Bug Out Vehicle (BOV) Chronicles: Creek’s Project BOV Truck: Series Post #2

Anyone wondering what I’ve been doing to the BOV????  Well… here’s another update.

I found a Truck Cap

I bought a really nice black aluminum truck cap on craigslist for $200  It’s got locking side doors and locking back barn doors with metal mesh across the inside of the windows.  It’s rock solid and it has a nice roof rack which I will put to use later.  I plan on adding an extra locking pad-lock latch to each door.

 

cap-ground

 

I put it on the truck and it fits like a glove.  I think the truck looks more beefy with it on so I’m really pleased with the look.  I still need to remove the tailgate but that’s an easy fix.

 

cap-angle cap-back

 

 The beauty of high heat grill paint

I picked up some standard BBQ grill spray paint at the local hardware store and went to work on the cap.  I’m not so fond of the glossy black paint on the truck cap.

 

cap-taped

 

After me and some buddies taped off the windows we had the cap painted in just a few hours.  Definitely more BOV style.

 

cap-spray-painted

 

That put me in the mood to do some more spray painting so I decided to touch up all the accents on the truck like the handles, mirrors, bumpers and brush guard.  Before I did this I sanded everything down really good and went ahead and sanded down all the crusty spots on the truck paint as well.  I’ve got some ideas for this but we’ll get to this in a future post.

I also welded on a sweet SPARE TIRE mount from my friends over at WARRIOR PRODUCTS.  This is the one I chose: http://www.warriorproducts.com/catalog-new/product-category/rack-systems/spare-tire-mount/  I can’t wait to mount a big fat tire on the front of that brush guard.

 

handles-taped

door-handles-blacked

mirror-blacked

front-spare-mount

sanded-blacked

 

 My new Boots Arrived

Well, sortof.  New boots for the truck at least.  I upgraded the tires to some FREAKING AWESOME Super Swampers from INTERCO TIRE CORPORATION: http://www.intercotire.com/.  Holy tires Batman – these things are incredible.

interco-wheels

 

I picked up some old rims on craigslist and spray painted them with the black grill paint as well.  I loaded up the tires and went to the local tire shop as fast as possible.  Luckily I got that hernia fixed.

 

tires-in-truck

 

 Closing shots

So here’s what she looks like so far (without the cap).  Definitely coming together.  I can’t wait to show you my ideas for the paint.  I know… I know… I should leave it alone and blend in.  But you know just as well as I do that it would be boring.  I’ve got to give you some eye candy so give me a break.

 

tires-low

front-angle-2

front-low

front-angle

 

 Keeping it Real

As a special touch and to really it make it feel like my BOV, I added a reminder above the seat inside that I thought you’d appreciate.

not-if-but-when

 

 Hit me

Ok, so tell me your thoughts.  THE WINCH IS COMING – I PROMISE!!!

Remember, it’s not IF but WHEN,

Creek

About Willow Haven Outdoor & Creek Stewart
Creek Stewart is the Owner and Lead Instructor at Willow Haven Outdoor - a leading Survival and Preparedness Training Facility located on 21-acres in Central Indiana.  For more information on Survival Courses and Clinics offered at WHO, click HERE.  Creek is also author of Build the Perfect Bug Out Bag: Your 72-Hour Disaster Survival Kit and The Unofficial Hunger Games Wilderness Survival Guide.  Visit Creek's personal web-site here: WWW.CREEKSTEWART.COM. You can contact Creek directly at creek@willowhavenoutdoor.com.
 
 

My most popular question – ANSWERED! – And, how a CROW changed my life.

I get asked a lot of questions.  I mean a lot of questions.  I spend a good part of every morning replying to questions asked via e-mail and voice mail.  I get asked a lot of questions at our training courses here as well.  I also get asked a lot of questions at speaking venues and book signings.  I never get tired of them and am always happy to share whatever knowledge I have about whatever the subject that is being discussed.

Out of all the questions I get asked, there is one question I get asked most often…

How did you make your dream of becoming a survival instructor a reality?

Many ask this question, or some version of it.  Some, it seems, are more interested in this topic than survival information.  I always find that interesting and because it happens so often, I’m convinced there must be something to it.  I thought I’d take a moment to tell a little bit about my story and maybe shed some light on exactly how my career came to pass and how, in fact, I made it happen.  The last few words of the previous sentence are written with intention.  Notice I didn’t write ‘and how it happened’.  I wrote ‘ and how I made it happen’.  It’s that small difference that can determine whether or not something comes to pass.  We’ll get into more of that later.  For now, let’s start at the beginning.

Yes, I was a Boy Scout.  And, yes, I am an Eagle Scout.

I get asked that a lot too.  Boy Scouts reinforced my love for the outdoors and my interest in self reliant skills.  Remember, the Boy Scout motto is ‘Be prepared’ after all.  I’ll always have fond memories of my time in scouting.  I also grew up on a farm and spent most of my childhood outside.  Long story short, I discovered at an early age that I’m happiest in the woods.

High school happened.  Then college.

I graduated high school and then went to Butler University in Indianapolis, IN.  I actually started as a pharmacy major – HA!!!!  It didn’t take me too long to figure out I was hiking the wrong path with that choice – no offense to my pharmaceutical minded friends :)  I settled on a business major.  I was now in the city, but found myself in between classes and on weekends wandering the small patches of woods that spotted the campus .  I longed for the feeling of being submerged in nature.  It was definitely missing from my life and I knew it.  It all came to a head one day with a crow.

The Crow

Yes, a crow.  You know, the bird  - black with a really annoying call.  Well, there was a certain crow that came every morning to the yard just outside my dorm window.  It always came early and always made an insane amount of noise squawking and calling.  It’s call echoed throughout the small grass courtyard and tormented me awake each morning.  Somehow, this daily diatribe of squawks and cackles summoned the inner woodsman in me that the city and college life had so subtly repressed.  I decided to set a snare for that crow, which I had now named after one of my least favorite pharmacy professors.

crow

I still remember the thrill and challenge of building that snare.  I was trying to outwit one of the smartest and alert birds on the planet.  I don’t remember much about college but I remember that incident like it was yesterday.  Everything had to be perfect; the trigger I carved from the pine tree in the parking lot, the knots I tied into the dental floss line, the bait, the placement, the timing, everything.  It was me against thousands of years of pure natural instinct, now bird-animal against human-animal.  For that moment, I was a primitive hunter in the small courtyard of my college dormitory.  I’ll never forget the horrified look from the girl looking out her window opposite my room as she watched me haul the flapping squawking crow by the feet up the side of building to my window on the 3rd floor.  I didn’t care.  No one was going to steal the glory or joy of my primal victory.  Part of me wonders if she was happy to see it captured as well.

Don’t worry, I didn’t have the heart to kill it up close so I let him go.  Needless to say,though, he never came back.  I still say a quick Thank You to the good Lord every time I see a crow.  Those birds represent a time when something changed in me.

The moment of action

If you ever want your dreams to come true then at some point you have to stop thinking and start acting.  Soon after ‘the crow’ I decided to take steps toward what I determined was my long-term goal: TO TEACH WILDERNESS SURVIVAL SKILLS.  I checked with the school administration but they didn’t have a WILDERNESS SURVIVAL major.  ”What kind of school is this,” I thought.  ”No Wilderness Survival Major?  What has the world come too?”  I’m just kidding – I stuck with the business degree but started putting together a PLAN B immediately.

My first book

I spent most of my free time during my sophomore year at college writing my first survival manual.  It was a 90 page self published book with hand-drawn sketches of the survival skills I knew at the time – which wasn’t much.  I didn’t make excuses.  I moved forward.  No, I wasn’t qualified to write a survival book.  In fact, I wasn’t qualified to write any kind of a book on any subject.  No, I didn’t have a publishing contract.  I also didn’t have any money.  But, I didn’t let any of that stop me.  I pushed forward anyway and made no excuses that might somehow allow me to quit.  When my friends were down the street partying, I was writing and drawing and researching.  Oftentimes, in order to be successful, you must do what others aren’t willing to do.  You must be willing to make sacrifices.  That was just fine with me.

I photocopied my book at Kinkos and had them spiral bind it.  In my mind, I was a published author!  Nothing could stop me now!

I remember sitting at my desk staring at a big pile of homemade survival books thinking, “OK, now how am I going to sell these?”  Come to find out it is much harder to sell a book than to write one :)

I called local Boy Scout troops.  ”Get back to my roots,” I thought.  I traveled from troop to troop giving FREE survival demonstrations as an attempt to hawk autographed copies of my new book.  That went pretty well but I didn’t like having to travel to meet my customers.  ”How can I get them to come to me,” I wondered.

 My first course

“Aha!  I’ll host a survival course!  I won’t even charge.  I’ll just sell my books,” I told my Mom and Dad while trying to convince them to allow me to invite total strangers on our farm so that I can teach them survival skills in the woods behind the house.  I wish I was a fly on the wall in my parent’s house that evening.  I’d do anything to hear that conversation.  Thank God for good parents because they let me.  They were also still confused about me not being a Pharmacy Major.  That’s another story for another day.

So, I sent out a press release to local newspapers and started publicizing my survival course by an AUTHOR!  Believe it or not about 15 people showed up and most of them bought a book – autographed of course!  Below is a picture of me (pre-ponytail) teaching kids how to flip people off.  Just kidding – I’m teaching them how to whistle loudly for signaling but that picture still cracks me up:)

newspaper-markup

 WOW, I learned a lot

Teaching that first course taught me MANY lessons.  First, I learned that I needed WAY MORE DIRT TIME in the field in order to REALLY teach survival skills.  Second, I learned that I LOVED DOING THIS.  For the first time in a long time I felt like I was on the right path to something that fulfilled me.  I had peace with a direction.  I was combining my love for self reliant survival skills with my joy of working with people.  It was perfect.  Now, how in the world do I make a living doing this?  Here are a couple photos from my first ever survival course.

walk-1 walk-2

My first advertising efforts

“I’m a business major, I can figure this out.”  I invested a few hundred dollars in an ad at the back of Boy’s Life magazine.  Boy’s Life is a magazine for Boy Scouts.  If you were in scouting then you know what it is.  As a scout I would scour the little ads in the back and often begged my parents to order me the X-Ray Glasses and Magic Sea Monkeys.  I figured this was the perfect place for me to offer my new survival book.  Was I prepared for the flood of orders?????

1st-ad-markup

 

1st-ad-big

 

My marketing strategy was to offer a FREE survival booklet which was a teaser to order the full book for $15.  I even posed for the camera in my Boy Scout uniform (my Mom took the photo in our living room).  I was ready to be a millionaire!  The orders did not come pouring in like I imagined.

My first business lesson

There are no get rich quick schemes.  As Thomas Edison once said, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it’s dressed in overalls and looks like work.”  I think here is a good time to tell you that I am not especially gifted at anything really.  I’ve always said that my best gift from God is me being too stupid to know any better.  I grew up watching my parents work extremely hard.  They never complained, they just worked.  They instilled in me that if you want something then you’re going have to work for it.  Sometimes they failed but they never quit.  I wasn’t going to quit either.

For me, failure wasn’t an option.  I knew it was going to be work.  I had to spend 100s, even 1000s of hours practicing and perfecting the skills I wanted to teach AND I had to figure out how to build a business around teaching survival skills.  Talk about a tough business model.  You can’t find a book on this one!

Keeping the ember alive

I think you know you’re on the right path when your passion for the subject doesn’t die even though you aren’t getting the positive feedback you want.  Even though I wasn’t able to make a living with survival skills & writing at the time, I still enjoyed doing it.  I still believed that these skills were important and I still enjoyed working with people.

Life happens

Yes, I wanted to teach survival skills as my career.  But, I had to make money and pay bills too.  For many years, teaching courses and selling books was supplemental income.  If I taught survival skills for the money I would have quit in year 1 for sure.  I could not have survived financially for very long if I wasn’t working other full-time and part-time jobs.  Here comes that whole SACRIFICE thing again.  

It was Herbert Grey that said, “Successful people make a habit of doing the things that unsuccessful people don’t like to do.”
 Well, I was getting pretty good at working evening and weekends to make my long term dreams come true.  I worked for over 10 years doing other things as a means to an end so that I could one day do what really fulfills me.  I had a t-shirt business.  I had a snow-cone business.  I sold door knobs for a major hardware brand.  I worked nights at major shipping carriers.  Here’s the kicker – I turned down awesome job offers out of school from big name Pharmaceutical Companies for pharmaceutical sales positions.  I guess a half Pharmacist & Business Major sounded like a good thing to some people.  Trust me, those jobs were enticing but they would have never allowed me the flexibility to build my own business on the side.  I’m sure my parents were convinced I had lost my mind.  The reality is that I was prepared to lose everything for what I wanted.  Sure, it was a risk but I remembered a quote from Goethe – “The dangers of life are infinite, and among them is safety.”  I wanted more than ‘safe’ and ‘secure’.

It wasn’t easy

Building my business was anything but easy.  I’ve always said – “If it’s worth having then it’s worth the effort.”  Just as Robert Frost wrote in The Road Not Taken, ” Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.”  Oftentimes when following your dreams, the path will certainly be less traveled.  It will be overgrown with wild rose and stinging nettle.  Occasionally, though, those roses will bloom and you might as well make tea and cordage from those nettles.  Perspective is everything and the journey builds character and perseverance.  Even if you fail, you still have the journey.  That’s more than many will ever see.

I’m still learning

I’ll never claim to know everything about anything.  I learn new survival tips and tricks every day AND I learn life lessons every day.  When your classroom is Mother Nature you learn really quick that you’ll never learn all there is to know.  She is absolutely and unequivocally unpredictable.

What I’ve learned about Mental Survival Skills

It’s funny, I’ve studied survival skills now for over 15 years.  For most of those years I only focused on physical skills such as fire making, shelter building, etc.  However, there is a whole new world of skills to practice.  These are the mental survival skills.  Unlike the physical survival skills, we can use mental skills in our daily life.  In fact, I’ve discovered that if you think using many of these mental survival skills every day then your life can change.  Below are just 3 of many mental survival skills that can not only help you survive any scenario, but can also change your life!

  • The Absolute Refusal to Give Up: Never give up no matter how bleak the circumstances.
  • The MacGyver Factor: Use what you have to get what you need.
  • Exorcise the Demon named Negativity: Do not tolerate negative thoughts or negative people in your life.

That’s my best answer

So for those of you who’ve asked ‘how I’m able to do what I love’ – this is my best answer.  Hopefully it’s been insightful.  I look forward to training with you in the field sometime soon.

Remember, it’s not IF but WHEN,

Creek

About Willow Haven Outdoor & Creek Stewart
Creek Stewart is the Owner and Lead Instructor at Willow Haven Outdoor - a leading Survival and Preparedness Training Facility located on 21-acres in Central Indiana.  For more information on Survival Courses and Clinics offered at WHO, click HERE.  Creek is also author of Build the Perfect Bug Out Bag: Your 72-Hour Disaster Survival Kit and The Unofficial Hunger Games Wilderness Survival Guide.  Visit Creek's personal web-site here: WWW.CREEKSTEWART.COM. You can contact Creek directly at creek@willowhavenoutdoor.com.
 
 

8 Things You Should Know Before Buying a Gas Mask

The driving plot behind some of our best-selling post-apocalyptic fiction novels in America is a looming reality for many people and nations in the world. As droves of Israeli citizens line up at the post office in Israel to pick up their government-issued gas masks, many of us can’t help but ask the depressing question, “Should I buy a gas mask?”

gas-mask-solo-web

In this article I’ll do my best to clear up many of the questions and myths that surround one of the most iconic symbols of the survivalist movement – the gas mask.

To make an educated decision about whether or not to go on a gas-mask buying spree, you should first consider the following:

 

Surplus does not necessarily mean ‘good deal’

At one point or another, all of us have seen the military “surplus” gas masks advertised online, in catalogs or in Army/Navy retail stores. These masks are “surplus” for a reason. They’re either outdated and have been replaced by more effective models or they are defective. Many of the older surplus masks are famous for being incredibly difficult to deploy and also very ill-fitting even when strapped on correctly. You’ll never find a guarantee of performance on these domestic or imported surplus masks. There’s a reason for that, too. Many of them also ship with filters that are also long expired. I’ll get into that in a later heading. The price of surplus gas masks is enticing, I’ll admit, but the risk is not worth the savings. A good current gas mask that’s up to spec is going to cost at least $125, and more for many models. And that doesn’t include a stock of $40-$50 replacement filters. Surplus gas masks do make great novelties for the man cave, however.

 

Not all gas masks are created equal

Shocker, right? There are certain criteria you need to look for when buying a gas mask. First, make sure the mask and filter is rated for chemical blowing and riot control agents, designated by the CBA/RCA rating, and nuclear, biological and chemical agents, carrying the NBC rating.

Some gas masks on the market are nothing more than glorified surgical masks. While this may be sufficient for most biological threats, it’s also important that any mask and accompanying filter you purchase is certified to protect against nuclear and chemical threats as well. Be sure to discuss this with any supplier before ordering. Third party testing is preferred.

I prefer a mask with filter connections on both sides versus just one side or just in the front. This not only offers more flexibility (i.e. positioning the filter opposite where a gun stock may interfere), but also allows the user to positively attach a replacement filter on the opposite port before removing an expired one.

Field of view is a common frustration with many masks on the market. It’s important to have an unobstructed view during times that warrant the use of a gas mask. Many older surplus masks have small goggle-type eye holes, which virtually eliminate all peripheral vision. How about prescription glasses? It’s important to make sure the mask in consideration accommodates spectacles.

 

You’ll probably need a few spare filters

Not only do filters have a shelf life, but they also don’t last as long while in use as you might imagine. Most need to be replaced after just several hours of use depending on the environment and gas concentrations. Even if breathing in “uninfected air,” they last less than 24 hours. What does this mean? First, it’s not hard to imagine the need for several filters per person depending on exposure times. Second, it’s important to keep track of the expiration date for any filters on hand. At $40-$50 a pop, the cost of replacement filters can add up quick. I would suggest purchasing a mask that accepts 40mm NATO threaded filter canisters. These tend to be the most readily available and popular.

 

Too late is almost always too late

Unless a gas mask is securely deployed before attacks are made, it’s often already too late. Especially in the case of biological and chemical agents, even momentary exposure can be fatal. This begs the question about where you should keep a gas mask. Should it be kept in the home? At work? In the car? Or, should there be one in each location? It’s impossible to predict the time and place that a potential threat may take place. Even if you own a gas mask, a sudden and unexpected attack may not give enough warning to deploy it in time before you have to take your next breath.

 

Paul Bunyan probably won’t make it

paul

Most gas masks don’t play well with facial hair, and I’m not just talking about Duck Dynasty-sized beards either. The 1-week lazy man can be affected. I even have a few female relatives that might have an issue. Any type of facial hair can degrade a critically tight seal against the user’s face. If you’re serious about buying a gas mask, you should also be serious about a clean shave each morning.  NOTE:  Hooded versions of gas masks are manufactured that can be used with beards.

 

You were not born with innate knowledge on using a gas mask

plug-filter

Deploying and strapping on a gas mask isn’t as easy as they make it look in the movies. In fact, many have died by either putting it on incorrectly or not being able to put it on at all while under stress and panic. There are even accounts of people suffocating to death by not removing the plastic seal before screwing on a new filter. I even did this when I installed my first new filter. It’s an easy mistake to make. There is a reason the military conducts gas-mask training exercises. Properly fitting and using a gas mask requires practice. Hands-on training by a professional is preferred. Prior practice at home is an absolute minimum.

 

The United States is a big place

It would be very difficult to cover the entire U.S. with nuclear, biological and chemical agents. Most agree that it is those in the large cities who are in the red zones. A farmer in the middle of Kansas is much less likely to need a gas mask than someone who works in Washington, D.C. This should be considered when making preparedness expenditures. There may be better things to spend a preparedness budget on besides gas masks if you live in areas unlikely to be targeted with nuclear, biological or chemical threats.

 

Gas masks are a means to an end, not the end themselves

You can’t live in a gas mask. They are meant to be a temporary defense for escaping the “green cloud.” If the threat doesn’t stop (i.e. NBC attacks keep coming) and you don’t have a permanent protected place in which to retreat (like an NBC-filtered bunker or safe room), that’s bad news indeed. Even though some gas masks are fitted with drinking straws, it’s just not practical to wear a gas mask for an extended period of time. Gas masks are a short-term solution to hopefully what will be a short-term problem.

Hopefully these insights have helped to “clear the fog” around this somewhat confusing topic. Some reading this article might decide the “surplus” gas mask in the closet purchased online after 9/11 is probably better used as a Halloween costume than a life-saving survival tool. I wouldn’t hold your breath for U.S. government-issued gas masks any time soon. I don’t see that happening in the near future. If you want one, you’re going to have to buy it.

 

So, Creek, do YOU own a gas mask?

Yes, I do – several.  I purchased mine from http://www.approvedgasmasks.com.  I have no vested interest in that company nor do I get any kind of a kick back on sales.  They don’t even know that I’m listing them as a source.  I’m sure there are many companies out there who offer current quality gas masks.  This is just one I’ve had personal experience with.  If you know of a trusted source, by all means, leave a comment and share for others.

Do you own a gas mask?  Why or why not?

Remember, it’s not if, but when.

About Willow Haven Outdoor & Creek Stewart
Creek Stewart is the Owner and Lead Instructor at Willow Haven Outdoor - a leading Survival and Preparedness Training Facility located on 21-acres in Central Indiana.  For more information on Survival Courses and Clinics offered at WHO, click HERE.  Creek is also author of Build the Perfect Bug Out Bag: Your 72-Hour Disaster Survival Kit and The Unofficial Hunger Games Wilderness Survival Guide.  Visit Creek's personal web-site here: WWW.CREEKSTEWART.COM. You can contact Creek directly at creek@willowhavenoutdoor.com.
 
 

Survival Gear Snapshot: September 2013

 What is a Survival Gear Snapshot???

We all like to dream a little, right?  In this (and future) Survival Gear Snapshots I’ll feature a variety of cool survival items (at least ones that I think are cool – you may disagree) in a themed survival-esque photo.  Some things will be affordable and some things will be ridiculously expensive.  The point is to put together a collage of cool survival-themed items.  If you think somethings too expensive – big deal – it doesn’t cost anything to look at it.  I’m currently looking for some good ideas for next month so if you know of some cool survival products or gear companies you’d like to see in an upcoming SNAPSHOT, leave a comment.

snapshot-9-13\

To see a larger version of this image click here: http://willowhavenoutdoor.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/snapshot-9-13-large.jpg

To have your product considered for the next Survival Gear Snapshot, please e-mail publicrelations@willowhavenoutdoor.com.

 

About Willow Haven Outdoor & Creek Stewart
Creek Stewart is the Owner and Lead Instructor at Willow Haven Outdoor - a leading Survival and Preparedness Training Facility located on 21-acres in Central Indiana.  For more information on Survival Courses and Clinics offered at WHO, click HERE.  Creek is also author of Build the Perfect Bug Out Bag: Your 72-Hour Disaster Survival Kit and The Unofficial Hunger Games Wilderness Survival Guide.  Visit Creek's personal web-site here: WWW.CREEKSTEWART.COM. You can contact Creek directly at creek@willowhavenoutdoor.com.
 
 

6 Trees Every Survivalist Should Know & Why

Now is a good time to go out and flag the following six trees before the leaves drop (except the pine).  Revisit them in the winter and learn how to ID them by the bark alone.  Then again in the Spring with the buds and new leaves.

 

White birch (paper birch)

birch

White birch is easy to identify with its distinctive, white, papery bark. The sycamore tree also has white bark, but it does not sluff off in thin, paper-like furls like the white birch. The sycamore also has large hand-shaped leaves versus the white birch’s smaller, oval-shaped leaves with a pointed tip. The birch leaf is also irregularly toothed.  These grow almost exclusively in northern climates.

birch-leaf

White birch survival uses:

  • Sweet drinkable sap that does not need purification
  • Containers can be fashioned from the bark (and even canoes – hence the name “canoe birch”)
  • It’s papery bark makes some of the finest fire starting tender on the planet, which will light even when damp because of its resinous quality
  • A fine tea can be made from the small twigs at the end of a branch or by shaving the bark from new growth. Toss a palmful of these elements into boiling water for a fresh, wintergreen-flavored tea
  • The tinder fungus (chaga) grows almost exclusively on the white birch tree. The fungus is one of the only natural materials I know of that will take the spark from flint and steel. A piece of tinder fungus along with flint and pyrite to create sparks were even found on Otzi, the “iceman” who was uncovered in the Austrian Alps several years ago.
  • Pine tar can be extracted from the bark of the white birch by heating it over a fire.  Pine tar makes an excellent natural adhesive which natives used for all kinds of purposes including securing stone points on arrows.

American Basswood

basswood

The American basswood (also called American linden) is a very common tree – especially in the Eastern U.S. It prefers moist soil and is often found by creeks, streams and ponds. It likes to grow several shoots from the base so it’s not uncommon to see the basswood growing in what appears to be clumps. Basswood trees have large, heart-shaped, coarsely toothed leaves and dark red young leaf buds. One of the most distinctive features of the basswood is what I call the “tongue.” A tongue-shaped leaf grows at the base of the regular heart-shaped leaves on mature trees. Hard, little, nut-like fruits dangle from the center of this “tongue” leaf throughout the summer.

basswood-cord

Basswood survival uses:

  • Delicious edible leaves – especially in spring
  • “Bass” comes from the word “bast,” which is an old word for rope. The inner fibers from the Basswood make some of the best natural cordage on the planet.  In my last course, 2 adult men could not break a 1/2″ thick strip of basswood bark.
  • Basswood is my favorite wood to use in fire by friction sets. It is soft and makes a perfect friction fire wood for bow drill spindles and hearthboards and for hand drill hearthboards.
  • Basswood is preferred by most wood carvers and chainsaw carvers because of how easy it is to work and carve
  • Inner bark layer is edible and can be scraped off with the edge of your knife. It has a very sweet flavor.

basswood-cordage

White Pine

pine-tree

The leaves of the White Pine grow in batches of 5 needles. Every fall the white pine loses all of its needles except those that grew that year. Pine is an evergreen. Evergreen trees keep some green leaves year-round, unlike deciduous trees, and have needle-like leaves. They also produce cones (pine cones) instead of flowers.

pine-needle

White pine survival uses:

  • Resin can be used a fire extender when mixed with tinder material
  • Resin can be heated and mixed with crushed charcoal to make a natural epoxy
  • Resin-rich joints and stump pieces make incredible fire kindling
  • Make pine-needle tea from the green pine needles – very rich in Vitamin C
  • Inner bark layers are edible
  • Harvest pine nuts from the pine cones
  • Pine needles make excellent fire tinder
  • Pine needles make excellent natural insulation material for debris huts and survival shelters
  • Green pine boughs are perfect for lean-to shelter roofs
  • Green pine boughs are great for making a ‘pine bough bed’ to protect from the cold ground or snow
  • The lower, dry, dead branches of the pine tree (squaw wood) is often some of the driest fire kindling available. It is exposed to the wind and also protected from the elements by the year-round needle canopy above,  I’ve also used these branches for making bow drill fire friction sets.
  • Very effective candles and lamps can be made from pine resin
  • Pine resin can be used to waterproof seams in clothing or crude containers
  • The very pliable surface layer roots make excellent (and strong) natural cordage. Use as a whole or split into smaller pieces.

White Oak (and all oaks in general)

oak

White oaks have rounded leaf lobes instead of pointed ones like red oaks. Contrary to popular belief, acorns are edible. I like white oak acorns better because it seems they are less bitter and it takes less effort to leach out the tannic acid (which causes this bitterness) to become more palatable. An abundance of acorns in mid-summer makes the oak family almost impossible to misidentify. Oaks are some of the largest trees in the forest. I have many white oaks at Willow Haven that are over 100 feet tall and easily 3-4 feet in diameter.

White oak survival uses:

  • Acorns (after leaching out the tannic acid) can be ground and used as flour to make acorn bread
  • Tannic acid (which can be extracted by boiling or leaching acorns and/or inner oak bark and twigs) is anti-bacterial. I’ve used it as an antiseptic wash before and have heard of it being used to quell diarrhea.
  • Acorns can be used a trap bait for squirrel and other small game animals
  • Can tan leather using the tannic acid found in bark, acorns and wood
  • Oak is a very hard wood that is good for ax handles, digging sticks and shelter frameworks
  • When dried, the white oak flowers make suitable tinder bundles and can be found in great abundance certain times of the year

Sugar Maple (and pretty much all maples)

maple

The sugar maple is one of my favorite trees and probably one of the most popular in the Eastern woodlands. Its beauty is on full display when the leaves change each fall into bursts of red, orange and yellow. The leaves usually have five lobes, and the tips are pointed. Young maples have smooth silvery bark. The unmistakable, “winged helicopter” seeds are a tell-tale maple tree indicator. Sugar maple is the source for maple syrup. This tree is preferred because its sap has high sugar content. It takes 40 gallons of sugar maple sap to make 1 gallon of maple syrup.

maple-tap-bucket

Sugar maple survival uses:

  • In later winter/early spring when the sap is running, the sugar maple is an excellent source of drinkable water (sap) that needs no purification. Maple Sap is nature’s version of an energy drink – rich in sugar and nutrients. I’ve filled a 1-liter canteen in as few as 15 minutes before.  Maples don’t have fully developed (or any) leaves during this time of year – hence the important of 4 season identification.
  • The seeds inside the little helicopters are edible, just like edamame. I just boil them and lightly salt. They can also be fried or added to stews. Remove the outer helicopter.
  • I almost always use maple branches for wilderness cooking. Whether it’s a spit roast, a hot dog stick or utensils, I can always find a maple branch suitable for the task. Maple branches naturally have a lot of forks, which is great for pot holders and other wilderness kitchen uses.  I also use the leaves to wrap fish or other small game animals when cooling in an earth oven.
  • Young maple leaves are also edible. Toss them into a salad or boil them down with other spring greens. They get bitter and rough as they mature.

Willow Tree

willow

There are tons of different willow varieties. Every willow I’ve seen has a similar leaf shape. The leaves are narrow, lance-shaped and grow in great numbers along the branches. Willows must be in moist areas to survive. If you’ve found a willow, then there is a water source nearby.

willow-up-close

Willow survival uses:

  • Willow bark contains a chemical called salicin, which is similar to aspirin. I can personally attest to its effectiveness in relieving headaches and inflammation. Just chew on a few small green twigs and swallow the juices.
  • In spring and summer, willow bark will peel away from the wood and makes excellent cordage that can be used for a huge variety of tasks.
  • Young willow branches and saplings are very flexible and can be used to weave a variety of different baskets and funnel traps.
  • I’ve used dried willow wood on many occasions for friction fire sets – both hand drill and bow drill
  • Willow saplings make excellent frog and fish gigs. Just split the base into 4 equal sections, press a rock to the bottom of the splits and sharpen the tines.

Feel free to list other uses for these trees that I may have overlooked in the comments below!

Remember, it’s not IF, but WHEN.

About Willow Haven Outdoor & Creek Stewart
Creek Stewart is the Owner and Lead Instructor at Willow Haven Outdoor - a leading Survival and Preparedness Training Facility located on 21-acres in Central Indiana.  For more information on Survival Courses and Clinics offered at WHO, click HERE.  Creek is also author of Build the Perfect Bug Out Bag: Your 72-Hour Disaster Survival Kit and The Unofficial Hunger Games Wilderness Survival Guide.  Visit Creek's personal web-site here: WWW.CREEKSTEWART.COM. You can contact Creek directly at creek@willowhavenoutdoor.com.
 
 

Bug Out Vehicle (BOV) Chronicles: Creek’s Project BOV Truck: Series Post #1

Hello friends.  I’ve owned several Bug Out Vehicles over the years.  Some have been my daily drivers and others have been a dedicated stand alone vehicle.  Some have been new and some have been old.  I had a pretty cool 4×4 Ford Cargo Van that I really liked.  I’ve had a couple old Broncos and I even had a 90s Explorer.

A new project:

I decided a few months ago to take on a special BOV project.  I wanted this one to be different.  First, I’ve never owned a Diesel and it was about time I got one.  Second, I wanted a dedicated BOV that was truly EMP proof so it needed to already have no electronics/computers or it needed to be such that I could eliminate these items without too many compromises.  Thirdly, I’ve never owned a military surplus truck and I’ve always wanted one.  And lastly, like most of us, I was on a budget.  I wanted the biggest bang for my buck.  Oh, and I didn’t want too much of a project.  I’m not the best mechanic in the world and I didn’t want to get in over my head with too much of a fixer-upper.  Tall order, right?

 

The decision:

After much debate.  I decided on a M1028 retired military CUCV (pronounced CUK-VEE).  It is a 1985 Chevrolet pick-up truck.  I found it on-line and after a few basic mechanical fixes I’ve got about $5000 into it.  Starting with this article, I am going to chronicle my entire build from start to finish of this BOV.  It will take months but I thought it would be a cool project to share here on the blog.  And, I thought you could help provide input and feedback as well.  These posts may at times be very informal – simply an update with my thoughts and/or goals for the project.  I’ll start with a few pictures of the truck and a little bit of background information.

IMG_2424

Truck Details:

  • 1985 Chevrolet Pickup
  • GM (Detroit Diesel) 379 cu in. (6.2L) J-series non-emissions diesel V-8 engine, 135hp@3600rpm
  • 1 1/4 Ton
  • 4×4
  • All axles full floating. Front axle is Dana 60 with Spicer Trac-lok (limited slip) and locking hubs, ratio: 4.56:1.
  • Rear axle is 10.5 inch Corporate 14 Bolt with “No-spin/Detroit” differential locker.
  • GM TH400 (Turbo Hydramatic 400) automatic transmission with 3 forward and 1 reverse speeds
  • 5800 lbs (2633 kg)
  • Payload: 3600 lbs (1634 kg)
  • 12/24 volt dual voltage
  • Equipped to tow M101 Series 3/4 ton trailers with maximum towed load of 3100 Ibs. Tongue load not to exceed 300 Ibs.
  • Fuel Tank: 20 Gallons US (75.7 liters)
  • Max Speed: 1st 25 mph (40.2 kph)
  • Max Speed: 2nd 35 mph (56.3 kph)
  • Max Speed: Drv 55 mph (88.5 kph)
  • Max Speed: Rev 9 mph (24.5 kph)

IMG_2425

IMG_2423

 

 

What I like about this truck:

There are many things I like about this truck.  Here is a short list – I’m sure I’ll get into more details as the weeks go by.

  • I love the Black-Out Switch.  Flip a switch on the dash and all the lights go out – even the brakes.  That’s a pretty cool bug out feature!  Sometimes you just want to go covert.
  • There are no electronic or computer parts on this truck – everything is manual.  Minus a few fuses – this thing is theoretically EMP proof as it stands.
  • Gun racks.  It has 2 vertical gun racks behind the seat – cool.
  • Brush guard.  The stock brush guard isn’t fancy, but it sure is functional.  I like it.
  • Beefy shackles.  It’s got several beefy shackles throughout.
  • 83,000 miles.  I’m sure these 83K miles were ‘hard-use’ miles but this is nothing for the diesel engine inside
  • It’s diesel.  Though this has positives and negatives – I like the fact that I have a diesel truck option.
  • 4×4 w/ detroit locker.  This is a real 4×4 truck.
  • Decent gas mileage – I’m getting over 20 mpg with this truck.
  • 8 foot bed
  • No rust hardly at all!

IMG_2448

 

IMG_2444

 

 

What I don’t like about this truck:

  • The paint is crap.  The guy who had it before me painted it with some kind of janky house exterior paint.  This is going to take some work.
  • This thing starts groaning like a ticked off grizzly bear when you hit 50 mph.  It’s geared for towing, not speed.
  • AC – yeah right.
  • Interior is shot to you know where – everything needs replaced
  • It’s old.  I like that it’s old for EMP sake but I hate that it’s old at the same time.  Old is less reliable – period.
  • It’s beat up.  I guess this is to be expected with an 85 military truck but I will want to spend some time on the cosmetics.  While I’m not overly obsessed with how it looks – I want it to look better than it does now
  • I hate the tires
  • Not much interior storage space – may need a cap on back – must think about this

 

Some initial thoughts:

  • Need more storage – A LOT MORE – begin search for truck cap
  • Look for tires – and maybe wheels
  • Sand down nasty paint spots and pop out tons of dents
  • Fix some minor things – blinkers, windows (very hard to roll up and down)
  • Get to work on the interior – go to junk yard to find suitable replacements
  • Do an initial test drive to my Bug Out Location – calculate time in transit and also fuel expenditures

 

IMG_2441

 

IMG_2439

IMG_2436

IMG_2435

 

Immediate / Long Term Goals:

  • Find a truck cap to create more secure storage
  • Come up with some kind of a camo pattern for exterior / decide on color scheme and overall look
  • Start search for tires/wheels
  • Interior gun racks/storage
  • Source interior trim/panels/seat covers
  • Begin installation of communication tools (CB/HAM)
  • Install DC power points for chargers, etc.
  • More exterior lighting???

What are your initial thoughts?  Any initial ideas for the build?  I want to tackle larger tasks at first and handle the details later.

Remember, it’s not IF but WHEN,

Creek

About Willow Haven Outdoor & Creek Stewart
Creek Stewart is the Owner and Lead Instructor at Willow Haven Outdoor - a leading Survival and Preparedness Training Facility located on 21-acres in Central Indiana.  For more information on Survival Courses and Clinics offered at WHO, click HERE.  Creek is also author of Build the Perfect Bug Out Bag: Your 72-Hour Disaster Survival Kit and The Unofficial Hunger Games Wilderness Survival Guide.  Visit Creek's personal web-site here: WWW.CREEKSTEWART.COM. You can contact Creek directly at creek@willowhavenoutdoor.com.
 
 

Dear Lord, Help me to be like my knife.

 

An Outdoorsman’s Prayer

dear-lord

 

Thank you, Lord, for giving me my survival knife.

It’s one of my most prized possessions. Sometimes, life can be so distracting, and it’s easy for me to lose perspective about what is really important. When this happens I know it’s time to hit the woods – just me and my knife. There’s nothing like some “knife-time” in the wild to help me gain perspective. After all, it’s in the woods that I feel most connected. It seems I have to “unplug” to “plug in.” My knife helps remind me of how simple life can be. With this knife I can meet my most basic survival needs. I think that’s pretty cool.

I consider my knife a friend. We’ve developed a unique relationship over the years. I take care of it, and it returns the favor. In fact, I’ve learned a lot about myself through using my knife. Today, I ask that you help me to be like my trusted friend.

 
My knife was designed specifically as a survival knife. It’s not a filet knife or a throwing knife or a shaving knife. I get frustrated when I try to use it for tasks for which it wasn’t designed. I am not much different from my knife in that respect. You have designed me for a specific purpose in this crazy world. Help me to stay on task and find that purpose. You of all people know how many times I’ve tried to do things for which I wasn’t designed. I know I’m stubborn. Maybe You could give me some trail markers so it’s easier for me to find my way along a path that sometimes seems so overgrown. Help me find exactly what I’m designed to do in this world.

bible-knife

My knife doesn’t mind hard work. I don’t baby my knife. I expect it to work hard when I need it to perform in the woods. Oftentimes, the only solution is very hard work. As hard as I’ve used it over the years, my knife has never failed me nor taken the easy way out. Help me to work as hard as my knife. I am thankful for the ability to work hard, and I want You to know that I am willing to do the work required of me. I don’t want to let You or anyone else down. Don’t baby me. You may have to baton me through this harsh world at times, but I won’t break. I want to and am not afraid to work hard.

I know the importance of taking good care of my knife. I know that when I do things like digging and prying, that I can dull and damage the blade. The blade will also corrode, discolor and become pitted if I leave it exposed to moisture and harsh chemicals. But when I polish the metal with oil and sharpen the blade with a wet stone, my knife is renewed. Similarly, Lord, help me to surround myself with people who polish and sharpen me. Give me the wisdom and strength to eliminate the people and habits from my life that may corrode, dull and tarnish my potential.

My knife is simple, Lord, and I like that. I’ve used a lot of different survival knifes over the years, and I’ve learned that it’s not the quantity of features that’s important. How you use a knife is far more important than any of the knife’s physical features. My knife is simple, but in skillful hands it can be extremely effective. Even though I’m simple, Lord, help me to be effective. Help me to skillfully apply myself and learn from my mistakes so that I can live a more effective and impactful life.

Lastly, Lord, at the end of my days I hope to pass my knife down to someone else who can use it in their wilderness adventures. If the world stays on its current path, someone will surely need it. It’s a good knife, and I’d like to see it provide basic needs for someone else after I am long gone. Like my knife, I want to create something worthy of passing down. Help me to live a life that will matter after I am gone from this world. Help me to design a life worthy of a legacy that outlives my short time on Earth. Help me to do things with my life that will have lasting value.

Help me, Lord, to be like my knife.

PS – Oh, and before I die I’d really like to jump Rambo-style down on a wild hog with my knife.  Just sayin’.

About Willow Haven Outdoor & Creek Stewart
Creek Stewart is the Owner and Lead Instructor at Willow Haven Outdoor - a leading Survival and Preparedness Training Facility located on 21-acres in Central Indiana.  For more information on Survival Courses and Clinics offered at WHO, click HERE.  Creek is also author of Build the Perfect Bug Out Bag: Your 72-Hour Disaster Survival Kit and The Unofficial Hunger Games Wilderness Survival Guide.  Visit Creek's personal web-site here: WWW.CREEKSTEWART.COM. You can contact Creek directly at creek@willowhavenoutdoor.com.
 
 

DIY: Bug Out Meals Ready To Eat

I recently received a package in the mail that I thought was worthy of sharing.  I’ve got to give credit to Dutch from Texas for this awesome DIY Bug Out Meal idea!  When I opened the box I found a couple homemade vacuum sealed food kits.  UPS delivers here right before lunch so it was hard for me not to cut them open and gorge myself right then and there.  The enclosed letter explained a really cool concept: DIY At Home Bug Out Meals Ready To Eat Kits.

mre-diy-double

 

 My Opinion About Bug Out Meals

As many of you know, I am a huge fan of simple, “Open & Eat” Bug Out Meals.  I like the idea of being able to eat on-the-go versus spending too much time having to prepare meals.  Bugging Out is all about getting from Point A to Point B.  In fact, I currently only pack high calorie energy bars in my BOB but this recent package is making me reconsider.  Regardless, Bug Out Meals should meet the following criteria:

  • Long shelf life: ideally at least a year – minimum 6 months
  • Open & Eat: Nothing that takes too much time, energy or resources to prepare
  • Calorie Rich: Be sure to choose foods that are high in calories – our body converts calories to energy
  • As small as possible in both weight and size (remember, they have to go in your Bug Out Bag)

DIY At Home MREs

As Dutch mentions in his letter, traditional MREs can be very expensive and are jam packed with sodium and preservatives.  In addition, one single meal is rather bulky.  His solution is to gather meal items and snacks from a local grocery store and vacuum seal them into Full Day Bug Out Meal Kits.

diy-mre-top-shot

 

Below is what Dutch puts in his meal kits.  This is taken directly from his letter:

  1. BREAKFAST: Qty 2 Kellogs Fiber plus breakfast bars.  I also use Instant Oatmeal or Oatmeal Squares.  Nescafe Tasters Choice Coffee, or if not a coffee drinker, throw in a tea bag.
  2. LUNCH: Crackers and SPAM or Kipper-Snacks or a can of Sardines.  All of which can be eaten cold and on the march.  Rspeberry Lemonade drink mix, just add to a bottle or canteen of water.
  3. SNACK: On grueling hikes, you have to keep your blood-sugar levels up, so these have 2 packages of peanut butter crackers and several packs of Peanut M&Ms to be eaten between meals.
  4. DINNER: I try to have a least one hot meal a day.  I advocate Ramen Noodles.  I also pack beef jerkey to break up and add to the soup.

*NOTE: The meals he sent me were almost 1 year old and they showed no sign of mold or spoilage.  Good sign!

 

diy-mre-angle-2

 

With traditional MREs and camp meals, the selection is fairly limited.  And Dutch is right, they are packed full of salt and preservatives.  Furthermore, if you’ve ever eaten MREs for very long they’ll back you up worse than traffic during mass exodus.

I’ll admit that these are pretty lavish Bug Out Meals but I really like this concept.  It allows you a ton of creative freedom when prepping your Bug Out (or BUG IN) emergency meals.  You aren’t limited to ‘stock’ entrees and each meal can be tailored to fit specific dietary needs.  Gluten Free?  No problem – pack non gluten items.  Peanut allergy?  No problem – your meal kits get plain M&Ms.  You get the point.  Vacuum sealing the meals not only helps to preserve them longer but also waterproofs them.  The added bonus is that they are also organized and very compact – 2 Bug Out Packing essential qualities.

 

spam-diy-mre

 

 The Expiration Date Marks a Camping Trip

Write the expiration date on the outside of the package with a Sharpie Marker (you choose the time frame but I’d be just fine with 1 year).  Don’t throw away the meals when they expire.  That expiration date marks a much needed camping trip and your meals are now already packed!

Does anyone do something similar to this?

Is this a Bug Out Meal concept that you will consider?

What types of items will your include in your Vacuum Sealed Bug Out Meal?

 

Remember, it’s not IF but WHEN,

Creek

About Willow Haven Outdoor & Creek Stewart
Creek Stewart is the Owner and Lead Instructor at Willow Haven Outdoor - a leading Survival and Preparedness Training Facility located on 21-acres in Central Indiana.  For more information on Survival Courses and Clinics offered at WHO, click HERE.  Creek is also author of Build the Perfect Bug Out Bag: Your 72-Hour Disaster Survival Kit and The Unofficial Hunger Games Wilderness Survival Guide.  Visit Creek's personal web-site here: WWW.CREEKSTEWART.COM. You can contact Creek directly at creek@willowhavenoutdoor.com.
 
 

DENY DENIAL: Your most primitive survival skill can also be fatal

At most of my survival courses, I ask the group if anyone has ever been in a life-or-death survival scenario. From hunkering down in fox holes fighting terrorists in the Middle East to being trapped in a vehicle during a lake effect snowstorm in Chicago, I’ve heard all kinds of stories over the years. I have long been enamored with the details of survival scenarios as told by the survivors themselves. I always come away with having learned something very interesting about the human psyche and even myself.

On one such occasion an older gentleman from Colorado (who will remain anonymous) recounted his experience of getting lost one evening after a deer hunt. He had shot and wounded a big buck just before sunset. With adrenaline still pumping through his veins, the zeal of locating his trophy before nightfall clouded the common sense decision to come back and track in the morning. After about an hour and a half of hiking through miles of 10-foot-high scrub brush he ultimately lost the blood trail. But that wasn’t the only thing lost. He too had become disoriented and confused.

The darkening shadows of the setting sun against unfamiliar terrain made everything look different in every direction. Before long, it was nearly pitch black. He had no flashlight, no cell service, no shelter, no water – nothing but his gun and the clothes on his back.

As I probed for more details about the experience, he reluctantly confessed that he knew he was lost long before he admitted it out loud to himself.

He stated, “I remember thinking there was going to be something I recognized around the next corner. Fifty corners later I still hadn’t seen anything familiar.”

To make a long story short, he spent the night in the woods (nearly freezing to death) and eventually hitched a ride back to town after flagging down a truck on a remote mountain road the next evening. He was very lucky indeed. This experience is what drove him to seek out survival training.

“Most men would rather deny a hard truth than face it.” – George R.R. Martin

What can we learn from this and so many similar survival experiences? The lesson is simple: Don’t let denial trump common sense.

Denial is one of the few survival skills we are born with. Though for many it has been mastered with years of practice, no one teaches us how to deny evident truths. One day, this natural survival skill kicks in, and we just start denying things to somehow protect ourselves. It’s a natural human instinct for coping with stress, pain, emotions, fear, anxiety and grief. But even though our instincts mean well, we can’t always be run by instinct alone. We must decide if these innate survival instincts really have our best interest in mind.

The power of denial

Denial is a very powerful adversary, sneaking in under the radar. It’s human nature to struggle with denial during difficult or stressful circumstances. It is a tool our brain uses to deflect inevitable truths – but almost always, especially in life or death survival scenarios, those truths are coming whether we deny them or not.

Using the deer hunting example above, no matter how much he tried to deny the fact that he was lost, it had no self-preservation effect whatsoever. In fact, it only made his circumstance worse.

bear

I was speaking with a woman several years ago who had survived a near fatal bear attack. She told me how as she was watching the bear charge toward her, she found herself wondering what it was behind her that the bear was mad at. This was simply her mind denying cold hard facts because of its inability to face the truth. Of course the bear wasn’t mad at anything behind her. It was charging her. Denial prevented her from taking actions that could have possibly made the attack less severe. Denying the clear and evident truth nearly cost this woman her life. Denial is a powerful (and tricky) emotion.

Denial and survival

Sometimes facing the truth of your predicament is painful. It can be embarrassing and is oftentimes a blow to the ego. However, saving face is never more important than saving your life.

During my public speaking engagements I’ll often ask people if they’ve prepared a Bug Out Bag just in case a disaster strikes their home. Many answer no. The most popular response to my immediate question of “why?” is because “they don’t feel it will ever happen to them.” This is a simple example of how denial can get people in trouble. They are denying the fact that a sudden and unexpected disaster can strike their immediate area at any given moment without warning. It happens to people all over the world all the time. No one is exempt. Common sense (and statistical evidence) says that it is in fact more likely than many realize. There can be a fine line between denial and laziness.

Deny denial a stronghold

Sometimes, especially in a life-threatening survival scenario (and in life), you have to deny denial the power to control your actions. It’s never easy, but it’s always better for you.

The cause of our denial is typically very obvious (i.e. a bear is charging me or alcoholism). Recognizing and stopping denial before it’s too late is the tricky part.

“Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt.” – Mark Twain

Spotting denial requires us to pay very close attention to ourselves. We love to analyze and criticize others but rarely look in the mirror. Three signs of denial to look for when taking inventory of your thoughts are: 1) Avoiding an issue or a problem, 2) Minimizing the consequences of a decision or event and 3) Refusing to accept truthful facts. Almost all cases of denial that exacerbate a survival scenario involve rationalizations around one of those areas.

The best way to stave off denial is to confront unfortunate and stressful truths as quickly as possible. Become a responsible owner of your own decisions – good or bad. Ignoring or putting off bad news only makes the consequences worse. Practice recognizing and confronting denial now so that it doesn’t catch you by surprise when survival is at stake.

Remember, it’s not IF but WHEN.

About Willow Haven Outdoor & Creek Stewart
Creek Stewart is the Owner and Lead Instructor at Willow Haven Outdoor - a leading Survival and Preparedness Training Facility located on 21-acres in Central Indiana.  For more information on Survival Courses and Clinics offered at WHO, click HERE.  Creek is also author of Build the Perfect Bug Out Bag: Your 72-Hour Disaster Survival Kit and The Unofficial Hunger Games Wilderness Survival Guide.  Visit Creek's personal web-site here: WWW.CREEKSTEWART.COM. You can contact Creek directly at creek@willowhavenoutdoor.com.
 
 

5 Make-Shift Urban Survival Lights When the Electricity Goes Down

It’s impossible to be perfectly prepared for an imperfect world. Sometimes you just have to go MacGyver and solve common problems by using the resources you have on hand – combined with a little ingenuity, of course.  I’ve always said that the ability to improvise is one of the most important survival skills.

This article is a collection (not all my own I’ll admit) of a few, creative, makeshift lighting solutions you may have to deploy as a last resort if the grid goes down. You just never know when one of these innovative ideas might shed some light into your darkness one day.

Shining Sardines

Sardines are an excellent survival food. They have a long shelf-life and are full of protein and fats. Maybe you have some sardines packed in your emergency food storage. If not, consider them.

sardines

On a different note, oil lamps have been used for hundreds of years. From rendered whale blubber to modern kerosene lanterns, oil lamps are excellent “off-grid” lighting solutions. What do sardines and oil lamps have to do with each other? Quite a lot, actually, if your sardines are packed in olive oil.

Once you’re done smashing those tasty bites of fish, place a natural fiber wick into the remaining oil and slightly over the edge of the sardine container. The wick, in this case a cotton string from a mop head, will absorb the oil. Once the wick is fully soaked, simply light the end. A sardine lamp with just a little bit of oil will burn for many hours. Sure, it’ll smell like fish, but that’s what you get for not including emergency candles in your “bug in” supplies. Running low on oil? No problem, just top it off with some more olive oil from the pantry – or any cooking oil for that matter.

Cotton Fiber Mop Head

Cotton Fiber Mop Head

Cotton Fiber Wick Soaking Up Olive Oil

Cotton Fiber Wick Soaking Up Olive Oil

Sardine Olive Oil Lamp

Sardine Olive Oil Lamp

Glowing Crayolas

Games and toys are excellent items to pack in an emergency kit – especially if you have small children. Simple toys such as crayons and coloring books can help keep their mind off of the misfortune that caused the lights to go out in the first place.

But if you’ve focused only on toys and no essentials, like candles and flashlights, then you may have to sacrifice some of their least favorite crayon colors and make some Crayndles. I made that word up. Crayons are basically colored wax. If you’re in a hurry, just break the point off and light the paper label at the end of the crayon. As the wax melts, the paper becomes a wick and one crayndle will last about 30 minutes. Not too bad.

crayola-candle

You can also get a little more creative and sandwich a natural fiber wick (like a shred of t-shirt material) between three crayons that have been stripped of their labels. Bind everything together with two short pieces of wire. Paper clips work well. Then, simply light the wick. I got one of these to burn about an hour. Not too bad for a 10-second makeshift crayndle.

Three crayons - No Paper - With Cotton Fiber Wick

Three crayons – No Paper – With Cotton Fiber Wick

Cotton Fiber Wick in Middle of Three Paperless Crayons

Cotton Fiber Wick in Middle of Three Paperless Crayons

Three Crayons - No Paper - Wired tight around cotton fiber wick

Three Crayons – No Paper – Wired tight around cotton fiber wick

Blazing Bottles

If you’ve listened to anything I said in “Build the Perfect Bug Out Bag,” then I know you at least have a headlamp packed in your 72-hour disaster kit.

Yet as nice as headlamps are, they aren’t always the perfect lighting solution. Ever tried having dinner or playing cards across the table with someone who’s wearing a headlamp flashlight? It’s really annoying and gets really old, really fast. You get blinded every time they look at you.

Instead, set a relaxing mood perfect for cards and a sardine dinner using a headlamp and a water-filled clear plastic milk jug (or any clear container filled with water). Invert the headlamp around the bottle so that the light shines toward the CENTER of the bottle. The water diffuses and diverts the light – making a nice, mellow, glowing lamp that will help set a perfect mood during any disaster “bug in.”

headlamp-bottle-daylight

Headlamp Bottle Lamp

Headlamp Bottle Lamp

 

Beaconing Bacon

If you’re like my mom, then you have a jar in the cupboard where you pour and keep excess bacon grease. This grease makes the perfect improvised survival candle. Jam in a natural fiber wick and light. It’ll burn as long as any comparable sized candle.  See this post here about how to make a BACON GREASE CANDLE.

No bacon grease? No problem. If the electricity is out, then the bacon in the fridge is going to go bad anyway, so you might as well use it for something. Tear off the fatty pieces and jam them in a jar around a natural fiber wick, and this will burn like a candle as well. The fatty bacon pieces will melt just like wax. Mmmmm, smells like bacon.  TIP:  Smear the wick with bacon fat first!

Smashed Bacon Candle

Smashed Bacon Candle

 

Kindling Crisco

But what if the electricity is off for more than 30 days straight and you need a light source that will shine for at least a month?

No problem, Crisco’s got your back.

Press a natural fiber wick (like a cotton t-shirt shred or a mop strand) using a forked stick to the bottom of a can of Crisco and you’ve got one of the longest burning emergency candles on the planet. Yum, doesn’t that make you hungry? Fried chicken anyone?  We’re testing it right now but I’ve heard reports of these burning for more than 30 days straight!!!???

Note: Smear the top of the wick with Crisco to get it to burn better.

Forked Stick Positioned to Jam in Cotton Fiber Wick

Forked Stick Positioned to Jam in Cotton Fiber Wick

crisco-pushing-in-wick

Removing Stick after Pushing in Wick

Removing Stick after Pushing in Wick

Cotton Fiber Wick - Trimmed

Cotton Fiber Wick – Trimmed

Crisco Candle

Crisco Candle

 

Conclusion

What’s the lesson here? Make sure you have non-electric lighting solutions in place just in case the grid goes down. If your solutions are battery powered, you will also need extra batteries as well. Oil lamps, flashlights, candles and glow sticks are great emergency light sources. Don’t resort to smashing bacon fat into a jar with your bare hands unless you absolutely have to.

Note: Candles have a bad reputation of causing house fires. Makeshift improvised candles are even more dangerous. Use only as a last resort, burn only on a noncombustible surface and keep close watch on any makeshift candle. A house fire can turn a “bug in” scenario into a “bug out” scenario really fast.

Remember, it’s not IF but WHEN.

About Willow Haven Outdoor & Creek Stewart
Creek Stewart is the Owner and Lead Instructor at Willow Haven Outdoor - a leading Survival and Preparedness Training Facility located on 21-acres in Central Indiana.  For more information on Survival Courses and Clinics offered at WHO, click HERE.  Creek is also author of Build the Perfect Bug Out Bag: Your 72-Hour Disaster Survival Kit and The Unofficial Hunger Games Wilderness Survival Guide.  Visit Creek's personal web-site here: WWW.CREEKSTEWART.COM. You can contact Creek directly at creek@willowhavenoutdoor.com.