One of the most difficult tasks when boondocking is backing your RV into a suitable area. This can be made even more challenging if you don't have reverse lights on your RV and it's starting to get dark. In many cases, In our case, we usually don't reach our destination until it's gotten pretty late in the day. Without decent back-up lights, you could risk serious damage to your RV.
RW, Jr.'s RV didn't have any reverse lights and it really made it difficult to back-up when there wasn't much daylight left. To remedy this problem, I installed an LED spotlight on the spare tire carrier on RW, Jr.'s RV. If we wind up getting set up late in the evening, we don't have a problem because of a lack of daylight.
.The main obstacle was making a mounting bracket for the light. Replacing the existing taillights with ones that incorporated reverse lights was a pretty expensive proposition and they wouldn't have provided very much additional light. Standard reverse lights aren't very bright and wouldn't be a lot of real help when it gets dark.
I used an old aluminum bracket and a piece of 1/2" electrical conduit that was in my junk pile to fabricate a mounting bracket. It only required a couple of holes to be drilled in the spare tire mounting bracket to attach the light. I mounted it in a centered position that enabled the light to be used to its maximum advantage. This gave the maximum amount of light coverage.
The light was wired directly into the trailer wiring harness to the reverse light wire which hadn't been hooked up. Now RW, Jr has a spotlight that works any time he is backing up his RV. He can also see me when I'm guiding him into place if it's dark. I used a 10W 12V DC LED Floodlight for the reverse light. It's water-proof and puts out a lot of light.
Got boondocking light?
Staying above the water line!
Posted: July 25, 2014, 3:55 pm
Being able to start a fire is one of the best skills you can develop. It also usually requires some form of kindling or fire-starting material to make the task of building a fire easier and simpler. You also want to get that fire started quickly before it gets dark. Here’s a quick review of Instafire. RW, Jr. left me in charge of the firewood for a short boondocking trip we were on and unfortunately my wood pile had gotten wet from a brief rain shower the day before. Wet or even damp wood can be extremely difficult to start a fire without some help along the way. It was time to check out the firestarter product from Instafire. Instafire is fairly inert and very safe to handle. Although you should be able to start several fires with a single package, I opted to use the whole package. It does start easily with a match or a lighter and doesn’t flare up like charcoal starter or other readily flammable types of firestarters. It comes in a fairly rugged package that still manages to be easily opened by hand. A pile of the Instafire mixture was dumped in my hand and then added to the wood in my fire pit. With a quick flick of my Bic, I had a decent flame going right away. It also burns really hot! !. It’s very safe to handle (non-toxic) and doesn’t impart fumes to items being cooked over the fire. 2. It lights easily with a match or lighter. These are the two most common means of starting a fire used by most people on a regular basis in most circumstances. 3. It works well for starting charcoal without the usual fumes from charcoal starter or ashes blowing in the wind from using newspaper. 3. It burns extremely hot and handles large chunks of damp wood with ease. Disadvantages of Instafire: !. It can be a little pricey but is available in larger containers to reduce the cost. 2. Although the package stated you could start several fires with a single package, it’s difficult to gauge how much is needed when your wood is wet or damp. Instafire worked really well to get my fire started. It had no problem with getting my damp wood chunks burning. In less than thirty minutes, we had a decent fire. I probably wouldn’t use it on a regular basis but having some handy in case your firewood is wet or damp couldn’t hurt. It can also help if you have someone that has a low tolerance for some of the other types of chemical firestarters. Staying above the water line!
Posted: July 9, 2014, 3:13 pm
Many times when hiking trails you will come upon water sources in the wilderness. This could be a small pond, stream or simply a depression where water has collected. It is important to remember to avoid the problems that are inherent in any source of wilderness water before using it. Any water source should always be filtered and treated to remove any possible contaminants to avoid serious problems that could affect your health and ultimately your survival.
Simple Survival Tip
Proper water treatment methods should always be used before consuming water from a wilderness source.
Got wilderness water?
Staying above the water line!
Posted: July 9, 2014, 2:57 pm
Every day, hundreds of lightning bolts crash down from the heavens onto the earth below. For the Scandinavians, just as thunder was the embodiment of Thor, lightning was the embodiment of the hammer he used to protect humans from the ever-present threat of giants. These days, there may be fewer giants in the woods, but menacing electrical storms can still wreak havoc on your property. Luckily there are many small things you can do around your home to prepare it for the worst. 1. Remove Debris: Broken branches, building materials, lawn furniture, or other loose items around your home have the potential to become dangerous projectiles in the midst of a storm. Take time to assess your backyard and complete any tree removal or limb-trimming you feel is necessary. 2. H2O to Go: If a severe electrical storm is in the forecast, your power grid and city water system might both be at risk of going down. Fill up buckets, bottles, and even your bathtub for washing and drinking. Ice bags in the freezer can also help- a couple days without power may cost you a couple hundred bucks in rotten food. Fill freezer bags with water and keep them in the freezer, then use them in the event of a blackout to help food stay cold longer. When they thaw out, you’ve got clean drinking water. Before the storm, you can also make a rainwater collection system for very little money and store hundreds of gallons of water to use for your garden, plumbing, or other uses. 3. Repair Your Roof: In order to prevent leaks and severe damage to your roof during a downpour, you should carefully inspect your roof gutters and shingles. Doing minor repairs early on is much better than cleaning up the after-effects of indoor flooding. Start by examining chimneys, skylights, and plumbing vents for moisture. Look for algae stains on interior plywood, wet insulation, or rust around nails, since these are some telltale signs of leaks. 4. Solar Sump Pump: For remote areas needing pumping without access to power, a sump pump with solar batteriescan provide the answer. Install a couple of small solar panels to charge the portable water pump’s batteries, and you can go “off the grid” with your portable pump. Some people live in areas where storms may leave them without access to a working electrical grid for weeks or even months; in these cases, it can be very useful to have a battery backup to keep solar electricity in reserve for nights and cloudy days. Solar energy is catching on among many in the United States, and in Canada you can even find alternative eco-friendly energy plans through various informational websites that can let consumers bypass main fossil-fuel based providers altogether. 5. Fill Your Gas Tank: Keep a full propane tank handy so that you and your family can still enjoy a hot meal if you have a gas grill and meat in the freezer. In times of lengthy outages, you can always grill the contents of your fridge before the food spoils. Filling your car with gas before a storm allows you to turn it into an additional survival tool. Cars can be used to charge cell phones, provide heat, and even function as a generator with a power inverter. Your car is also your means of emergency transport and without power, gas stations in your area will be unable to help you refill your tank. Each storm is unique, and presents its own unique set of challenges, but having some survival tips in mind can help put the odds in your favor. With all the time and money you’ve invested into your property, being prepared is just plain common sense. Beth Kelly is a freelance blogger from the Midwest and the author of this guest post. Thanks go out to Beth for some great tips. Staying above the water line!
Posted: June 30, 2014, 10:49 pm
Staying above the water line!
Posted: June 8, 2014, 2:25 pm
Hidden Dangers on the Trail
While often nearly impossible to detect, keeping your eyes open will often reveal dangers before they become a serious threat. In the pic above there is a copperhead hidden underneath an old tree stump. The markings on a copperhead can make it very difficult to see and its head was hidden in the shadows. This is a potentially lethal encounter if you aren't using your powers of observation. They will sense you before you are even aware of their presence.
Here is a close-up view of the copperhead coiled underneath the old tree stump. His head is barely visible in the shadows. This picture was taken pretty close to dark thirty and it was probably intent upon finding a meal. It also appeared to be a mature adult and was probably looking for smaller prey. It did seem slightly annoyed and disturbing it further probably would have been a very bad idea.
There are a lot of hidden dangers on the trail. If you aren't observant along the trail or during your hikes, you could have a seriously bad day.
Got powers of observation?
Staying above the water line!
Posted: June 6, 2014, 10:19 pm
Ever wonder where a cicada is hiding? You might want to check the grass at your feet.
Got green bugs?
Staying above the water line!
Posted: June 5, 2014, 5:33 pm
Off Grid Power Tools
Battery packs can be expensive and the chargers for them can also fail to recharge the battery packs sufficiently. Sometimes you have to use a direct solution to solve a problem. In this case, a small portable drill that operates on 12 volts was modified to work directly off a 12 volt source such as a car or tractor battery. Include a short extension cord and you are good to go.
Got off grid power tools?
Staying above the water line!
Posted: June 1, 2014, 7:30 am
How do you float a tractor?
Use lots of water!
Staying above the water line!
Posted: May 27, 2014, 12:57 pm
In Part One the basic planning for making a portable water pump was covered. The actual project assembly closely followed my initial plan and only a few changes were made from the original design plan. Most of the changes in the original plan were made in order to enhance the functional operation of the portable water pump or to simplify its use. Building a DIY Portable Water Pump - Assembly and Accessories 1. Portable Power Options - Using Solar Panels One of the best ways to keep any system portable is to have a convenient power source. While the choice to use battery power was inevitable, using solar panels to keep that battery power maintained would keep the system portable and there would be no need for a grid connection. Once a decision was made to use a couple of small solar panels to charge the portable water pump’s batteries, it became a simple task to install the panels. I didn’t want a system where you had to worry about hooking up a remote solar panel with wires running to it. A self-contained system was going to be easier to use and make things less complicated. It turned out that two small 12 volt solar panels could be easily attached to the handle of the rolling tool box and still leave plenty of room to grip the handle. The handle was also able to be completely folded in the down position without any additional interference. Another advantage of this set-up was that a tab stop on the handle allowed the mounted solar panels to be angled in a manner that increased the exposure of the solar panels to the sun. Installation of the small solar panels was a simple matter of drilling four holes in the handle and bolting the solar panels to the tool box handle. 2. Mounting the Water Pump The water pump was then mounted to the bottom of the included toolbox storage tray. It would have been nice if the tray had offered a flatter surface on the top side. This would have made it easier to mount the pump to the tray. As a result, the pump was mounted to the underside of the tray which had a relatively flat mounting surface. I also didn’t want to leave the tray out as this would leave less storage options and also allow a set of pliers or a screwdriver to be kept handy. Keeping the pump mounted above the floor of the upper toolbox also allowed room for storage of the suction and discharge hoses. There is enough room for 30 feet of discharge hose and 10 feet of suction hose to be stored in the bottom of the toolbox. It was a simple task to flip the tray over in order to use the pump and deploy the suction and discharge hoses. There were two minor problems encountered with the hoses. The first was a small weight needed to be added to the suction hose because the weight of the debris strainer was insufficient to keep the end of the suction hose submerged. The other problem was kinking hoses caused by the pump design. This was solved by adding an elbow to the suction and discharge outlets of the pump. Testing the pump found it to have a minimal current draw of slightly more than 2.5 amps and a surge draw of about 4 amps until the pump was primed. This is low enough that it shouldn’t place a significantly large burden on the batteries. 3. Installing the Batteries The lower bin of the rolling toolbox offered space that could be utilized to hold a battery (or batteries) depending upon their size. Other versions of this toolbox offered a removable upper toolbox and a lower bin that was capable of holding a larger battery. The lower bin on this model of toolbox did not offer sufficient room to hold a larger deep-cycle battery (Group 24 or 27?). This also would have increased the weight factor significantly and ultimately affected its portability. Four 6 volt / 13 amp hour AGM batteries were mounted in the bottom bin. They were wired in series and parallel and would supply ample power to the pump. A small piece of 2X4 lumber was used on each end of the bin to secure the batteries in place. The AGM batteries were also able to be mounted in any configuration since they are sealed units. The cost of batteries could have been cut in half by using only two to power the pump but I felt the additional reserve power offered by using four batteries was worth the additional cost. There was also sufficient storage space left in the bin to hold a few additional items. These items included a grid charger, an external power supply hook-up and a bag of spare hose parts. 4. Installing the Solar Charge Controller In order to avoid the possibility of cooking the batteries, a solar charge controller was mounted in the lower bin of the toolbox. The charge controller was mounted using Velcro patches to avoid having to work in a confined space and dealing with the real possibility of accidentally shorting the wrong wire, This made it easy to detach the controller from the inside of the bin and pull the unit into the open to add or remove wiring as necessary. Four switches were installed on the lower sides of the toolbox to control various functions. These were a power switch that cut the main power to the charge controller and pump, a charge switch that disabled the charging function of the solar panels, a switch for an optional light was added in case it got dark before the water pumping chores were completed and a voltage switch was also included to indicate battery status without a continuous display from the voltage meter creating an additional strain on the batteries. There could have been additional cost savings by using simple toggle switches which are considerably cheaper than the chrome plate switches actually used in the project. The addition of a small work light added increased functionality should working conditions not have ideal lighting circumstances. This light was wired directly to the batteries and was operated with the simple flip of the switch. This allows any pumping chores to be completed even if you don’t finish before it gets dark. An external 12 volt 120 watt plug was added to give the added option of using a larger external battery as a power source for extended operational capabilities of the pump. It can also be used to power other 12 volt accessories as needed. This was wired directly to the batteries and was protected with a 10 amp fuse. It is important to note that it would perhaps have been better to mount the batteries in the top and the pump in the bottom. Unfortunately, this would have made the toolbox even more top-heavy that it was originally. The weight of even two small batteries would exceed the weight of the pump and make the toolbox even more unstable. Placing the batteries in the bottom section made the toolbox quite stable. While this project cost approximately $200 to make and was completed with all new parts, it doesn’t need an extension cord to make it work. It can also go where and when it’s needed very easily. There are also areas where the costs can be decreased (batteries, switches or other accessories) and place this type of portable pump on a similar cost basis with a grid-dependent water pump. There is one additional note about the portability of this unit. The total weight as assembled was slightly more than 25 pounds and this made it quite easy to lift over obstacles or be easily pulled over rough terrain on its wheels. Got portable pumping power? Staying above the water pumping line!
Posted: May 20, 2014, 1:23 am
The practical application of your knowledge should be the goal of any DIY project you may decide to undertake. A DIY project can be a simple solution to a major problem. If you just give it some careful thought and a little basic planning, you can find a solution that will solve the problem. Mrs. RW had a big problem in getting water from our rain barrels to her plants. With numerous rain barrels (and plants) in different places and spread out over a couple of acres, Mrs. RW needed some way to get the rain water that was collected to her plants without having to pack a jug or bucket. The solution was fairly simple. A portable water pump was needed to move the rainwater to the plants. Building a DIY Portable Water Pump - Basic Planning 1. Choosing a Portable Platform A decision was made to use a Stanley Mobile Work Centerfor the platform to build a portable water pump. It was fairly inexpensive and cheap enough to scrap the whole thing if the project went south. This is the case in many instances in my DIY projects and more often than you might think. It also offered a large storage bin that would be ideal to house a battery that would be needed to run the pump and it also had a folding handle that would also work great for this DIY project. The top toolbox also offered a decent amount of storage. Although the sliding door to the bin sometimes comes off its track, the door is easy enough to put back on its track. It has wheels and a fairly strong axle to accommodate the weight of any items stored in the bin and the tool box. The next step is choosing a power source. 2. Choosing a Portable Power Source
Any portable water pump is going to need a power source and grid plugs and gasoline aren’t always available. Consider that a good grid-powered water pump can cost upwards of $150 and one powered by a two or four cycle engine can cost several hundred dollars or more. This made the decision to use 12 volt power easy. The problem would be keeping the battery or batteries charged. Since the pump’s primary use would be in the daytime, a little solar action would take care of keeping the batteries charged.
Several battery options were considered. When a large deep cycle battery (24 series) wouldn’t fit and was way too heavy for the toolbox, a smaller and lighter battery option was needed. Four 6 volt / 13 Amp Hour AGM (absorbed glass mat) batteries were purchased on special for less than $60. This solved the problem as far as powering the portable pump. Using a couple of 12 volt (2.5 watt) solar panels that were purchased for less than $10 each would solve the problem of keeping the batteries charged. A solar charge controller would also be needed to protect the batteries from being overcharged and to regulate the load that would be placed on the batteries. 3. Choosing a Portable Water Pump Several features were going to be needed for our portable water pump to get the maximum use and benefit out of a portable system. A 12 volt water pump with a flow rate of 1.2 GPH (gallons per hour) with a pressure of 35 PSI was decided as the best option. The pump would also need to be lightweight and with a very minimal current draw to prevent exceeding battery capacity. It also needed to be cost effective and allow for the maximum size possible for our toolbox platform. Suction and discharge hoses can also take up a lot of space and greatly increase the weight factor. The size of the discharge and suction ports on the water pump should be a major factor when choosing a pump. The pump in this case had 3/8 inch ports which were suitable for this application. There are also additional accessories that may be needed in order to minimize any problems with your portable water pump. Some are required for safe and efficient operation. Others are optional and can be used or not used depending upon personal preferences. Fuses, switches, disconnects and battery monitors are just some of the items that are required for a safely functioning system. With a platform, water pump, power source and the accessories chosen, the only thing left was to put all the pieces together and hopefully end up with what should be an extremely versatile and useful piece of equipment. In Part Two, the actual details of building the portable water pump will be outlined. The manner in which problems were handled and the solutions that were chosen to deal with the problems encountered during the build process will also be covered.
Got pumping power?
Staying above the water pumping line!
Posted: May 19, 2014, 2:24 pm
New Solar Project
I have a new DIY project in the works. When it's completed, I'll be posting an update on the project. Waiting on a few miscellaneous parts to complete the final assembly.
Got DIY project?
Staying above the water line!
Posted: May 12, 2014, 2:52 pm
With my new storage shed finally completed, it was time to power it up. Conventional electrical power was going to be quite expensive to run electrical to my new shed because it wasn't very close to any existing conventional electrical power. Without any inside wiring, it was going to cost between three and five hundred dollars for a grid hook-up and I chose going the solar route as a cheaper alternative.
In the picture above are three 10 watt solar panels that were purchased on a close-out special for $29 each. Total cost of the solar panels was $87 plus tax. The panels also came with several additional cables that were cannibalized to wire up my system.
The above pictures show the mounting that was fabricated for the solar panels. The posts are standard chain link line posts (5 1/2 foot). The mounting frame was made from two pieces of one inch aluminum square tubing and two pieces of one inch aluminum angle brackets. All pieces were four foot in length. The total cost for this was slightly less than $40 but did require some time and effort to put together. A Battery Tender 25' Quick Disconnect Extension Cable was used to feed the solar panel output into the shed. The cost of the additional extension cable was about $13. A NOCO ISCC2 5-Way SAE Adapter Connector at a cost of about $5 was used to connect the solar panels together.
This is the underground pipe that feeds the extension cable into the shed. The cost of pipe and fittings was less than $20. The solar panels were only about ten feet from the rear of the shed. They were mounted to keep shade from the roof blocking the solar panels and to avoid rain from the roof falling directly onto the solar panels.
The above picture shows the charge controller in operation. An HQRP 20A Solar Panel Battery Charge Controller was chosen because the primary function of this system was to supply light to my shed and this charge controller works well for this purpose. The cost of the controller was slightly less than $30.
The above picture shows the in-line fuse of my connection to the battery from my controller. This is a Battery Tender Ring Terminal Harness with Black Fused 2-Pin Quick Disconnect Plug that connects directly to the solar charge controller. The positive cable in the picture runs to a small 400 watt inverter.
This picture shows my 100 amp battery ( Walmart brand ... $75) and my 400 watt inverter. The inverter is going to be used to power a small fan when working in the shed. The cost of the inverter was $25. It's big enough for it's planned use but a bigger inverter may be added later as money permits.
This is the Cobra 400-Watt 12-Volt DC to 120-Volt AC Power Inverter that is being used in my system. I used larger cables than came with the unit to lessen current loss and avoid over-heating from using cables that I felt are too small to handle even the light loads that may be placed on this unit. My plans are to not exceed 50% of capacity as a safety precaution and to prevent damaging the inverter. It includes a USB charging port. This is the charge controller during a load test. In the picture, you can see where the SAE connector to the solar panel input has been disconnected. This triggers the sensor on the charge controller which then opens current to the load connections. This causes the LED light to turn on. This is a SainSonic CMP12-10A Solar Charge Panel battery Controller Regulator 10A 12V/24V Auto Switcherspare controller that was purchased as a back-up unit. Just in case!
Any solar power system should be designed for your needs and in such a manner that you don't place unnecessary strain on your equipment. This will insure that it is capable of meeting your requirements. With a little time and effort and slightly more than $250, this system satisfies my needs and should give me good service for an extended period of time. It also doesn't add to the cost of my grid service.
Special thanks go to RW, Jr. who built the shelf that was used hold all the equipment (battery, inverter, charge controller, etc.) and for digging the post holes.
Staying above the water line!
Posted: April 25, 2014, 4:07 pm
If you needed to live off of the items in your home for an undetermined amount of time, would you be ready? No matter where you live, your home is susceptible to natural disasters and emergency situations. Creating an effective food storage is important for everyone, no matter their household size or living situation. Because starting your food storage may be a bit overwhelming at first, we’re here to help you take care of this i
mportant detail in emergency preparation. Check out these five easy tips then start building your food storage today!
While it may feel like you should be getting this done ASAP, it’s important that you take your time to get it right. Add a few items to your supply each week until you have three months of food stored away for you and your family. It takes time to stock up on a whole year’s supply of food. Learn to use your freezer and make extra portions of your favorite foods to bag and freeze them.
You don’t have to go broke buying supplies for your food storage. Start with a food storage plan and add a little at a time. Use a checklist to ensure that you’ve purchased foods that you will actually eat. This will help you stick to a budget as you add to your food storage over time.
One of the major obstacles you will encounter is finding enough space for your emergency preparedness supplies. Preparing space in advance will help you find areas for storage. Don’t panic if you have a restricted amount of space to work with. It’s fun to get creative when looking for storage space ideas. The most common places that are overlooked are under beds, in closets, under dressers, under desks, and under or behind sofas. You can also go through your household items and toss duplicate or seldom-used items.
Occasionally, you will have to go through your emergency food supply to replace older items. You will want to do this once a year or even every two years. It is important to restock what you remove. Rotating your long term food storage is an awesome way to introduce your family to the flavors of your emergency supplies while keeping it refreshed.
5. Keep track of your items:
Find a simple system for tracking what you have as well as what you need. Without a food storage inventory, you could end up with too much or too little of food.
Guest post by: Augason Farms
For more than 40 years, Augason Farms
has provided quality a la carte and bulk food storage
items to home and business owners throughout the U.S. Our high quality kits and a-la-carte items provide our customers with easy and affordable solutions for starting an emergency food storage supply.
Staying above the water line!
Posted: April 22, 2014, 1:59 pm
Hope everyone has a nice Easter Holiday and gets a chance to spend some time with friends and relatives this weekend. It's time to take a break from taxes and spring cleaning and concentrate on spending some quality time with family.
God bless you and keep you safe!
Staying above the water line!
Posted: April 17, 2014, 7:40 am
One of the basic tenets of living the survival life is to always be prepared. After all, you never know when a simple hike in the woods can turn into a life-threatening situation or when a natural disaster will turn your comfortable home into a bunker. Being prepared means always having basic survival gear with you at home or on the road, no matter where you're headed or how brief the trip. A basic emergency supply kit for survivalists should include the following: Basic Emergency Supply Kit for Survivalists 1. Water. Although people can survive without food for quite a while, water is essential to basic day-to-day survival. Because of this, it is recommended to have one gallon per person per day available (enough for two days at home and enough for three days away from home.) A pocket water purifier is also a good idea, so you can replenish your water supply. 2. Food. Non-perishable, easy-to-prepare food items are also part of a complete survival kit. Again, enough for two days at home and enough for three days away from home. 3. Flashlight and extra batteries. You can't count on electricity in a crisis or emergency situation. Having a flashlight and a good supply of batteries stored in a plastic bag is essential. 4. Hand-crank radio. Having a radio can keep you apprised of an emergency situation a lot more reliably than a cell phone or mobile device that is dependent on reception issues and having the batteries fully charged. 5. First aid kit. Sprains, cuts and other emergency health situations can happen anywhere. Being prepared includes having a basic first aid kit on hand. It is advised to include bandages, antibiotic ointment, sterile gloves, scissors, aspirin, a blanket, tweezers and a non-glass thermometer. 6. Extra cash. In an emergency, such as a hurricane or other natural disaster, you likely won't be able to use credit cards or get to an ATM machine. Our "cash-less" society shuts down when there isn't any electricity. 7. Medications. In an emergency, you may not be able to get to your supply at home or to re-fill your prescriptions at the pharmacy. It is recommended to have a seven-day supply on hand at all times and make sure to rotate that supply regularly so you don't have expired medications in your emergency supply kit.
8. Family and emergency contact information. If you're separated from your family members in an emergency situation, you'll want to be able to call them to let them know you're okay. Equally, you may need police, fire or emergency medical personnel. It's wise to keep those numbers at hand, also.
Putting it together in an emergency supply kit helps you have the materials you need in the event of an emergency situation. It's all part of living the survival life, and such a kit will help you have peace of mind that you can handle whatever life has in store.
About the Author
At Survival Life our mission is to provide a vast array of knowledge, tactics, and skills in the survival and preparedness fields, to any and all who wish to become more prepared for whatever may come. We will take a logical and no nonsense approach to survival without bias in hopes of dispelling the myth that anyone who prepares themselves is crazy or paranoid. Click here to visit our site and learn more.
Staying above the water line!
Posted: March 20, 2014, 12:54 pm
If you make changes to a piece of equipment that is still under warranty, you risk voiding the warranty even though the changes you made weren't the cause. Unfortunately, all the “bells and whistles” aren’t included on most equipment and there are times when the simple addition to a piece of equipment will insure it functions properly. Many generators don’t come with an hour meter. Hour meters are great for keeping track of run times on equipment and to help you keep track of service intervals for your equipment. This will help you get the maximum life out of your equipment. Adding an hour meter in the wrong way by altering the equipment (like drilling holes for a gauge) can effectively negate your warranty. Companies don’t like you altering their equipment, even if it serves a worthwhile cause. Most generators include a 12 volt outlet on their control panel. Using a 12 volt plug-in adapter and a fairly strong magnet, you can easily hook-up an hour meter to your generator without making any modifications to your generator. This works on other types of equipment also. You can also use double sided self-adhesive tape or plastic zip ties. Use whatever is handy and avoid making any permanent modifications to your generator to avoid loss of your warranty. If possible, try to find a double wire that has a black with white stripe and a plain black wire. The wire with the white stripe should be used for the positive connections (+). This keeps the polarity correct and in accordance with current 12 volt wiring standards. You might want to use a double outlet plug-in that will allow you to use your 12 volt connection to power items other than your hour meter. In this case I used the additional outlet to power a two speed 12 volt fan that can be used to provide additional cooling to the engine on hot days or if it is in an enclosed space (generator box). Prior to installing on my generator, I plugged the finished assembly into the power outlet on my truck until 2.4 hours had been registered to update the meter reading to include the hours run on the generator at this time. After final testing, the meter read 2.6 hours which indicated a total test time of about 15 minutes. Total cost for this non-invasive hour meter installation is about $35 and can be done for less if you scrounge a few old parts.
This completed my final test on the generator and everything worked as expected. The only item left is an oil change since the initial engine break-in period has been completed.
Staying above the water line!
Posted: March 13, 2014, 8:12 pm
If the grid goes down for more than a few hours, you could wind up suffering a bigger loss than your lights or TV. That fridge or freezer full of food items can be a total loss if you don’t have a means of auxiliary power to protect your food investment. If the power stays off for an extended period of time, you will probably need a portable generator to prevent a catastrophic loss. Here is a list of the Predator 4000 generator main features: 212cc 6.5 HP air-cooled OHV gas engine 10 hours run-time @ 50% capacity Low oil indicator and low oil shutdown Heavy duty 1" steel roll cage UL listed circuit breakers Four 120 volt, 20 amp grounded receptacles One 240 volt, 30 amp grounded receptacle One 12 volt DC cigarette lighter port 1.) The generator unit I received arrived in a very timely fashion in only 7 days. The shipping time was estimated at 7 to 10 days. This was within the time frame specified. 2.) Straight out of the box I was very impressed by the fit and finish of the Predator 4000 Generator. A check for sharp edges, loose bolts or missing parts turned up negative. The paint job was excellent and exhibited no major flaws or defects. 3,) It also came with a small tool kit (Philips head screwdriver, spark plug wrench and an open end wrench), an Instruction Manual and a Quick Start Guide. Straight out of the box this unit gets a solid 5 star rating. Operational and Maintenance Features One of the most important things about a piece of equipment is its ease of operation and the ability to perform routine maintenance in an easy and simple manner. The Predator 4000 Generator comes out very “user friendly” in this regard with only one exception. 1.) The Fuel Tank - The top-mounted fuel tank with a capacity of four gallons makes refueling an easy task. It includes a tank vent, top-mounted fuel gauge, a debris strainer and a large fuel cap with a retention chain. The large opening on the fuel tank made fueling the generator a very quick and simple process. 2.) The Control Panel - The On/Off switch, the outlet receptacles, circuit breakers and low oil warning light are all located in a panel on the front side of the unit. This keeps everything together and makes it easy to access and check. 3.) The Spark Plug, Air Filter and Carburetor - The spark plug is easy to access and can be cleaned or changed easily with the spark plug wrench supplied in the tool kit that came with the unit. The air filter on this generator (foam) was easy to access without additional tools, very simple to clean (soap and water) and then re-install. The carburetor also included a drain plug to assist with long term storage. This makes the maintenance of these items a simple task without any extra hassle. 4.) Oil Fill and Drain - This is the exception when it comes to operation and maintenance of this generator. Access to the oil fill plug is somewhat of a hassle. You will need a funnel with a long “flexible” spout or an oil squirt can (my choice) to add oil to the unit. Draining the oil also requires the unit to be tilted. This is something that could be easily corrected with the addition of an oil drain plug to the engine. Overall, I would rate the operation and maintenance of this generator 4 out of 5 stars. While the majority of operation and maintenance is a simple task, the process of filling and changing the oil is simply not as “user friendly” as it could be for what will most likely be a fairly frequent task. After filling the generator with the required amount of oil (approximately 3/4 quart or .6 liter) and adding approximately 2 1/2 gallons (half a tank by the fuel gauge) of treated fuel with a stabilizer additive, it was time to pull the handle and crank this new generator up. 1.) Light Load - The unit cranked on the third pull and the engine smoothed out very quickly in less than a minute. It was allowed to operate about 15 minutes without a load. It was then shut down and re-started. It cranked on the first pull and was allowed to run about 5 minutes before a light load was applied. A small lamp was hooked up to the init and worked well with no noticeable increase in the load on the generator. All power outlets on the unit were then checked and found to be functioning properly. The generator was run with this light load for approximately 45 minutes. An LP14-30 cord was then connected and a light load used to check the four prong outlet on the generator. This was also found to be operating correctly. 2.) Heavy Load - A heavy load was not placed on the unit because the unit requires a break-in time of about 3 hours and was only operated about 2 hours during this initial use.
Here is an update with the results of a heavy load test and the installation of a wheel kit:
1.) The Predator 4000 Generator is a very “user friendly” piece of equipment and all features worked properly. 2.) Its cost is relatively inexpensive and can be found on sale frequently which makes it an even better buy. The fit and finish of this generator was also excellent straight out of the box. 3.) Most of the operation and maintenance chores on this generator are easy to accomplish. The only exception is the oil fill and drain issues noted previously. 4.) The generator unit is heavy (128 pounds). Unless you are planning a more permanent installation, you will probably need to order the wheel kit that is available for this generator. This will make moving it to various locations an easier task. 5.) You also need to add a torpedo level to the tool kit. This will allow you to check the level of the unit. Units that are not level can cause problems with the low oil shutdown feature or affect how efficiently fuel feeds from the gas tank.
6.) Make sure to read the Owner's Manual and Instructions prior to operating this unit.
The Predator 4000 Generator makes an excellent and very affordable addition to your preparedness gear. Staying above the water line!
Posted: March 5, 2014, 9:31 am
In my prior review of the Harbor Freight Predator 4000 Generator, there was only a light load test conducted during the initial break-in period. I’ve since installed a wheel kit and conducted a heavy load test.
The wheel kit from Harbor Freight is amazingly easy to install and only a quick reference to the included instructions were necessary during the installation of the wheel kit. Note: You will need a set of metric wrenches for the installation.
Blocking It Up
To facilitate the wheel kit installation, I simply blocked the generator up with a short length of a 4X4 wood block. This provided adequate clearance to install the axles and the wheels. Once the wheels were installed, the other end of the generator was raised in a similar fashion. This allowed the front levelers to be attached easily and quickly. The handle was easily attached with four bolts. You don’t need nuts on the bolts as stated in the instructions. Just make sure to orient the handle bracket properly to allow adjustment of the handle. It includes a pin with a lanyard to lock in the adjustment desired on the handle position. Total wheel kit installation time was less than 15 minutes and in no time it was ready to go. A wheel kit will make moving your generator a very simple and easy process. I also conducted a heavy load test on the generator afterwards. I used a couple of halogen lamps that draw a steady 10 amps when plugged in. The generator gave a slight burp when the lamps were hooked up but smoothed out quickly. It was run for an hour with this load without any problems. All that’s left to do is a break-in oil change of the unit. Staying above the water line!
Posted: March 5, 2014, 9:26 am
A former US Army Cavalry Scout, Patrick Shrier seeks to put the essential “need to know” items in a simple and easy to follow format. He places a lot of emphasis on survival planning (short and long term) and having the necessary items in your preparedness kits to facilitate your survival planning. He includes the steps of the decision making process to help you in planning for your survival. In addition to information on planning and preparedness kits, Patrick includes a strong emphasis on first aid, map reading and navigation, and outdoor survival skills (acquiring food and water, making fire, and building shelter). He also includes a section on a variety of knots that can be very useful in a survival situation. He also includes an appendix on foodborne illnesses which could come in quite handy. Patrick Shrier also includes a section on Combat skills that will probably have a greater appeal to ex-military or law enforcement than the average person but could still be handy in a worse case scenario. His section on map reading and navigation is one of the best I’ve seen in any survival book that is currently available. Of course, you would expect a former Cavalry Scout to be really good when it comes to being able to navigate any terrain in a proficient manner. Staying above the water line!
Posted: February 28, 2014, 3:01 pm
Normally on a day hike, you don’t really think about carrying shelter. The weather in Texas can fool you and it usually means someone is going to get wet. Although temperatures stay fairly warm through most of the year, there is a big chance of getting caught in a rainstorm. You might also want to stay out overnight if your sightseeing kept you from completing the entire hike you had planned. The UST Bug Tent and Tarp make a great lightweight addition to your day pack. It will work to keep you dry (drier?) until the rain lets up or give you a place to rest without feeding those blood-sucking mosquitoes all night. These work great for use as an emergency shelter when day hiking. The tent poles can be easily folded and strapped to the side of your pack. You can also opt to carry the tarp only. I also carry a small nylon tarp to use as a ground cloth (see pic) to protect a lightweight sleeping bag that I also carry. With a little food and a full water reservoir, my day pack weighs slightly less than 15 pounds on average. Regular backpacking or a colder climate would require something more substantial. My regular backpacking bag runs about twice the weight of my day pack (30 to 32 pounds). It’s a lightweight combination that can be easily carried in your day pack and be there if you need it. Never hurts to have a backup plan in case nature decides to hand you a different set of circumstances on a sunny day. Staying above the water line!
Posted: February 25, 2014, 12:19 pm
Last Tuesday I had the opportunity to be a guest on John Wesley Smith’s radio program. It had been a while since I had been on his show. You can find a link to the radio program on his site and a brief overview of the many topics we discussed including “underground preppers” here: Staying above the water line!
Posted: February 24, 2014, 1:43 pm
“Tribes” is John S. Wilson’s prequel to his other survival novels Joshua and Traveler. In this latest edition, John manages to create some thought-provoking survival scenarios that are about as close to what can happen when the grid goes down and everything goes to hell. With a new set of characters, John has been able to create an entirely different set of circumstances to test his new main character, Tom, and his ability to lead a small group in his community as they struggle to survive. From the paranoid to the psychotic to downright mean and sadistic characters, you will have a lot better understanding of what may happen should you face a similar survival situation. Sometimes, survival isn't as easy as you may think. Staying above the water line!
Posted: February 12, 2014, 2:01 pm
Having food items that can serve a variety of purposes can help increase your level of efficiency of your food storage. A simple can of beans works great for home storage. If you have to bug out, something a little lighter and easier to carry make be more suitable. This is where having dehydrated food can save you time and effort. RW, Jr. and I are always looking for backpacking food that is convenient and easy to fix. Unfortunately, most dehydrated meal packets contain enough servings to feed a small army because of their larger portions. It also helps if you don’t have to violate the storage integrity of the larger food packet that is normally intended for long term storage. Many times there are products that can be found sitting on the shelf at your local supermarket that will solve these problems. For the purposes of this test, we will be using a small package of instant (dehydrated) refried beans straight off the shelf for our survival food test. The package of dehydrated refried beans we used weighed a total of 7.25 ounces and came packaged in a Mylar pouch that can be resealed. The single serving size was 1/3 cup dry mix (or about 4 heaping teaspoons) combined with 1/3 cup of water (about 3 ounces). This makes a serving (or two) easily prepared in a GSI cup that many backpackers use. The contents do provide a sufficient quantity of product that will make a total of six servings. This would be more than sufficient for a single meal that would provide enough for a family of four. With 140 calories per serving that include 2 grams of fat, 21 grams of carbohydrates and 7 grams of protein, this a pretty powerful serving of food that includes vitamin C and iron. This is a pretty well balanced serving as far as simple nutrition is concerned. It was easily prepared by just adding hot water, stirring the ingredients and then letting it set for a few minutes to allow the beans to rehydrate. It really doesn’t get much easier than that. When the size and weight was compared, it would take two 16 ounce cans of refried beans to get the same number of servings that were in a single pouch of instant refried beans. The cost of the instant pouch is about twice the cost of two cans of refried beans. You do need to remember that you can buy these packages individually and don’t have to buy a big bucket all at once. This could work in your favor if you are on a tight budget. Summary of Test Results
The instant refried beans win in the number of servings (6 in a pouch versus 3 in a can) and also save a lot in the weight department (7 ounces versus 2 lbs.) but are more costly (about twice the cost of the canned version). The instant refried beans have a shelf life similar to the canned product and they actually taste very similar to each other. I personally could not tell a difference between the canned version and the instant refried beans.
As a long term storage food, this product works well. It also works great as a backpacking food and could be easily added to your bug out bag as a simple to prepare meal that is also a nutritious food item. It also doesn't add a lot of weight to your bug out bag. Staying above the water line!
Posted: January 28, 2014, 8:28 pm
Water Pic #4
Staying above the water line!
Posted: January 20, 2014, 4:34 pm