Saturday, December 6, 2014

INFORMATIVE: The Value of Intimidation

Survival scenarios can present in many different forms and scales. One of the most straightforward of these situations is to be attacked. It is a simple thing that everyone can realistically expect in their life, whether it be as simple as a verbal attack in an office environment all the way up to the threat of home invasion where people intend you physical harm. The psychological elements of any attack scenario, no matter how large or small, are relatively similar, and the key deciding factor to how things will turn out often comes down to how intimidating you appear.


When it all boils down to it, if you seem intimidating to others, you will be left alone. Attackers want an easy target. If a mark seems like they'll give too much fight then they will move on to a new target. Desperation, however, can lead to blurred lines in this area. Someone simply looking to start a fight or grab a wallet will always have another target to move on to, but someone starving, looking for food or resources, or even someone who is only after money - but has already come too far to turn back (as with a home invasion) will fixate more on their selected target and will require significantly more intimidation to repel.

So, how intimidating you need to look depends on the situation. In many, lighter scenarios ones poise and demeanour can be all that is required to deter a would-be attacker. Before attempting to mug someone, attackers will perform an "interview" on their victim, visually sizing them up to discern whether they'd be an easy mark or not. If the target looks like too much work, they'll simply move on to another target. After all, there are plenty more available in an urban setting. Your every-day attacker will avoid people displaying features such as:

- Shoulders pulled back.
- Standing straight.
- Emphasizing height if they have it.
- Walking with a purposeful stride.
- Making and maintaining eye contact.
- Holding a 'poker face'.
- Speaking clearly.

All of these can make the difference between you being targetted by an attacker or being left alone. It's largely about working with what you've got. If you're tall, emphasize your size. If you're short, emphasize your power. Look the part, even if it's an act. Practice will make perfect, similar to The Grey Man principle we've discussed before.


In the event of an attack happening anyway (perhaps there is a group of them, and numbers have given them courage) you will need to rely on more overt methods of intimidation. In this scenario, confidence - even feigned confidence - can be the difference between you being attacked and walking away from it.

- Watch where you're standing. Don't let them corner you.
- Emphasize your size, even if you don't have it.
- Don't show fear. Project confidence, even if it is false.
- Use high ground where possible to gain a height advantage.
- Only speak if you have to. Let your actions do the talking.
- If you must speak, speak clearly and boldly.

It is in scenarios such as the one mentioned above - with a group - where the use of a 'force multiplier' can come into its own. A force multiplier is a device used to extend the reach of your personal power to multiple times its normal force. For example, a knife, baton, firearm or can of pepper spray. These make you far deadlier than a single unarmed person. Choosing the right force multiplier for you comes down to many factors - not to mention local laws - and is another topic entirely, but assuming you CAN carry something, consider its intimidation value. Certain portable self defense weapons can pose an incredible intimidation factor when deployed, such as a folding Kukri or extendable baton. The loud, harsh, deployment sound coupled with the visual of a confident wielder stalking towards you is enough to turn most attackers bowels to water. However, never forget the rule of being utterly confident in the handling and use of any weapon you may carry, even if it is just a knife. If you're not 100% confident in its use, and 100% willing to use it if it comes down to the wire, then don't carry it. It's as simple as that.


But what about an attack you plan for? What if there are roaming gangs in your area? What if there are regular break-ins and home invasions in your vicinity? What if it is an SHTF scenario and you know these people mean business? That calls for maximum intimidation. That calls for going past intimidation and inspiring fear into your opressor. This can be done in various ways.

- Use lighting and shadow to your advantage.
- Use 'shock and awe' tactics such as pyrotechnics.
- Make use of intimidating looking weapons.
- Seem as inhuman as possible in appearance and actions.

This may seem excessive, but how far are you willing to go to protect your supplies, your home and the lives of your loved ones? All it takes is something as simple as a natural disaster to make civilized life go completely to hell, and you may need to be on guard 24/7 to protect what you have.


When all is said and done, it becomes a game. If you are more intimidating than your assailant, then you'll more than likely be left alone. If the assailant is desperate, then you need to up the ante on your intimidation. There is no such thing as too extreme. A hoodie and a cold stare may be enough to dissuade a lone mugger from attacking you, but what about a gang of 6 looters trying to get into your house? How would you out-intimidate them? While requiring extreme measures, it's not impossible.

Think of your intimidation levels in one of five tiers, with each tier being appropriate to varying levels of threat:


Tier 1 - The Easy Mark

You have no plans to defend yourself and plan to simply hand over your wallet. At this point a person with a glib tongue could talk you out of your money.


Notice the dress. Casual. Dressed for comfort. The distracted gaze shows a wandering mind. Their hands are only barely holding onto such large bags to the point where a grab-and-run would even likely be successful, especially since the target has a pet to look after.
The Tier 1 intimidator couldn't dissuade even one attacker from marking them as a target. Avoid falling into this category at all costs.


Tier 2 - The Standard Fare

A confident looking person in modern dress. Obviously a bit more conscious of other people looking at them, and thus are likely to be a little more aware of their surroundings than the Tier 1 intimidator.


See how they stand? Confident, yet relaxed. While their confidence is probably an act of bravado built on top of a more cowardly interior, it may actually be genuine. As a potential mark, this would require further thinking and potential use of a force multiplier. An unarmed assailant may provoke this target to fight back, but they may just be meek enough that a knife flashed at them will make them part with their wallet easily.


Tier 3 - More Effort Required

The lone wolf, lurking in the shadows. This target is likely to be packing themselves, or even used to performing muggings of their own, and thus would be treated with caution by any potential attacker.


It is fairly clear that the use of a force multiplier or even an accomplice would be needed, as this mark exhibits a high level of intimidation of their own. Just by sight one can tell that they can expect at least some retaliation from this individual.


Tier 4 - Looking for Trouble

Anyone wearing a uniform - even like our Skinhead fellow shown below - is highly likely to have friends nearby. Someone dressed like this is likely out looking for trouble of some kind - or, if they're not - they're certainly ready for it to come at them.


This type of individual rarely is made a mark as it is simply too risky. You pick a fight with one and you pick a fight with the lot of them. They're also likely - depending on their affiliated group - to give any would-be attacker a very hard time of it as they are clearly used to roughhousing and not to be trifled with. An assailant determined to take on a mark like this would need multiple accomplices with force multipliers. Not likely to happen, but if the times become desperate enough the chances of that happening increase drastically, until you get to the extreme level of things, seen in Tier 5 below.


Tier 5 - Trained and Willing to Shed Blood

I won't pretend that this isn't taking it to an absolute extreme, but for the sake of demonstration, we've gone there for you. This is what extreme intimidation looks like. This is what it takes to out-intimidate a group of motivated, organized individuals intent on entering your home to harm or kill you. Even then, it's a gamble. At the very least you will gain the advantage of putting your assailants extremely on-edge, which can help greatly in a combat scenario:


Heavy boots, gloves, body armour, towering over you - imagine breaking into a house and being confronted with something like this coming at you out of the darkness with a hatchet or similarly brutal weapon...
Note the way no skin shows - no eyes - no mouth. All human-like features are obscured, making this 'creature' seem to be no longer human, like some kind of monster. The use of a "brutal" style of weapon is important, too, as it forces the assailant to imagine their death at the hands of it. It's difficult to disassociate from the reality of it. But combine the two and you have a potent mix. Watching someone savagely hack your buddy's head in with a hatchet is one thing - you can see the attacker's face, see the raw emotion as they commit the act - but seeing it happen at the hands of some "thing" with no face, no expression, nothing but cold, calm, expressionless sockets makes the act seem all the more horrifying. It's the terror which comes from that automatic disassociation reaction which has inspired many of the world's special forces to disguise their faces during combat, either through masks, balaclavas or the like, as it is impossible to calmly combat something which seems to be unaffected by fear, empathy or even anger. It is this level of terror which can make even a group of several people turn tail and run. It is this level of intimidation which lets people know that THIS house is simply too much effort.


So hopefully this has given you an appreciation for the importance of intimidation when confronting an enemy - be it in the street or in your own home. Assess your gear, your weapons (if you can carry them) and see how intimidating you are. What tier do you fall into? Try and see yourself through the eyes of a potential attacker and see if you would mug you.

But above all, be prepared, not scared.

- CumQuaT

Saturday, November 22, 2014

INFORMATIVE: The Best of the Best - Burt's Picks

Best of the best is a bold statement, but these items have really made an impression on me!

Following on from Cumquat's post. I also own a few of the items he does, for good reason.

-Hazard 4 Evac Plan B (Great day pack/emergency overnighter)
-Headsox (Keeps you cool or warm and protected from the elements)
-Jetboil Flash (Best camping stove I've ever owned!)
-SOG Power Assist (Just does the simple tasks so well for a multi-tool)


Here are some of mine.  (I'll post links to the main websites, but I get my gear from many distributors.)


Spyderco Delica 4
www.spyderco.com

(I've actually misplaced the one I use, so heres a photo of another in my collection.)

It's just a great little utility knife, resonably priced and well made, one of Spydercos most popular knives for a reason. I've used mine for just about every little task and it's taken a beating and never failed on me. Easy to maintain and even easier to handle.


Fenix PD-32
www.fenixlight.com

Fenix are a Chinese company, but don't let that fool you into thinking thier products are of poor quality! I've carried this torch for over 2 years and I am yet to have an issue with it. I've used it over multiple employments, camping, and in an EDC role and it hasn't let me down. Multiple brightness levels and easy to operate. It's solid, reliable and waterproof. Best torch for the price (and higher) hands down. It can be powered by 2 x CR123A (CR123) or 1 x 18650 Li-ion.  2hrs run time @ 315 Lumens.


Platatac Lo-Pro card holder
www.platatac.com

I found myself carrying around a plethora of cards and other items in my wallet. I needed to cut the bulk. This low profile card wallet does the job extremely well. Simple design and small enough to carry comfortably anywhere on your person, and to be concealed (I often forget it's in my pocket). You can even load it up with loose change and it keeps it secured. Platatac are an Australian company and this item is made IN Australia.

(I own a lot of Platatac gear, they make some great pieces of kit.)


Mechanix Wear Original Gloves
www.mechanix.com

Gloves are something that aren't always neccessary but can make your life so much easier. I love these gloves, I use them daily at work, on the weekends around the house, I've found them to be invaluable while out bush. They are lightweight but very durable. Designed for the racing industry, Mechanix have crossed over into other industries, being very well recieved in the military community.


Quicklock
www.qicklock.com

If you haven't got one of these you need to do it ASAP! This little bit of equipment is invaluable for anyone inside but especially outside of thier home. Need to secure a room and the door lock is busted? In a couple of seconds you have a makeshift lock or for extra security/privacy a backup lock. Inexpensive and too handy not to own, I carry it with me everywhere. Australian company.


These are by no means the only items out there, but they are the ones I use regularly and am very happy with.


-Burt

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Actual News - November 2014

Since the mainstream media seems intent on feeding the world distractions rather than actual news, I'm going to do up semi-regular "actual news" posts such as this one, so that you can stay in the loop on what's happening the world without getting distracted by Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus.

These posts will simply be a links dump for you to peruse. Informed Prepper stays prepared, not scared.


"Mystery drones" are being flown over nuclear reactors in France

Russia is sending nuclear-capable bombers over Europe with no explanation

North Korea has acquired and launched a ballistic missile submarine

The Trans-Pacific Partnership was signed with barely a whisper

ISIL are still playing merry havok through The Middle-East

Unrest is growing throughout France with many anti-government protests

The unrest in Ferguson, Missouri is continuing

The unrest in Hong Kong is not only continuing, but escalating

The violent protests in Venezuela have been continuing, despite virtually no international attention


Remember. Keep informed. Don't assume that what you're seeing in the media is the full picture. By all means, read it, but try to get multiple angles.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

REVIEW: ReadiMask - The Portable Shield

The world can be a scary place sometimes, and the threat of invisible killers is an intimidating one. Not only are the spreading illnesses such as Ebola which have a limited airborne capacity despite the public misconception that they don't, but there are also sudden riots where teargas can be deployed or pepper spray used on civilians, and getting caught in the crossfire can prevent you from getting out of dodge safely.


There are also many other respiratory concerns for a prepper. Something as relatively harmless as an influenza virus can turn deadly very quickly if your immune system is compromised by another condition or if you don't have access to adequate sanitation. Also things like having to evacuate a crowded building during a fire exposes you to smoke inhalation which can kill you faster than the fire itself.

Most serious preppers would have gas masks already for themselves and their loved ones, ready to go with spare canisters on the side for when things get bad, but to carry one around with you is tricky. They're bulky and awkward, and it's a lot of inconvenience and attention for something that - while out and about - you'd realistically only need for a very short period.


Enter the ReadiMask - touted as a sleek, portable protective mask, not only does it filter viruses and bacteria at 99.9% in accordance with ASTM F2101 standards, it will also filter over 99% of dry spores and latex particles, and all of this while being small enough to slip into your back pants pocket or an easy-to-reach sleeve of your day bag.



What it CAN do:

The ReadiMask is a single-use design, and so it compacts VERY small. It's so small that you can have it in your pocket and still retain full use of that pocket. I keep three in the front slide pocket of my 72 hour bag and it still doesn't take up enough room to stop me putting other things in there. Small also means light, so you won't even know you're carrying it.
It will stop a good range of things as listed above, but you don't quite grasp the power of this bit of kit until you've watched a wearer cop a face full of pepper spray without flinching.


It also goes on quickly and easily, and I mean REALLY quickly and easily. Peel the packet open, lay it evenly over your face and press down the adhesive seals around the edges. That's it.


What it CAN'T do:

It can't block gases, and as such is not a full-blown gas mask, although in a phone chat with the president of the manufacturing company who was kind enough to call us internationally to discuss the product, he told the Informed Preppers about new trials being run in a simulated prison environment which involved teargas. We haven't heard back how these trials went and it's not showing up on their site yet, so we're not sure how they're progressing with that. That being said, I have a lot of confidence that they'll manage to pull it off, as after speaking with them we can confirm that there are some smart people as the brains behind this product.


Where would this be useful?

Protests are becoming more and more common throughout the world, and when they turn ugly police resort to using pepper spray and teargas. If you need to make your escape from a situation like this, or just move through an area that is going through this sort of turmoil, you need to be able to breathe and see.


What if you were at work in a high-rise building and a fire broke out? Those fire escape stairs can become a death trap with that many people moving through them, and if you get caught in the smoke you can pass out very quickly. Pop on a ReadiMask and you'll have a definite advantage to your escape time compared to those around you.



So what's the score?

The short version of this review is that the Informed Preppers no longer travel anywhere without a few ReadiMasks in our packs or pockets. Being able to breathe cleanly and clearly at a moments notice is something you will take for granted until you need to. These masks are cheap, readily accessible and come in various configurations for adults and children, both with eye shields included and without. It's a great product from a great company and it's so affordable that you have no reason not to get a few! Pick them up from ReadiMask today.


Pros:
- Cheap
- Effective
- Small and easy to pack
- Comes in great covert charcoal colour

Cons:
- Hard to get outside of USA. Company needs to go international. Took us literally months to get some here in Australia. In all fairness, though, they are a small company and given the quality of their product I'd say it's only a matter of time.


RRP: USD$3.99 to USD$8.99

Rating - 9/10




- CumQuaT

Thursday, October 9, 2014

INFORMATIVE: The Ebola Epidemic

I've had a lot of thoughts regarding the 2014 outbreak of Ebola in West Africa, but until now haven't wanted to write an article about it. However, as time has gone on, that has changed. The more I read about it the more I realise that people aren't getting the right picture of the ramifications of this outbreak, mostly due to the hype created by bad media and the prominence of the 'Chinese whisper' effect of social media. So I thought I'd do up this quick article to address the outbreak in the greater scheme of things and help set the record straight on some key issues:

Will Ebola Spread?

Experts at the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) and WHO (World Health Organisation) are predicting that if this outbreak isn't properly contained - and soon - the number of deaths could rise to 1.4 million as soon as January. However, those deaths can largely be expected to reside predominantly in the high population density areas of West Africa where the outbreak is at its peak. The risk of it spreading in a large scale - as seen in West Africa - somewhere such as Europe, North America or Australia, is negligable.



Is Ebola Easy to Catch?

Yes and no. Yes, if you are working with Ebola sufferers. No if you're not. Yes if you're living in an area with poor hygeine standards and crowded living arrangements. No if you have access to clean water, cleaning products and have a whole house to yourself.

The fact is, the disease has spread so rapidly in West Africa because of very poor standards of living combined with overpopulation, as well as relatively low general standard of education - particularly when it comes to medical training - and people are helping family members who have fallen ill which puts them into contact with them.


One key thing to remember is that Ebola can only be spread by those currently displaying symptoms. The disease has a gestation period of up to 21 days, so if someone were to catch it, they wouldn't realise it for up to three weeks. However, during that time, they aren't infectious. Much ado is made about people travelling on aeroplanes and spreading the illness to fellow passengers, but unless the patient was actively vomiting and bleeding from the eyes they wouldn't be able to spread it to other people on the aeroplane - and if that were the case I doubt they'd be well enough to get to an airport let alone be allowed on the flight at all.


So what can lead to you contracting Ebola?
  • Interacting with the corpse of someone who died of the disease
  • Exchanging bodily fluids with someone who has the disease, such as sweat and saliva
  • Prolonged exposure to infected surfaces contaminated by those with the disease
  • Prolonged, close-proximity living with those with the disease
  • Interaction with animals carrying the disease, such as bats
As you can probably tell from the above list, the odds of you picking the illness up in suburban Sydney are slim to none. Cases such as the recent death in Dallas, Texas were caused by the above list. In the case of the American Thomas Eric Duncan, he had physically interacted with a woman sick with the disease, carrying her to a taxi to take her to a hospital, wearing no protective gear in a very hot, humid environment. Sweat touching sweat was enough for it to transfer to him and that was that.


Is Ebola Airborne?

 Yes and no. Yes, it is airborne (as confirmed by the CDC) overy extremely short distances in very specific circumstances, but no it is not airborne in the traditional sense of something such as influenza. If it was that airborne, the casualty count would have been half the world's population within 30 days of the outbreak.
How does it work? Simply speaking, when an infected patient does something like a sneeze, it sprays tiny fluid particles of saliva into the air for a short distance, and they hang there. The Ebola virus doesn't do well in temperatures below 13 degrees, however, and a small, airborne droplet cools fairly quickly, so the droplets become benign quite fast. However, if someone were to walk through a cloud of these particles while they are still fresh and they got into their eyes and lungs, they could - theoretically - contract the illness, however unlikely. The odds of it being transmitted this way are quite small, however, as the tissue membranes in the airways don't transfer bacteria and viruses as well as other parts of the body, and so have a much lesser chance of being a pathway for disease contraction.


Once again it comes down to extended proximity to those suffering the illness. If you're an aid worker who will be around sufferers day in, day out, then yes, your odds of contracting the illness from these airborne particles will climb significantly, but for an average person living outside of West Africa, there's nothing to worry about at this time.

What About the Ebola Zombie Rumours?

This one is so ridiculous I'm going to be rather brief about it. Dying of Ebola is not a fast, clean way to go. You die incredibly slowly, painfully and exhaustingly, getting weaker and weaker until you can barely move. You simply lie there, bleeding internally. That much internal bleeding coupled with exhaustion is enough to lower your heart rate considerably to the point where a cursory check of your vitals will seem like you are dead. Aid workers in West Africa have their hands full and don't have time to do extensive checks on patients. When they see a body in the street they give it a quick check and then deal with it so they can move on to the next patient. It only makes sense that occasionally they'd miss a very faint pulse and the patient would start moving in the body bag during a brief moment of lucidity. There is no zombie apocalypse coming.


What Can I Do to Minimize Risk?

Ebola is spreading internationally, to an extent. For it to spread rapidly it needs poor sanitation, hot, humid environments and crowded places. Virtually every first-world city has proper sewage, running water, cleaning products and showers. Unless you are reading this from a mud hut in West Africa you already have a minimized risk of contracting the illness.
However, being over-prepared never hurts. If you want to prepare yourself further for an outbreak - even if it's just for your own sanity - then stock up on the following things:
  • Surgical masks
  • Rubber gloves
  • N95 masks, such as the ReadiMask
  • Protective eyewear
  • Bleach (bleach solutions have been proven to totally eliminate the disease from surfaces)
  • Ethanol-based sanitizer, such as Dettol concentrate
  • Plastic drop-sheets
  • Electrical tape (for sealing shut windows and doors from the outside)
  • Garbage bags for contaminated material disposal
Stocking up on the above is overkill, however, it can be multi-purposed for ANY pandemic, such as a mutated influenza virus like H1N1 or MERS.

So hopefully this insight has cleared up any questions you've had about the illness that you haven't been able to get a straight answer on. If you have any further questions about the illness then please feel free to ask in the comments below and we'll get back to you as soon as possible.

And remember, be prepared, not scared.

- CumQuaT

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

INFORMATIVE: Cooking Off-Grid

So I've been getting quite heavily into off-grid cooking lately, purchasing some quality cast-iron equipment and learning to correctly use a wood-fire stove.


The difference in quality and flavour is so incredible that we've decided to make it a weekly event now and have an "off-grid cooking night" each weekend to try new things. Oftentimes we'll get meat from the local stores to cook up but much of the time we like to prepare meals using only our own preserved or long-shelf-life ingredients.

After our experiences with this, I thought I'd give my own quick guide to starting your own off-grid cooking experience based on my own experience! At the end I'll include some handy links for your own off-grid food preserving/preparation/recipes for your own enjoyment if you end up taking this route.

The Equipment

For starters, you'll need to invest good money in some high quality cast iron cookware. Don't go cheap on this as a well made bit of cast iron cookware - looked after properly - will last for generations and provide you with some seriously delicious food. It's at the point now where food cooked on regular cookware just doesn't taste as good to us anymore.

A good place to start is to pick up an appropriate sized pot for your group size, a frying pan and a dutch oven.


Later on you can invest in a couple of different sized pots and pans, and also a grilling pan, which makes cooking meat much easier and tastier.

Burned hands is something you'll likely run into cooking on a wood stove or campfire and there are many remedies for that, from oven mitts to old rags, etc, but I've actually gotten used to using the Ove Glove. Think of it as a 5-fingered oven mitt rated up to about 200 degrees. Pretty handy and you still have full dexterity, even if you do look like a dork while using it.


As for my cooker I have invested in something that's a little hard to find. It was designed to be distributed amongst lower socioeconomic regions of South America, but is an excellent cooker if you can get a hold of one. It's called the Ecozoom Plancha. It has two separately controllable wood fire rocket stoves mounted under a large, cast-iron hotplate and an adjustable smoke exhaust chimney to keep the smoke out of your face and house. The best part about it is that since it is a rocket stove complete with furnace-grade ceramics on the inside, it uses VERY little fuel to keep going and is fairly easy to maintain the temperature of with a little practice, even though it does mean a bit more constant attention than a traditional stove.


Cleaning cast iron cookware can be a bit tricky and you'll get a lot of mixed messages reading about it, but after a couple of months of using it, I can say the most important thing to invest in is a good scrubbing brush. Not too scratchy, not too soft. A good trick for picking one is that if you scrub your palm with it and it's painful, then it's too hard. If it's not at all uncomfortable, then it's too soft.


Try an avoid using harsh chemical cleaning agents in the water. Simply get a big tub of water and a bar of soap, get the water nice and soapy then scrub away, drying your cast iron immediately after you're done washing and then allowing to air dry afterwards.

Don't forget that from time to time you'll need to re-seal the surfaces of it, too, to make it last a long time. The easiest way to do this is to heat it up on the stove, drop in some shortening and rub it evenly on all of the surfaces. Once it's done, let it cool down, give it a scrubbing and you're done.



The Food

As I said earlier in the article, we'll often go to the store and get meats for our off-grid cooking night, but you can just as easily fry up some fresh game or - like we do - long term shelf-life foods like the following:

Canned foods - If you're into canning, you'll know all about this, if not, check out our article on food preservation where we talk about it. If you don't currently can or know how to can, it's well worth looking into. Not too pricey to get started and it can save you a LOT of money when it comes to storing food long-term. You can access a VERY large repository of canned food recipes online, particularly here.



Dry pack foods - Generally in the vein of "just add water!" although occasionally calling for other ingredients, keeping a bunch of mylar bags with dry pack foods is a fantastic idea. Even if you just start out with bags of rice, that's a damn good start and it goes a long way. However, be sure to read around, because you can make all kinds of dry mixes yourself in bulk for SUPER cheap, such as pancakes, muffins, cereals with milk, milkshakes, dips, breads, soups and more. For a comprehensive list of what you can whip up, have a read of this awesome article.



Pro Tips

And now for some last minute pro-tips that will save you a good bit of hassle when cooking off-grid style, particularly with a wood fire stove. These are things I've learned through experience and may or may not be the best way to do things, so take them with a grain of salt.

  • Always keep a good-sized rag hanging out of your pocket while you cook. Needing to wipe your hands down, grab a hot surface, clean up a spill, etc, is made a lot easier when it's right there on-hand.
  • Keep a metal bucket filled with sand next to your wood fire stove. If a fire breaks out, pouring water on the stove will very likely crack your cast iron leaving you with a hefty replacement bill.
  • A bucket of sand is also an excellent method of temperature control. Once you've gotten some kindling charred it will VERY easily and quickly re-light. If you pull a stick out of the fire and extinguish it using sand it will be ready to use again immediately, whenever you need it, as opposed to extinguishing it with water where it is now useless.
  • Watch for meat sticking to cast iron. Cast iron gets SUPER hot and stays that way for a long time, so meat tends to stick to it if left without being moved for too long.
  • If you're using metal cutlery, try and minimize the amount that the cutlery scrapes the surfaces of your cookware. Metal on metal will deteriorate your cast iron and leave small chips where rust can build, so be careful!
  • Let your cast iron dry out SUPER thoroughly once you're done washing it. Don't let any moisture remain whatsoever.
  • Remember that cast iron surfaces have pores - like human skin - which open under heat and absorb what's in contact with it. Keep that in mind while cooking. Cast iron loves nothing more than fats and oils to keep it healthy.

So enjoy your off-grid cooking experience and let us know how you go!

- CumQuaT

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

REVIEW: Darche Hybrid Single Shelter

Darche Hybrid Single shelter.

SPECIFICATIONS AND FEATURES

-Single person shelter with awning
-1.6kgs (3.5 lbs)
-Inbuilt mesh fly
-Head and foot vents
-5000mm PU pressure rating.
-Taped seams (except on awning)


Open dimensions (Not including guy lines)- 235cm long, 60cm wide, 100cm high at main pole, 60cm high at secondary pole.


Kit contains:

- Polyester tent
- Two support poles
- 12 pegs
- 7 nylon guy-lines
- Relevant bags



Unpacking shelter - neatly rolled and organised in pouch.


The first time setting up the shelter is slightly confusing, however once the base is pegged in, it is easy to finish putting it up.

After the base, the next step is to insert the support poles (good quality possibly aluminium? Doesn't say anywhere on the packaging). These are collapsible with an internal cable, and fitted with rubber end-caps. The small pole slots into an internal support pocket inside the tent with the other end pressing to the ground using pressure, rather than locking into anything. The large pole is intended to work the same, but the internal pocket designed to hold the top end is not designed suitably, so any lateral movement causes the pole to slide out, collapsing the tent.

Once the two poles are balanced and locked in as best they can, attach and peg the guy ropes for added tension. Unfortunately the toggles and the guy ropes don't create enough friction together, causing them to slip and in turn make the shelter sag.


As the shelter is a single shell, it's prone to a build up of condensation on the inside. It does provide excellent rain protection..... Except where the poles slot into the awning. These are not taped and the water splashes through underneath making the awning somewhat redundant. (Front / Rear)

It is designed as a single-man shelter, but is cramped for anyone over 5'8" (175cm). You can fit in there with your sleeping bag quite comfortably, provided you're not too tall, however, the internal shape makes it difficult to line up a sleeping mat and there is no room to stow your gear completely out of the elements.

I feel it could have been better utilized as a two-man sleeper/one-man plus storage, by fully extending and enclosing the tent floor under the awning area without adding too much bulk.


The awning can be poled or roped out straight to give a good amount of sheltered space, however the lack of flooring makes this unsuitable for wet conditions.

There is adequate head-room in the shelter. The large mesh panelling on the front gives good visibility when the awning is up and easy access to the shelter. Added meshing on the sides and rear gives it good ventilation.




The colour of this shelter helps it blend well in an Australian bush environment, however the provided guy-ropes are a brilliant white that stick out and need to be replaced with earth toned para-cord for those wanting to be inconspicuous.

On its own, this shelter is suitable for moderate conditions, warm or cool and in light rain. The addition of a ground sheet and top-cover/hootchie helps round out this shelters shortfalls and allows it to be used in more varied environments, although that defeats the purpose of buying this shelter in the first place.




After only the third time setting up this shelter, the peg loops snapped and the stitching came apart.

This shelter seems to be designed as a mid-point between a bivvy and a tent. Although the idea is there, it fails to reach it's potential. If the price were dropped considerably it might be worth a look, but as of now don't waste your time.


Pros:
- Lightweight
- Subdued colour
- Quick setup/take down
- Low profile

Cons:
- Toggles slip under pressure
- Guy ropes practically glow in the dark
- No appropriate gear-stowage
- Use of space lacking in full potential
- Not suitable for extreme weather
- Not value for money


RRP: AUD$79.99 (approx)


Rating - 2/10




-Burt

Saturday, July 12, 2014

INFORMATIVE: When things go wrong

This article is more of a retrospective than anything else. The Informed Preppers spent a day recently traversing a rainforest in both an attempt to test our mettle against a new type of terrain and also to test some new gear that we'd recently gotten a hold of.


However, during our trek, something went quite wrong and nearly had disastrous consequences. Because of our training and discipline, things turned out alright, but let there be no mistake that a very large portion of us making it out ok came down to luck, and so it inspired me to write this article to pass on our experience to you.

So we traveled a long way from home to reach our destination, a very large, remote, Australian rainforest in an undisclosed location, and we proceeded to travel beyond the public areas and get in nice and deep. Our plan was to follow the land along a creek we had seen on the maps until we found a nice place far away from roads and buildings to set up a camp for the day.

For this trek, we had packed the following gear each:


1 - A decent knife (for me it was a Kabar Classic, full size) and decent strapping to hold it on.
2 - Spare batteries
3 - Navigation gear (lenstatic compass and pace counter)
4 - Face towel (rainforests make you sweat... Hard...)
5 - Rain poncho (we were expecting foul weather which never actually occurred)
6 - Decomposing toilet wipes (these go much further than toilet paper, and still decompose correctly)
7 - Spare socks and underwear (like I said... Sweat...)
8 - Ointment kit (Insect repellant, burn cream, antiseptic, etc)
9 - Paracord (kept on a Spool Tool, which I highly recommend)
10 - Large shemagh
11 - Jetboil portable cooking system (which we have recommended many times before, and do again)
12 - Spare shirt, ranger rolled for size
13 - Larger towel
14 - Ratchet straps for sleep system (which I'll go into later)
15 - Head torch
16 - HEADSOX tactical edition
17 - Giggle hat with in-built mosquito head netting
18 - Steripen Sidewinder


Then there was our food kit:

1. Freeze-dried meals
2. Freeze-dried smoothie (fantastic as a morale treat when you make camp)
3. Beef jerky (protein is one of the most important nutrients you can have in a survival situation)
4. Cutlery
5. Jelly babies (small, easily distributable sugar hits for energy)
6. Fruit & Nut bars (long lasting, natural energy. Fantastic for marathon stints of hiking)
7. Candy (great for an extra energy kick when you've just got that last bit to go)
8. Energy drinks (when you absolutely have to move and nothing else works)
9. Collapsible bowls



Not shown:

- Jungle hammock
- Ground sheet
- Full medical and trauma kit
- Full medicine kit
- Inflatable pillow
- Guy ropes
- Basic survival kit
- Bandana
- Small Gerber Scout folding knife


All of this was stored in a new pack which I was field-testing on this trip.

So we set out and things went quite well. Due to the treacherous terrain we couldn't always find a path along the side of the creek, since it was in the base of a deep valley, so it required us to perform several water crossings to get to more agreeable terrain.


Every so often, however, we got to walk through some beautifully straightforward rainforest, with even flooring which was densely packed, good spaces between trees and not too much foliage. After going through the thicker parts of the wood, it was heaven to move through these parts of the rainforwest


We came across several waterfalls on our journey, and if you've ever had to climb a waterfall, you'll know they can be difficult and treacherous at best, but climb them we did through the use of good teamwork and careful analysis.


We quickly learned that the things that the 70kg (150lb) Burt could do weren't quite as easily achievable by myself at 100kg (220lb), and vice versa, but we followed a system of "on point/off point" and helped each other where needed. I cannot stress enough how important this is during a team exploration. Stick close to one another at all times in unknown terrain and use each others strengths to counterbalance each others weaknesses. This can make the difference between life and death, as you'll soon read.

So eventually we reached an impasse. A waterfall which was quite simply just too high to climb without some serious thought put into it. By this stage we'd come quite a long way into the forest and were about ready to start looking for a campsite. Looking to the sides of the valley we were in, we noticed that the ground was quite sturdy and there were plenty of trees and other strong flora to be able to climb the valley wall, and so we decided to climb up and get out of range of the creek, as a large storm was predicted and we didn't want to set up camp on or below the level of the risen waterline.

The going went well for about the first 150 feet up the face, but after that, the ground started getting looser, the trees further spaced apart and the face of the valley wall steeper, to the point where it was now like a shallow cliff face. What had looked like a much smaller climb was turning out to be incredibly difficult and dangerous to traverse.


We made it about another 50 feet up the cliff when suddenly the worst happened. As I raised my right foot off the cliff face to take a step, the right-hand shoulder strap of my bag broke free and snapped, causing all of my bag weight to swing left violently around the waist strap. This momentum spun my entire body and slammed me side-on into the cliff face, making me reach out both hands and feet to try and dig in as hard as I could, but it was too late... The ground beneath my feet crumbled under the sudden movement and I began to fall.

As I fell, however, I saw a large, thick tree vine hanging down and I grabbed it. After sliding a couple of feet down it, I managed to stop falling and just hang there for dear life, arms extended and all my weight supported by my hands. The earth was too crumbly for me to get a foothold, despite my best efforts. At this point, Burt was able to work with me and reposition the vine so that I could pull myself up to safety. After a quick field repair on the bag using paracord, we decided to climb down and find another place to camp. During the climb down, Burt slipped on a large log and - to save the log from falling on him and crushing him - had to throw himself awkwardly down a drop of around 12 feet. Luckily, however, Burt is a natural tumbler and he executed the fall perfectly.

We made it out with little injury, and there is only one reason for that: luck. Things could have gone bad quickly, and it's a minor miracle that they didn't. A small amount of basic climbing gear and some time taken to plan our actions and there would have been no problems. Of course there is no way to negate risk entirely, but minimizing it is the first step of a long, healthy life.

So let our experience teach you that preparation is the key. The right gear, the right skills and a cool head will get you out of most situations you will find yourself in. Be prepared and you won't need to be scared.

- CumQuaT

Saturday, June 14, 2014

INFORMATIVE: The Best of the Best - CumQuaT's Picks

So I often get asked about my gear, and the question that I get asked most often is this:

"What are the best, most useful pieces of equipment that you carry?"

This can turn into a loaded question amongst various preppers, but I figured I'd do up a short article which outlines the pieces of kit which I simply couldn't live without, have really been impressed with and would be the first things I'd pick up again if I had to start over.

I'll also try and get Burt to write one of these up, as I'm sure his loadout differs from mine, but here is what I've got for you:

Hazard4 Evac Plan B Sling


Barely a day goes by I don't carry my Evac Plan B with me. It's hands-down the best bag I've ever owned. Not big enough for a full on ranged mission, but for a one-day bag? Or a day-to-day carry bag? It's flawless. Its construction is rugged to the point of overkill, it can hold a surprisingly large amount for such a compact unit, and can easily be expanded via the use of its strapping system and the fact it's covered in molle webbing. Add in a pouch organization system inside and you've got one of the best bags ever constructed.

http://hazard4.com/products/packs/evac-slings/plan-b




Headsox


Headsox are one of my favourite inventions ever. When it comes down to it, the Headsox is a cylindrical tube of breathable, UV-proof, slightly elastic fabric which you can wear on your head in a variety of different ways: as a beanie, a neck warmer, a balaclava, a sweatband, a hairnet, etc. They are so simple and so versatile that you'd be crazy not to pick one up, especially given how cheap they are. Be warned: there are cheap imitations out there, which I have tried, and they are NOT the same - in fact they're useless and uncomfortable. Buy brand name on this one.

http://www.headsox.com.au/



Zippo


Everyone knows about the venerable Zippo, and there is much debate over carrying one of them over a simple Bic lighter. Personally, I carry both, as a Zippo does have the unfortunate fact of fuel evaporation. However, you can literally refill your zippo by lowering it on a bit of string into a car or truck's fuel tank. It will burn on virtually any combustible liquid and the cotton wadding on the inside can be used as a last ditch tinder. The sturdy brass construction also makes it EXTREMELY tough, and will survive being sat on, stepped on or even being run over by a truck. Try and have a Bic do that!

http://www.zippo.com/



SOG PowerAssist


I've used many different multi-tools in the past, but this one takes the cake. They're a little hard to get a hold of, but if you can get one, it's worth it. The bolt cutters alone on this thing are insanely powerful. It has a geared grip system which multiplies your grip force several times over, allowing you to cut through almost anything. The range of tools on it is impressive, despite its useless saw which comes standard, but for a few dollars you can buy a new saw and easily install it yourself, turning this into the perfect multi-tool. It's also virtually indestructible, so you can put it through Hell and it'll come out the other side in one piece.

http://www.sogknives.com/powerassist-satin.html



KABAR TDI Law Enforcement



Knives are a real point of contention for many preppers, but for me it comes down to practicality. KABAR make great knives, everyone knows that, but they're not all that easy to carry around most of the time. That's where the TDI is different. It is so unobtrusive on your person that you don't even realise it's there, but by the same token, the moment you need it, it slips into the palm of your hand like it was moulded to it. Very short blade, but it'll hold a RAZOR edge after only a little bit of work on the whetstone. A truly reliable knife all-around.

http://www.kabar.com/knives/detail/76



Jetboil Flash

Butane cooking systems are not the #1 choice for many survivalists, but when I go out on a trek, I always take my Jetboil Flash. It can boil half a litre (17 ounces) of water in well under a minute. Given that it's an all-in-one cooking system which can fit its own fuel source inside it, this thing is the Rolls Royce of cooking systems in my mind.

http://www.jetboil.com/Products/Flash-Cooking-System-Carbon/



Spool Tool


A fantastic bit of British Ingenuity, the Spool Tool will hold 100ft of Paracord and a mini Bic lighter neatly in one unit, but also provide a safe cutting blade and crimping moulds for neatening up the ends of the cordage and prevent fraying. How cool is that? It's also incredibly sturdy and designed to easily slip into a pack without taking up much room.

http://www.spooltool.us/



Hazard4 Poncho Villa 



This thing is a truly hydrophobic, full-size tactical poncho which converts into a one-man tent. I have taken it out in a tropical cyclone before and remained bone dry. It folds into its own front pocket, which is, itself, waterproof and can easily be adjusted to allow you to use one or both arms with relative ease. The only downside to this product is that unlike other Hazard4 products, it is made in Taiwan, and has a couple of shoddy features, such as the pop rivet buttons and the drawstring locks. Other than that, the rest of the materials are top-notch and I still highly recommend it.

http://hazard4.com/products/apparel/ponchovilla



5.11 ATAC Storm Boots


I've worn many different boots over the years, but these ones take the cake. They act like jungle boots, allowing no water ingress to your foot. They are hugging, comfortable and very warm, yet still manage to breathe quite well. They also air quickly once you take them off and have a soft leather pocket on either side and extremely rugged steel caps. The soles are incredibly durable and my own pair have shown NO signs of wearing yet, despite having been worn for two years, through cyclones, rainforests, bushland and rock climbing. Extremely durable, reliable boots.

http://www.511tactical.com/atac-storm-boot.html



Shemagh


One of the most useful bits of kit in a prepper's arsenal. Be sure to get a hand-woven, pure cotton one and you'll be able to use it to keep cool in summer, warm in winter, filter water, cover your face, protect your gear, shade you, disguise a drop and many other uses.

http://www.extac.com.au/Pro_Force_Shemagh_Sand_Black_p/pf61035.htm



Fenix E-21 Torch


There are many other, brighter, more feature rich torches on the market than the Fenix E-21, but the simplicity of its design is what I like about it. 2xAA batteries and you're good to go. It's waterproof, shatterproof, drop-proof and can really take a solid battering. The light on it - while not incredible - is still super bright, and it fits nicely in your hand. A fantastic and reliable torch.

http://www.fenixlight.com/ProductMore.aspx?id=47&tid=11&cid=1



Maxpedition RollyPolly 


I think these devices are so damn clever. Essentially a cleverly designed dump-pouch, it sits on your belt, taking up next to no space, but in an instant it can unhook and leave you with a large, durable pocket on your belt which you can carry extra gear in. It sort of acts like a belt-riding haversack. Really cool design, and comes in multiple sizes for different wearers/uses.

http://www.maxpedition.com/store/pc/ROLLYPOLY-MM-Folding-Dump-Pouch-p228.htm



There's a heap more gear that I love, but when it comes to the items I've particularly loved more than anything else, where I can't imagine myself using an alternative, It'd be these. I hope that this helps some people out who might be looking for one of the items in one of these categories!

And remember... Be prepared, not scared!

- CumQuaT