresh, oxygenated air to the stove. More than anything, it is the chimney which causes the draft which controls the airflow through the rocket stove.
That constant airflow provides for very efficient burning of the fuel. The fuel in the combustion chamber has a more abundant supply of oxygen than it would in a stove which with a stagnant air supply. This increases the temperature of the burn, in much the same way that adding extra oxygen to a blowtorch increases the temperature of the burning gas. Any hydrocarbons which don’t burn in the combustion chamber are carried up the chimney and burn in the chimney, making for very efficient fuel consumption.
With the efficient combustion rate of the rocket stove, it doesn’t need large pieces of fuel or use as much fuel as other stoves do. Smaller diameter pieces of wood, which we would normally consider kindling, work exceptionally well for a rocket stove. This adds to the burn efficiency, by providing a larger surface area for the mass of wood being used.
A heat exchanger can be mounted to the top of the rocket stove for heating water or for using it as a heater, rather than putting a pot on top of it. Water from an adjacent vessel can be circulated through the heat exchanger by convection, with the heated water being cycled back to the vessel to be replaced by cool water to be heated.
How to build a Rocket Stove
As already mentioned, the basic rocket stove design is a 90 degree elbow, with a shorter horizontal leg and a longer vertical one. This can be made of literally any non-flammable material. Successful rocket stoves have been made of steel pipe (stove pipe), clay, cinder blocks and a variety of other materials. I’ve even seen temporary rocket stoves made by connecting a series of tin cans together.
The materials used aren’t as important as the basic design. While not a requirement, it is a good idea to use some insulating material around the entire rocket stove to protect users from being burned. The insulation will help contain the heat as well, ensuring that the most possible heat reaches the top of the chimney for cooking.
The easiest way to make a rocket stove is out of three cinder blocks. You need the kind of blocks that have two holes, not three. The bottom block, which is going to be the combustion chamber and fuel magazine needs to have the web between the two holes broken out. This is actually fairly easy to do, as cinder blocks aren’t really all that strong. The other two cinder blocks are used for the chimney and need to be broken so that they make an eight inch square. In other words, the central web becomes one side of the square and everything past it gets broken off.
Place the base block on a bare patch of ground and stack the other two partial blocks on top of it, so that the openings in them form the chimney. That’s it; the rocket stove is now ready to use. Load some sticks into it and light them on fire.
Knowing how to build a rocket stove will likely proof useful in a survival situation.
Comment below with any questions or share your experiences with a rocket stove.
When I look at some people’s bug out bag lists, I have to wonder how they’re going to carry it all. It’s easy to go overboard on a bug out bag, especially when you consider that you don’t really know how long you’re going to be out in the wilderness. However, every ounce of extra weight you carry is going to eat into your body’s energy reserves and slow you down. If you’re not careful, that extra weight can hinder you, more than help you.
Seasoned backpackers say, “The lighter the pack, the more enjoyable the journey.” However, they’re going out for a week or less at a time; with the expectation of going home at the end of their trip. So, the criteria that apply to them, really can’t apply in the same way to bugging out. Even so, it can work as a starting point.
Looking at several websites for backpackers, it seems that ideal weights for backpacks vary a bit from one person to the next. Obviously, the physical condition and stamina of the individual is a factor that needs to be considered. However, most of these backpacking experts seem to favor a backpack that’s 1/6 of the person’s body weight.
One-sixth of a 150 pound man is 25 pounds. But 1/6 of a 220 pound man is 36 2/3 pounds. The problem here is that the 220 pound man probably isn’t n as good a shape, physically speaking, as the 150 pound man. So, if we go just on body weight, we may be hurting ourselves more than we expect to.
There are a few who advocate 1/4 of the individual’s body weight as a maximum weight. That actually seems more realistic to me for a bug out bag. This isn’t a pleasure trip, but rather bugging out to survive. That’s going to dictate carrying some things that are going to make your weight go up.
It is said that “the proof of the pudding is in the eating.” I think that’s very applicable to the bug out bag. Pack a bag with 1/4 of your body weight and see how far you can walk with it. If you can’t walk several miles, without feeling that you’re going to die, then it’s too much; regardless of your body weight. Try the same thing with a bag packed to 1/6 of your body weight. Then, adjust the weight to find a point that works for you. Make that your target weight.
Okay, so how do you get your bag weight down to the point of your target weight? First of all, realize that some percentage of that weight is food. You’re going to eat about two pounds of food a day. So, if you’re just a couple of pounds over, I wouldn’t worry about it. You’re bag is going to be under your weight limit all too fast.
Look through your bag, asking yourself the question, “Do I really need this?” You’ll probably find some things you’re carrying because someone said you should or because you thought it was a neat gadget. If you don’t really need it, it’s time to get rid of it.
The next thing to do is to look for places where you can combine equipment to save weight. Simple things, like replacing a pair of pants and a pair of shorts with a pair of pants that have removable legs, will save you precious ounces. The best savings for things like this are your heavier items, like tools. A combination hatchet, hammer and crowbar is lighter than having a separate hatchet and hammer.
Finally, look for ways of replacing equipment with lighter weight alternatives. Good backpacking equipment is extremely light; that’s a lot of what you’re paying for. So, take everything out of your pack and weigh each piece individually, preferably on a postage scale. That will tell you your heaviest items. Then go looking for lighter weight items to replace those. You can always sell your old items to someone who isn’t as concerned about weight as you are.
Let’s keep the discussion going. Comment below with how much your bug out bag weighs.