The latest posts from Bug-Out Survival
Those of you who have read my Bug Out Vehicles and Shelters know that I have a chapter devoted to bicycles in the book. As a long-time cyclist who enjoys riding for fitness and exploring backroads and trails by bike, I am interested in many different types of bicycles, but if I could have only one, it would invariably be a touring-specific bike. When asked in the interview today why I would choose such a bike when mountain bikes are usually the first kind that come to mind as bug out bikes, I explained that it is because bike touring has been constantly evolving and developing as adventurous riders take these machines literally to the ends of the earth. Such bikes are designed to withstand abuse, carry heavy loads, negotiate rough roads and even some off road conditions and perhaps most importantly, be comfortable so that you can cover serious miles day after day.
The difference in these touring-specific bikes begins with the frame, usually built of rugged and forgiving Chrome-moly steel rather than aluminum or carbon used on more performance-oriented bikes. The wheels are also stronger, built to carry heavy loads and to fit wider tires when conditions require them. Touring bikes have a wide range of gears to handle long climbs while carrying heavy loads, and the frames are fitted with brazed-on eyelets for mounting sturdy racks to carry panniers and additional gear lashed on top.
While some touring bikes look much like road racing machines to the casual observer, these differences are apparent upon closer inspection. Because of the popularity of long off-road trips, such as the Adventure Cycling Association's Great Divide Route, many bicycle manufacturers are building truly capable touring machines that have most of the desirable attributes of mountain bikes combined with the long-distance capability of road bikes. It has been interesting to see what they have come up with. For example, the Surly Long Haul Trucker is a proven road touring bike I mentioned in the book, but the newer Surly Troll has a lot to offer as a bug-out machine to those inclined towards mountain bikes but needing real traveling ability:
The orange paint job might not be the best choice for this service, but you can see that this is a bike that could do the job. To give you an idea of it's potential, check out this site: While Out Riding.
Instead of giving me the go-ahead immediately on the sequel, however, my publisher suggested an entirely different novel set in the scenario of The Pulse - the same grid- collapse event caused by a solar flare - but with a different storyline and different characters. Most of the characters in the new novel (which will also likely be followed with one or more sequels) are young adults or teenagers, so the book is targeted to both young adult and adult readers. The Darkness After will be an action-filled adventure story with a somewhat faster pace than The Pulse. Here is the cover image:
I am still in the middle of writing this one now, but have also worked out a contract with my publisher to do the sequel to The Pulse later this year, after the June publication of The Darkness After. In addition, I will be completing The Prepper's Workbook later this spring, and the new publication date for it is set for sometime in September. The other change regarding that book is that I will now be working on it with my friend and fellow-adventurer, Scott Finazzo. The cover for the book should be updated soon to show both of us as coauthors.
Though I have not posted anything about the forthcoming Prepper's Workbook, I'm sure many of my readers have found the listing on Amazon, which still incorrectly shows the publication date as tomorrow, January 15. I apologize for the confusion that may have caused, but I was expecting my publisher to change the book details to reflect the new publication date before now. At any rate, if you have pre-ordered the book as many people do on Amazon, it will still be shipped as soon as it is released. I will post more details on both of the projects soon:
You can join us tomorrow (Thursday, July 26) at 1:00pm CDT right here on the embedded player, or listen in later anytime you like after the show:
For a review from the perspective of a prepper and survivalist, here's Jim Cobb's take on the book from his blog, Survival Weekly: http://survivalweekly.com/2269/the-pulse-by-scott-b-williams/ Jim will soon be a fellow Ulysses Press author, with his own book: Prepper's Home Defense coming out in October.
The reason that this is good news is that Barnes & Noble has finally gotten on board with how serious the topics of survival and prepping are, and the bookstore chain will now be stocking Bug Out and many related titles on their store shelves in most, if not all locations. In fact, my publisher said they were going to have an end-cap dedicated to the subject in the next month or so. This is an about face for this chain, as they were reluctant to stock many of these titles until their popularity increased. I stopped by my nearest Barnes & Noble store the other day to check this out, and sure enough, there were copies of Bug Out, Getting Out Alive, and Bug Out Vehicles displayed prominently on the shelves, along with some excellent related titles by other authors. Hopefully the backorders will be filled soon and Bug Out will soon be listed as "In Stock" on Amazon again. I apologize to anyone who may have ordered the book without knowing this and is still waiting.
"My favorite adventure stories have always been those that cast ordinary people into extraordinary circumstances and predicaments their previous lives could not possibly prepare them for. Although I sometimes enjoy reading works of fiction that involve larger than life characters with highly specialized training and superior fitness, skills and abilities, you won’t find any fearless heroes of that kind in The Pulse.
From the back cover:
THE END OF THE ELECTRIC AGE
As massive solar flares bombard the Earth, an intense electromagnetic pulse instantly destroys the power grid throughout North America. Within hours, desperate citizens panic and anarchy descends. Surrounded by chaos, Casey Drager, a student at Tulane University, must save herself from the havoc in the streets of New Orleans. Casey and two of her friends bug out to the dangerous backwaters of Mississippi where they are forced to use their survival skills to seek refuge and fight for their lives.
Meanwhile, thousands of miles away, Casey’s father, Artie, finds himself cut off and stranded. His Caribbean sailing vacation has turned into every parent’s nightmare. Warding off pirates and tackling storms, Artie uses the stars to guide him toward his daughter.
The Pulse is a compelling action-adventure novel that reveals what it would take to survive in a world lit only by firelight, where all the rules have changed and each person must fend for himself.
The 10/22 is a compact carbine even in its standard configuration, and even more so with a 16-inch barrel, but until recently, if you wanted to conceal it completely inside the average backpack or bug-out bag, you needed to either fit a bulky and somewhat heavier aftermarket folding stock, or take the receiver out of the stock as I described in the above-mentioned post. I've carried the 10/22 both ways on various wilderness trips. Folding stocks such as the Butler Creek model I used completely change the balance and feel of the weapon, and add a lot of bulk inside the pack when folded. Taking the standard rifle apart works, but does entail some risk of losing internal parts if you're not careful, and takes a lot more time than simply folding a stock.
The new take-down version of the 10/22 brings a whole new reason to choose this weapon, as you can now have one of the best semi-auto .22 carbines in existence with the packability of other take-down models such as the Marlin Papoose and Henry AR-7.
Here's a video introduction to this new 10/22 model that shows just how easily it can be taken apart and put back together:
For serious packing of a bug-out bag, I would certainly lose the bulky, fitted backpack it comes with, though this may be a handy way to carry it in other situations such as in a vehicle or boat. I haven't picked up one of these yet, but for $300 I probably will and look forward to comparing it to my other 10/22 rifles.
I've written about the Kawasaki KLR650 here before, and I'm sure many readers have either owned one or know somebody that does. It's not a motorcycle that excels at any one thing, but rather one that does everything well enough. For this trip, that meant everything from surviving the truck traffic on the interstate at 75 mph, to negotiating twisty pavement in the mountains, such as the infamous "Tail of the Dragon" stretch of North Carolina's Highway 129. But most importantly, it meant the freedom to explore off-road on gravel forest service roads and beyond.
I went alone on this ride so I wouldn't have to do much scheduling or planning, and besides, I needed time to myself anyway. Mainly, I wanted to revisit some of my favorite areas in the regions, such as the Joyce-Kilmer and Citico Creek wilderness areas, where I've embarked upon many a solo backpacking trip in times past. Hiking this time was limited, but with the KLR I was able to get to some nice, secluded campsite with the bike and all my gear, some of them places few four-wheeled vehicles could reach.
As anyone who's visited this area knows, the driving (and especially motorcycle riding) is spectacular. Going in the off-season and during the week makes it easy to avoid the crowds. One of the most scenic roads is the Cherohala Skyway, which runs through some of the wildest areas of the southern Appalachians, from Tellico Plains, TN to Robbinsville, NC.
This is a view out into the Citico Creek Wilderness Area, which is described on p. 158 of my book: Bug Out: The Complete Plan for Escaping a Catastrophic Disaster Before It's Too Late. A black bear encounter I had one dark night deep in the middle of this wilderness reminds me to choose campsites carefully and take all the precautions to keep a clean camp when in these mountains. This a place where you can seriously disappear if you have a need to, especially if you don't mind bushwhacking into the rhododendron thickets in the deep ravines along the drainages.
But as nice as the paved mountain roads like the Cherohala Skyway are, the KLR really comes into its own and proves its worth on the endless miles of gravel forest service roads that lead off the beaten path.
Exploring them leads to all kinds of great places, like this fantastic stream. One thing these mountains are not short of is water, so carrying a lot of it is not necessary as long as you have a means to purify it.
It's hard to leave a place like this and ride back home, but after this little escape I'm now planning a longer motorcycle trek out West to some of my favorite hang-outs there, like New Mexico's Gila National Forest. I have no doubt that the trusty KLR will get me there and back.
And the winner is: Kenny! Kenny's comment is the 13th one down on last week's post. I guess number 13 can bring good luck sometimes! For all those who didn't win, keep an eye out for more giveaways, as I have lately been receiving a flood of books and other products to review and test. And again, I think this book is a worthwhile addition to your survival library, whether or not can get it for free!
Empact America is dedicated to preparing, protecting and recovering from an EMP (Electromagnetic Pulse) event - a very real threat that could plunge our electricity-dependant civilization into total chaos. This interview comes at a good time, when I have been thinking a lot about just such a scenario. Last week I just finished the manuscript of my latest book: The Pulse: A Novel of Surviving the Collapse of the Grid, which will be published in July. Here's the completed manuscript: all 109,415 words.
I'll be posting more about that book here on Bug Out Survival as soon as details like the cover are finalized. It does involve a major grid-down scenario, putting the main characters in a variety of dangerous situations, requiring them to use many of the techniques and methods I've written about here on this site and in my previous non-fiction books.
If you have time to listen in on tomorrow's interview, you can do so on the embedded player right here:
This book is unique among practical medical handbooks in that it specifically addresses the issues of medical help when conventional means of help is not available, such as in a post-SHTF scenario. Topics include all sorts of problems ranging from sanitation, hygiene and infections to environmental factors that can lead to heat stroke, hypothermia, burns, smoke inhalation and even snake bite and stings. There are many additional resources in the back of this 440-page book, including a glossary of medical terminology and a list of YouTube Video Resources.
Look for a full review of the book here in the near future as soon I get caught up enough to read it in depth (As many of you know, I've been quite busy with my own latest book project). In the meantime, if you'd like a chance at winning this signed copy of the Survival Medicine Handbook, just leave a comment on this post with a username and I'll put all the names in a hat and pick the winner one week from tonight. It doesn't matter what you say in your comment, everyone gets an equal chance based on the luck of the draw. Look for the winner to be announced here next Monday night, and good luck!
Here's the full interview if you want to listen. Unfortunately, like last time I was on the show, there was a minor glitch with Blog Talk Radio, so the start of the show was delayed. It does play though, if you bear with it through a couple minutes of silence at the beginning.
There are many ways to accomplish the goal of staying physically ready for events that may test your endurance or strength, the most common of course, being gym workouts with weights or machines, as well as cardio-intensive training such as running, cycling or walking. Excuses for not using these methods are as plentiful as huge array of workout equipment you can find for sale at any sporting goods store, and range from time restraints to cost considerations.
There used to be a time when most people did enough physical work that none of this was necessary anyway, but unless you're in the really small percentage of those today who earn their living doing something like brick-laying or chopping wood with an axe, chances are you need to work out to stay in shape. What if you could take a simple tool like a sledgehammer and use it to work practically your entire body without the need to buy dumbbells, barbells or a Bowflex or some other kind of machine?
This isn't the kind of iron-pumping workout designed to build muscles like Arnold Schwarzenegger, but if you want to increase your functional strength and stamina, as well as speed and power that could make the difference in a fight or flight survival scenario, pick up a 16lb. sledge or even an 8 or 10-pounder and try these 23 exercises:"
I've done this routine a few times since discovering this video on YouTube and I can tell you that it is a great workout that will leave you feeling like you've done something when you're finished. You can determine the intensity by the speed with which you execute each movement as well as by choking up or down on the handle of the hammer. You don't need much weight to get the effectiveness, and in that regard it's much like working out with kettlebells; more about the technique than the weight. If you want to try it, I would recommend first following along with the video using an unweighted stick or axe handle to learn the proper form. Then start with a real sledgehammer. He's using a 16-pounder in the video, but unless you're in great shape already, you'll probably find that's too heavy to swing with good form, speed and power. The difference in this and merely lifting weight is that you have to overcome the inertia of all that weight swinging at speed to stop each stroke in the air with control, as he is demonstrating in the video.
You don't need a lot of time to do this entire routine, maybe one minute for each exercise, but if that's not enough you can use it for circuit training and go through the whole thing again when you're done: two, three or even four times if you're able.
Almost everyone has a sledgehammer somewhere in the toolshed, and if you don't you can go out and pick one up for $20 to $30 at any building supply or hardware store. It's a cheap piece of equipment compared to stuff designed specifically for exercise, and you'll probably find plenty of other uses for it as well.
One thing that all preppers and people with an interest in survival have in common is the desire to be self-sufficient. The ability to do-it-yourself and make things from scratch can go a long way towards freeing you from dependance upon expensive manufactured versions of the same things, which in many cases are inferior to what you could make yourself.
As long-time readers here probably know, I'm a big fan of travel by boat, whether on remote wilderness rivers, through southern swamps, or along the coast or open ocean. As a result of my interest in a variety of small craft, as well as a life-long interest in woodworking, I began building my own boats some 18 years ago, and have since built more than a dozen vessels, ranging from sea kayaks and canoes to fishing boats and offshore sailboats. Most of my wilderness and sea journeys by boat would not have been possible if I had to buy the factory versions of these boats I built myself - mainly because I could have never afforded them. But aside from the cost, there is an indescribable satisfaction to be had from turning a pile of wood and some epoxy and fiberglass into a beautiful and functional watercraft and then paddling or sailing it to some wild place.
While you can save a lot of money doing it yourself, building a boat is still far from free, especially if you care enough about how it looks and how long it will last to use quality materials. And there's also no getting around the fact that it's a lot of hard work. The same can be said about anything worth building or doing right. You need some basic tools, as well as the ability to use them, and unless you have a talent for design, a set of plans drawn by someone who does. Thousands of boats are built this way in garages and backyards every year all over America, and one would think that the right to do so would be unquestioned and unchallenged. That's exactly what a Murpheesboro, Tennessee man named Jonathan King thought when he purchased plans and built a simple, low-cost 14-foot wooden boat so he could take his seven-year-old son fishing.
Tennessee, like most states, requires boats that are fitted with engines or sails for propulsion to be registered with the state in which it is operated. This involves a small annual or semi-annual fee that is not unreasonable, but if you build your own boat from scratch, you first have to get it inspected so that a HIN (hull identification number) can be issued. This number is required in order to apply for the registration number. Like the registration, getting this number is not that big of a deal in my experience here in Mississippi, and having it does help prove ownership if the boat is stolen, so while it's a minor aggravation, most home boatbuilders don't complain.
But apparently that's no longer enough in Tennessee. Given the current economy, many states are looking for additional revenue anywhere they can find it, and Tennessee has hired outside consultants to make sure they don't miss any opportunity to tax citizens for things they may have overlooked. This is where Jonathan King ran into trouble. After applying for the HIN for his homebuilt boat, which he never intended to sell and built solely for his own use, he was threatened with court action if he did not pay a $539.00 "use tax" on the boat, as he was now considered by the state to be a "boat dealer." Never mind that he had already paid sales taxes on the plans that he purchased, as well as on all the plywood and materials used in the construction. This "use tax" he was now being hit with probably amounted to nearly as much as all the materials required to build a boat of this size. Thinking this was a mistake, he called the auditor and was told that no, they knew he built if for his own use, but the tax was still due and the state could get liens on the craft or pursue misdemeanor charges against him if he didn't pay. Here's the original story:
This has prompted lots of discussion among do-it-yourself boatbuilders, such as these threads on the Wooden Boat Forum:
Here's one that starts with a letter from the designer of the boat to the governor of Tennessee:
As he points out, this story is going viral on the Internet, as well it should. Those of you who are not into boats may not think it matters, but it's just one example of increasing loss of freedoms and restriction on what you can and can't do on your own property. As some have pointed out, if a "use tax" can be levied against a home boatbuilder, what's to stop them from taxing those who build their own picnic table or doghouse, make their own clothing or bake their own cookies? Isn't the economy already hurting ordinary people bad enough without punishing them for trying to save some money by making things themselves?
Another thing many Americans may not realize, especially if they are not boaters, is that most European countries have incredibly strict laws regulating building and using boats. For example, in the U.K., a person building a boat at home for their own use is not permitted to sell that vessel until five years after it is completed. That means if you spend hundreds or thousands of dollars building your dream boat, and then either discover it was not your cup or tea or perhaps need the money because you lost your job - tough luck, you're stuck with it. Other European laws strictly regulate the type and size of vessel that is permitted to go offshore, and require you to buy and equip your boat with all sorts of expensive safety equipment that does not necessarily apply to the type of craft you own. For example, in some countries sea kayaks are not permitted to travel more than 1-mile from the shore, despite the fact that they are among the most seaworthy of vessels. There are many people who would like to see such laws passed here as well, and if this "use tax" issue is not resolved in Tennessee, it looks like we're already headed that way.
This led me to click through to the reviewer's YouTube channel after watching the video about my book, and browsing through it, I saw that Urbivalist Dan has a wealth of insightful videos that may be of interest to readers of this blog. His channel is called Urban Survival Tools, and with more than 100 episodes posted, he has explored a wide range of topics such as Know Your Area's Disaster History, How to Find Survivalists in Your Area, How Krav Maga Can Save Your Bacon, as well many reviews of books and products. Urbivalist Dan has an easygoing on-camera presence and a clear, conversational voice that makes watch his videos easy. I recommend you browse his channel if you haven't seen it before, and I'm sure your find several episodes (or "prepisodes" as he calls them) that will be of interest to you.
In addition to the YouTube Channel, these videos and more are also available on his website: The Daily Prep
Here's his review of Bug Out Vehicles and Shelters:
And here is a follow-up he posted since that explores the meaning of bugging-out in general and presents some concepts you might not have thought about when making a bug out plan:
John has posted an article about yesterday's interview on his Destiny Survival blog here: http://destinysurvival.com/2012/02/03/survival-transportation-will-you-be-driving-or-rowing-when-you-bug-out/.
If you missed the show yesterday, you can listen to it anytime on the embedded player below. There was some connection problem at the beginning and you can hear someone (not John or me) questioning this, but the full show does begin about one minute later.
Dr. Prepper has been writing about preparedness since 1974, and certainly has a lot of insight on the topic. This is the second time I've been a guest on one of his shows, and thankfully, we had a better connection this time so the audio is much better. Although the focus of the interview was my newest book: Bug Out Vehicles and Shelters, we covered a lot of ground that went beyond just bugging out.
If you missed the show, you can listen to it here:
But since since that interview was a discussion of bugging out in general and bug-out vehicles in particular, I wanted to pass this article along here for those who might want to listen to the archived version:
"Last night I was the guest on a Blog Talk Radio Show called The Other Side... APrepper's Path, hosted by Lynna (http://prepperspath.com/). This show is part of the regular line-up on The Prepper Broadcasting Network and airs Thursday nights at 6:00 pm PST.
I really enjoyed talking with Lynna about my latest book: Bug Out Vehicles and Shelters. She had obviously taken the time to read the book before the show and asked some good questions that led to an interesting discussion. We talked about bug-out vehicles in general and especially some of the advantages of, and reasons for choosing various types of boats for certain bug-out scenarios and situations. We also talked about the concept of mobile retreats and discussed modifications to ordinary vehicles to optimize them for bug-out purposes. In addition, a caller with extensive kayaking experience and a military background joined in the conversation with his perspective on how he might utilize such a boat in his particular location near the Chesapeake Bay."
You can listen to the entire interview from the archive of the show at this link: http://prepperbroadcasting.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/show_2644861.mp3
More information about Lynna's show and links to past episodes can be found here: http://prepperbroadcasting.com/show-schedule/the-other-side-a-preppers-path/
This is the time of year when lots of people make New Year's resolutions, and many of those resolutions involve commitments to get back in shape. A lot of those thoughts are fueled by guilty feelings brought on by eating rich holiday foods in excess, as well as general increased levels of depression from being stuck inside a lot more during the winter months. Unfortunately, most people don't stick to their New Year's resolutions any more than they do most fitness goals they may set at other times of the year.
The reason is that most people see getting back in shape as a temporary problem that they think they can solve in a few weeks. When it doesn't happen, they just give up and go back to their old ways, quickly undoing any fitness gains they may have made. To be successful at long-term fitness, you must change your way of thinking about it and make it a permanent part of your lifestyle. This doesn't mean you have to join an expensive gym and go work out with a bunch of sweaty strangers in public, but you've got to make a conscious effort to get regular exercise and eat sensibly if you expect lasting benefits.
I've written about this before, but when it comes to survival preparedness, nothing you can buy in the way of gear or equipment can make as much difference in your odds of getting through a disaster as having the proper mindset and the physical conditioning to deal with adversity. Many people don't want to hear that, as it is easier to purchase a bunch of stuff than to actually get outdoors and subject themselves to rigorous camping trips, hikes, bike rides or survival skills training exercises. But the more challenges you put yourself through physically, the more confidence you will gain in your abilities, and it is that confidence that gives you the mindset you need.
We live in a time when everyday life is easier than it has ever been, in terms of physical effort needed to accomplish necessary tasks. For many people, seeking comfort is a primary goal and they have become so accustomed to always experiencing comfortable temperatures, safe and secure living and working environments and a limitless supply of infinitely varied food and drink that they would go to pieces if these things were taken away.
Rigorous exercise is one way to quickly snap your body out of the comfort zone. By stressing your muscles and aerobic capacity you can gradually condition yourself to become comfortable with increasing levels of activity to the point where you will actually begin to enjoy it and want to push harder. The key to this enjoyment though is to find exercise activities that you actually like doing. For me, hiking, paddling a canoe or kayak or riding a bicycle are all things I look forward to. I may not get as much enjoyment out of the dumbbell workout routine I do three times per week, but by keeping it sensible and limiting the amount of time it takes to complete it, it's been easy to stick with it. I've also been involved in the martial arts since my early teens, and while I'm not actively practicing Kenpo in a school these days, I still do a daily stretching routine first thing in the morning and often go through forms, techniques and basics to maintain at least some of my ability.
This year one of my main fitness goals is to increase my weekly mileage on my road bike and participate in several century (100-mile) rides. I've found that long-distance bike riding is one of the most enjoyable aerobic workouts for me, and I like it much better than running, which seems like drudgery. If I can get in a decent ride a few times per week I feel a whole lot better, have much more energy and can eat just about anything I want without worry. If I had the time to do it, I would prefer to spend my days canoeing or kayaking or back country hiking in some stunning mountain wilderness, but that's just not feasible nearly as often as a one or two hour bike ride. I'm fortunate to live in an area where I have many miles of quiet country roads with little traffic, good hills and smooth pavement right outside my door.
With two major book projects to complete in the next few months, I'm forced to spend a lot of time sitting in a chair with a keyboard in front of me as are many people in this strange lifestyle our modern technology has enabled. For me, it's essential to take frequent activity breaks and use other parts of my body besides my fingers. Fitness has to be more than a New Year's resolution. It has to be a lifestyle, especially as you get older, if you want to continue doing the things that were effortless in your teens and twenties.
A lifestyle of fitness is also essential you are to have any hope of surviving the kind of major upheaval many preppers are concerned about. If you're reading survival blogs such as this one, you've probably at least given some thought to scenarios that could snap you out of a high-tech life of ease in a heartbeat. If so, what are you doing to keep your mind and body prepared to deal with it? Have you made a New Year's resolution to get back in shape? If so, will you give up on it by February or March, or are you ready to go beyond temporary resolutions you can't keep and change your lifestyle permanently?
In this post about Three Knives for Everyday Carry, I mentioned the Cold Steel Voyager XL (5-inch blade model), as I have owned and carried one of these since first running across one in a local sporting goods store back in 1996. I was immediately drawn to the design the first time I handled it, as the size and balance seemed perfect and I could tell it would easily become an extension of my hand when applied with the Kenpo knife fighting techniques I had learned when I was heavily involved in that art. But beyond its potential as an excellent close-quarters weapon that was large enough to be effective yet easy to conceal, I felt it could also serve well as a general purpose field knife and over the years this has proven true. I've used it for skinning and dressing large and small game as well as for camp chores and rigging work while aboard my boat. Because of its light weight, smooth contours when closed, and convenient clip for securing inside a pocket or waistline of anything from sweat pants to swimming trunks, I rarely went anywhere without mine - that is until the clips broke off.
The one pictured in the post referenced above was my second one, as the first version came with an inferior plastic belt clip that once broken, could not be replaced. This second edition was somewhat improved, with a heavier-duty replaceable metal clip, but the clip was still the weakest point of the knife and eventually I snagged it on something while carrying the knife clipped in a side cargo pocket and broke that one too. The second version of the Voyager also had an improved gripping surface, but the shape and size was virtually identical, as you can see here in this photo of both knives with broken belt clips:
Both of my older Voyagers have the plain edge rather than the half-plain, half-serrated option that was available, as I prefer a blade I can easily keep sharpened to my needs when required. Like the older model, the new Voyager XL can be had with either a plain or 50/50 serrated blade for the same MSRP of $87.99. Changes in the design include a more secure grip, a new Tri-Ad locking mechanism, a flat ground blade rather than the hollow-ground of previous models, and ambidextrous pocket clips that are more discreet than the old design.
With both of my old voyagers somewhat more difficult to carry and put into action without the pocket clips, I figure it's time to try the new model. I'll report on it here after I've had time to compare the changes against my old favorites. You can get one on Amazon for $69.95, and compared to a lot of the competition, that's a bargain for such a versatile folder. If anyone has used the updated model and has some feedback, I'd love to hear from you.
Here's the manufacturer's description of the new Voyagers from the Cold Steel website:
Our Voyagers® are, ounce for ounce, far stronger than 99.9% of our competitor's folders. And this is a fact, not an idle boast. Each knife features precision made parts with a stiff spring and our incomparable Tri-Ad® lock mechanism which is arguably the strongest, most reliable, low maintenance lock in the world!
The thick, extra wide blades are made from Japanese AUS 8A steel and meticulously ground to a thin edge for maximum shearing potential. This thin edge also allows us to hone each blade to astounding sharpness. And, because of the high carbon content of the steel, and their near perfect heat treatment, you'll find this sharpness last a surprisingly long time.
If you like serrations, you'll really appreciate our exclusive pattern. It features groups of very small, sharply pointed teeth separated by wide, shallow arcs so it will rip smoothly yet very aggressively through a wide variety of tough fibrous materials without snagging or hanging up.
The Voyager® Series also offers all the other latest refinements in lock-back construction including lightning quick, one-handed opening, state of the art mechanical fasteners, massively oversized pivot pins that are fully adjustable and properly hardened, and dual stainless steel pocket clips for ambidextrous carry and deployment.
The Grivory handles feature 6061 heat treated aluminum liners for the utmost in strength and stiffness and are ergonomically designed to afford a wide array of grip options including the palm reinforced forward grip for which they are particularly well suited.
Grivory is unparalleled as a handle material as it is considerably stronger than Zy-Ex and, when deeply textured, offers a terrific non-slip grip. As an added bonus, it's impervious to moisture and won't crack, warp or shrink and remains remarkably resistant to abrasion or discoloration.
As tools these lightweight, super sharp knives are appropriate in almost any environment from hunting and camping to hiking and general utility chores. They can also readily fill specialty functions such as a boat or river knife, chute knife or police/military and survival/rescue applications.
But just last month I spent a few days in Tennessee and North Carolina, and while there had a chance to do some hiking in one of my favorite wild places in the East - the Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness Area. The leaves were mostly in full fall colors in the lower elevations and were already gone above 4,000 feet. That first week of November, conditions were perfect for exploring and camping and the mountain forests seemed benign and beckoning:
But I've also hiked this area in December and January in years past, picking my times between winter storms, and as I walked familiar paths on this recent trip, I thought about what it would be like here in a bug-out context. What would you do if circumstances forced you into prolonged stay in late fall with winter approaching, or perhaps even worse, if you had to suddenly leave the comfort of your home in winter? The same area could very well look like this:
How would you prepare to operate in such conditions? Do you have the clothing and shelter you would need to stay warm and dry, and have you tested it on actual trips? Have you experimented with shelter-building and fire-making in winter conditions? How much will cold temperatures and snow and ice slow down your rate of travel? Will you still be able to navigate? And if you are focused on keeping warm, especially at night, will you still be able to keep a low profile and stay out of sight of any potential threats? What about staying hydrated and carrying enough food or finding sources to supplement your supplies along the way? All of these things will become much more difficult in winter, and the consequences of failure could be much swifter.
If you live in a colder region than I do and there's a chance you may need such skills in a real-life survival scenario, now is the time to practice them. As with any kind of survival training, familiarity gained by experience is the best way to build the confidence you need to know you can prevail if really put to the test. You might even find, as many people do, that you prefer winter hiking and camping, especially if you love solitude and the challenges of staying comfortable in conditions that keep most people indoors.
For further reading on clothing, gear and logistics of operating in winter, there's an excellent post from earlier this week on the Warrior Talk News site called The Winter Warrior. Much of what Suarez International Staff Instructor, Eric W. Pfleger discusses could be applicable to anyone considering bug-out strategies, and includes: clothing and footwear selection, hygiene, hydration and first aid considerations, and weapons care, transportation and counter-tracking measures. It's an article well worth your time to check out.
When I was traveling through the Caribbean on my solo sea kayak journey of 1988-90, I met a young man in the town of Samana, in the Dominican Republic, who had suffered just such a horrible wound at the hands of a jealous husband wielding a machete. He was lucky to have survived, as the attacker meant to split his skull with it. Using his forearm to block the vicious strike, he almost lost the arm, but absorbed most of the force before it hit his face. Far more stitches than I could count encircled the forearm that was slashed to the bone and another row extended from the top of his scalp all the way across his forehead, eyebrow, bridge of his nose and cheekbone. All this just from one strike. While it is certain he would have been killed instantly if he had not sacrificed his arm to block the blow, if he had been in a situation where he could not get quick medical attention, he probably would have bled out from the cut artery in his arm anyway.
So what would you do in a case like that if you couldn't get outside help? I was thinking about this a lot over the last two days as I worked on a scene in my current book project (the post-apocalyptic novel I'm now writing) in which one of the characters is cut almost the same way. Getting to a hospital or calling for an ambulance is out of the question, so what choices does the person attending the victim have? Stopping the flow of blood is obviously the first priority, and depending on the severity and location of the wound, you may have only minutes to do so. Applying a tourniquet used to be the accepted wisdom, but it is now known that doing so almost guarantees the loss of the limb. Applying direct pressure is much safer, and can be just as effective. As it happens, just as I was sorting through various references on the correct way to do this, a message came through on my Twitter account informing me of a new follow by James Hubberd@thesurvivalMD, and the timing could not have been better.
I followed the link back to his website: The Survival Doctor, and found an excellent resource on just the kind of trauma first aid information I was looking for. Dr. Hubberd's blog posts only go back to September, but all of them are informative, with illustrations and videos that show and explain in simple terms how to deal with some pretty severe medical emergencies in the field. Dr. Hubberd is a family M.D. with 30 years of experience in the field. What's interesting about his approach, is that as his site title suggests, he's writing this for those interested in medical preparedness in the event of a disaster, social upheaval or other situation where you're isolated and "help is not on the way." I think this site is going to be a useful resource for all of us and I've added The Survival Doctor to my blogroll so we can all look forward to learning something new from Dr. Hubberd's updates. And thanks to the quick-thinking actions of his brother who knew just the right thing to do because of this new site, my badly-slashed character will not only live, but may even regain full use of his right arm again.
Such racks can be the general purpose type such as those that are standard equipment on many SUVs and some crossovers, or the more specialized removable systems with purpose-designed components to hold and lock-down sports equipment such as skies, bicycles or kayaks. The removable systems such as those offered by manufacturers like Thule and Yakima can be purchased for practically any model or style of vehicle, but they can get pricy if you add all the specialized equipment carriers available for them. Factory-standard or optional racks can also work, but some of these are not rated to carry the loads you may want to carry, while the best of the removable systems are much stronger.
When fitted on smaller vehicles, roof racks free up passenger space inside by allowing you to securely strap your gear and supplies overhead, where it's out of the way. As a means of carrying back-up vehicles, like bikes, canoes or kayaks, or shelter building materials like poles or lumber, roof racks are invaluable, because even with a large pickup some of these items are awkward to carry securely. A good rack system can often eliminate the need to pull a trailer, which adds its own set of complications when bugging out of a SHTF scenario.
So what kind of rack is best for your vehicle? One of the most versatile systems I've ever used is this basic set of Thule cross bars that I've owned since 1988. I have been able to make these work on several vehicles I've owned over the years, from sedans to sports cars and pickup. These make carrying canoes or 17-foot sea kayaks such as this one easy - even with the smallest compact cars:
I've never bothered with the specialized cradles for kayaks and attachments for other gear, preferring to simply tie down my load directly to the bars, using padding if necessary to protect delicate items - which my kayaks are not - as I build them to use, not look at.
These simple crossbar racks are rated to carry 165lbs. That's more than most people will need to strap on top of a vehicle, but I've certainly pushed them over the limit hauling lumber, causing them to flex but with no failures so far. They are available in lengths from 50 to 96 inches, making them adaptable to a wide range of vehicles. The mounting systems are sold according to your vehicle, and range from old-style vehicles with rain gutters to the sleekest, aerodynamic roof profiles of today. The bars can also be fitted with adapters to make them work with the fore and aft roof rails that many vehicles come with, but without crossbars except as an expensive manufacturer's option. More information about the fitment of these racks can be found on the Thule website. Amazon stocks the load bars as well and most of the fitment options you might need.
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