Friday, June 30, 2006

Swedish Mess Kit

(This is a cross-post of an article I originally posted to The High Road in October 2005. The links are still valid as of today, 6/30/06.)

A month or so ago I picked up two Swedish military surplus mess kits from Cheaper Than Dirt for my BOB (which in my case is a bug out box). The kit contains an aluminum pot, bowl/pan, windscreen/pot stand, brass alcohol burning stove, and a plastic bottle to carry alcohol fuel in. Total weight w/o any fuel is ~2 lbs. I finally got to use the kit today.

I used denatured alcohol in the stove. You should be able to buy this by the quart or gallon at a hardware store. You can use isopropyl rubbing alchohol, but this is usually diluted with water and therefore you'll get fewer BTUs per ounce. I paid about $5 for a quart of denatured alcohol at Lowe's IIRC. The stove is made of brass and is a few inches across. It's stable when you put it on the ground.

After filling the stove I held a match over the center opening and it immediately lit. Don't forget that alcohol burns with an invisible flame, so be careful. After a few seconds I heard the alcohol inside the stove boiling and the flame became a visible orange color.

Next, I placed the windscreen over the stove, after unfolding the legs inside it to hold the pot a few inches over the flame. Time to start cooking.

Lunch today was a can of Hormel's chile, which was cooked in the pot over the alcohol flame. It took about 3.5 - 4 minutes before the chile started to boil. I had the pot covered with the bowl/pan, so expect cooking time to be longer if you leave the pot uncovered.

After taking the pot off I wanted to extinguish the stove, both to be safe and to save fuel. You don't blow out an alcohol stove, unless you want burning fuel everywhere. Snuff it out. I had to use a stick to pick up the hot windscreen, then careful dropped the stove's cap on it, putting it out.

I left some fuel in the stove and will check on it tomorrow to see if it evaporates. In a review of this set on, one poster mentioned that the plastic fuel bottle supplied with the kit allows alcohol to evaporate. I'm planning to put my two kits in my BOB, along with the quart of fuel in the original can.

CTD appears to be out of stock but these Swedish mess kits are listed at Major Surplus & Survival and , which has a good photo of the kit. Both have the kits for under $10.

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Thursday, June 29, 2006

PA: Flooding Hazard Remains

It isn't quite over in Pennsylvania.

Accuweather says a Severe Thunderstorm Watch remains in effect until 11pm.
KYW's Tony Romeo reports Governor Rendell is asking for federal disaster aid for 34 Pennsylvania counties – including all of Southeastern Pennsylvania – as a result of this week’s floods.

Since river crests turned out to be not as high as earlier dire predictions, Governor Rendell says Pennsylvania appears to have dodged a bullet. But he says that statement flies in the face of the drama that played out, with 13 National Guard, state police and coast guard helicopters in the air:

“Those 13 helicopters made over 1200 water rescues. In 16 or 17 occasions, actually the big baskets came down to lift whole families off rooftops or out of houses.”


If stuff like this can happen in Pennsylvania and New York (also heavily affected), it can happen anywhere.

Survival Books: Tappan on Survival

One of the classic texts of the modern survival movement, Tappan on Survival, is back in print and available from Paladin Press. In my opinion, there's some good information contained in ToS although some is a bit dated, and the financial collapse that Mel Tappan predicted didn't come about. (Of course, history isn't over, so ....). ToS is worth getting if you're building a survival library.

Incidentally, Jerry Pournelle wrote the foreword to the first edition. You may be familiar with his work as a longtime columnist for Byte, or his science fiction novels, including my favorite end of the world story, Lucifer's Hammer, coauthored with Larry Niven.

Wolf Military Classic from Cabela's

The other night I recieved my Cabela's order of Wolf Military Classic 7.62x39 FMJ ammo. I got a full case -- 1,000 rounds -- and Cabela's included two of their Dry-Storage Boxes as a bonus.

Made in Russia's Ulyanovsk Arsenal, Wolf Military Classic comes in 20 round camoflauge cardboard boxes. The steel cases are lacquer coated, rather than being coated with the gray polymer that the newer Wolf ammo made at Tula has. This is a Good Thing, as in my experience the polymer coating is not very rust-resistant. I've had some rust in my crawlspace. Anyone looking to lay in a supply of 7.62x39 should take this into account. Since AKs and SKSes don't have problems with lacquered ammo, I'd rate this as preferable to the polymer coated stuff.

It appears that Cabela's pre-packs 500 rounds in Dry-Storage Boxes, then sends out however many are needed to fill an order. I saw this because each box contained 500 rounds even though each will hold more than 1,000. I was not pleased that they failed to fill up the empty space with packing peanuts or something, because the 20 round boxes of ammo got jumbled in transit, many of them tearing open to spill their contents. I wound up consolidating the ammo into one Dry-Storage Box, with the loose rounds in a few Ziplock bags.

The Dry-Storage Boxes seems to be pretty sturdy and are quite a bit larger than a surplus .50 caliber ammo can. They stack well and have a large, comfortable handle thant folds down. I don't like their gaskets, however. Instead of a one-piece gasket installed at the factory, a four-piece gasket made of adhesive-backed foam is included inside the Dry-Storage Box. If the gaskets were one-piece I wouldn't mind too much, but there's no way the four-piece gaskets will be as air or water tight as a one-piece unit. Take this into consideration if you get any of these boxes. I may try making a replacement using silicone caulk, with a release agent on the top edge of the box so that the lid isn't glued shut.

MTM makes similar plastic "Sportsman's Utility Dry Boxes," but they have better gaskets which are factory-installed. I recommend the MTM boxes over the Cabela's boxes if you're going to be buying any. I have a couple of the MTM SPUD1 boxes and they are very nice. Both MidwayUSA and Natchez Shooters Supply carry the MTM boxes.

Since I now have an extra Dry-Storage Box, I may use it as a case for my Yaesu FT-7800R 2M/440 MHz ham radio and it's power supply.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

PA: Heavy Rains Cause Widespread Flooding

You don't need a terrorist strike or bird flu to cause severe problems. For the past few days the northeast has been hit with heavy rains. I noticed this morning when I left for work that the ground is completely saturated. This afternoon I spoke with my wife, who told me that her mother's normal 15 minute commute took about two hours this morning, due to flooding.

Meanwhile, Governor Rendell has declared a state of emergency in 46 Pennsylvania counties. Across the northeast, about 10 people have died so far from flooding.

Stuff happens. Be prepared.

Emergency Preps on a Budget

(Another repost, this time from a post I made on The Rally Point. Just want to get things going here. I plan to go into more depth on many of these items.)

Not everyone can afford expensive, top of the line gear. Folks just started in their careers or those on low incomes should be prepared for emergencies, too. While the ability to buy lots of expensive gear and food is definitely an advantage, there are plenty of things a family with less money can do to help themselves weather an emergency.

Buying food in bulk is a good way to lower costs. Look for sales and buy flats of canned goods, then rotate them in and out of your daily usage. You don't need fancy containers for water storage. Used 2L and 3L soda bottles work very well, after they've been thoroughly cleaned and filled with tap water. Put a couple of drops of bleach in each bottle and store them in a cool, dark place. Inspect every 6 months to a year, drain, clean, and refill.

Get a cooler to help preserve perishables if the power goes out. Use perishables before canned or dried foods if that happens.

Most people have barbecue grills, which can be used for cooking if the SHTF. Have extra propane or charcoal on hand. Sterno or alcohol stoves made from soda cans can be used to heat food, too. (Google for "pepsi can stove.") Even a coffee can, can make a good stove. (Google for "hobo stove.")

Extra emergency clothes and blankets can be picked up at thrift shops or from military surplus dealers. In a pinch, contractor weight plastic garbage bags can be slit to make a tarp or a poncho.

Have a couple rolls of duct tape on hand. This is one item where it pays to not buy the cheapest you find. It can be used for repairing everything to cars, stuff around the house, and even a temporary bandage. Baling wire is good stuff, too.

Have basic hand tools, nails, drywall screws, string, and if possible a rechargeable cordless drill with screwdriver bits.

Surefure flashlights are cool but they and their batteries are expensive. A two D-Cell flashlight will provide usable lighting in an emergency and they're cheap. Mini Maglites can be picked up for $10 and are light and compact. With a $5 LED conversion head from Nite-Ize at WalMart, they run much longer and give out more light. Don't forget spare batteries.

When used carefully candles are a useful yet inexpensive adjunct to your emergency lighting supplies.

Budget communications are available, too. Obviously the first thing to try is your landline. If that's out a pre-paid cell phone may work, but if the landlines are down so too may be the cell towers, especially if you've just been through a hurricane.

Wireless communications can be in the form of a CB or FRS/GMRS radio. CBs are common and work fine for local communications. If possible, get one that can also receive National Weather Service Wx broadcasts. For example, I have a Midland CB walkie talkie with a cigarette light adapter and magnet mount antenna in my truck. I can use it on foot or in the vehicle, and receive Wx warnings. CBs will also be good for communicating with truckers delivering relief supplies.

If you can spare about a hundred dollars and some time, you can afford to get a Technician level amatuer radio ("ham") license and a used 2 Meter FM handie talkie. Compared to CB, FRS, or GMRS, a ham radio greatly improves your commo capabilities in a SHTF situation.

Sanitation is very important, especially when normal systems are disrupted. A 5 gallon bucket (at most a few bucks at Home Depot) and plastic bags can make an expedient toilet. If necessary a hole can be dug to dispose of waste.

Unfortunately, while emergencies often bring out the best in people, they also bring the worst in others. Therefore, the prudent person will have tools for protection. One's arsenal need not be fancy nor expensive to provide good protection.

My first choice for a budget SHTF arsenal would consist of an SKS and a 4" Ruger Police Service Six, preferably in stainless. Both are extremely rugged and reliable, ammo is reasonably common and not too expensive. Total cost for both guns should be under $400.

If a semiauto rifle isn't an option than second choice IMO would be a used Marlin or Winchester levergun in .30-30.

You obviously want a rifle because it is the most effective weapon for self defense. Shotguns are formidable at close range but ammo is bulky and heavy, and recoil is stout.

The rifle should be equipped with a sling. You don't need a fancy "tactictal" sling, a carry strap will do. There will be instances when you'll need both hands but putting the rifle down is unwise.

Ammo for the SKS can be carried in clips in a Chicom chest pouch, a belt pouch, or in surplus 5.56MM bandoleers. If you get a .30-30 instead, get a butt cuff for some onboard ammo and a belt pouch or belt slide with cartridge loops.

You should have handgun in case you need a portable, concealable weapon. E.g., when you have LEOs who think that the serfs should be disarmed, as in New Orleans post-Katrina.

The handgun needs a holster and sturdy belt to support it. Also some means of carrying a couple reloads, preferably speed loaders in belt pouches. Bianchi Speed Strips are a viable option, especially when you need to carry concealed, because they are flat.

Since for the sake of this topic budget is a concern, a milsurp cleaning kit with a sectional rod and a .30 caliber and 9mm sized bore brushes/jags will allow you to perform preventive maintenance. Cleaning supplies don't need to be fancy, just need some patches cut from an old T-shirt and a CLP. Automatic transmission fluid works quite well and is cheap.

Let's hear some other ideas for emergency preps on a budget.

Preparedness Intro

My parents have been over for dinner even more than usual lately, due to the fact that their kitchen is currently torn up and in the process of being completely remodeled. Since Judith and I get along with both sets of parents this isn't a problem. However, last night my mom said something that surprised me.

Mom is a liberal Democrat (I love her anyway), and works for Montgomery County. Earlier this week she attended a county training session on emergency preparedness, part of which was dedicated to a discussion of the possible effects of an avian flu epidemic. She mentioned how in the training it was recommended that people should have a supply of food and water on hand, in case they're shut in for an extended period.

What surprised me is that she isn't blowing this off. Mom and Dad (overall I'd rate him as a moderate Republican, except in a few areas where he's far right) are now looking at laying in some supplies. She has a list provided by the trainer. Of course, it doesn't include firearms for defense in the event of social breakdown or run of the mill crime, but thanks to Dad, that ain't an issue. ;-)

That a liberal Dem -- i.e., the type of person who by definition looks to the goobermint for help in times of need -- would take the responsibility to look out for herself in a disaster is refreshing, to put it mildly. One thing that the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina taught us is that you don't want to have to be dependent upon someone else in the event of a disaster.

It's still too early to know whether avian flu will become a real threat or a complete non-issue like the swine flu of the 1970s or the non-aftermath of Y2K, but there are plenty of other reasons to have a store of supplies on hand so you can weather an interruption of normal society, e.g.,

  • Hurricanes
  • Less severe but still serious weather
  • Winter storms
  • Power failures like the Blackout of 2003
  • Toxic waste spills
  • Riots
  • Terrorism.
Naturally, where you live will have a big influence on what's the most likely threat.

There are a ton of online resources available to help you get started with survival preps. is a good place to start. Also check out your state and local emergency management agencies, who often have checklists available on their websites.

Welcome to the Survival & Emergency Preparedness Blog

Welcome to my new Survival & Emergency Preparedness Blog. I decided to spin this off from Blog O'Stuff so that it's more focused. The first post of substance will a be a repost my most recent post on Blog O'Stuff.