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Sunday, October 12, 2014

TOP 20 FIRE STARTERS AND TINDERS!

There is an infographic that has become quite popular enthusiasts on social media like Facebook and Pinterest with all types of outdoor called Top 10 Fire Starters (by scoutmastercg.com). While we absolutely love the idea of an infographic that visually organizes and ranks awesome fire starters, there was just something a little off about this particular infographic to us, but it took us a minute or two to figure out what it was. Some of the pieces on this infographic just didn't quite fit together properly in our minds for some reason... but why?

While we like the concept behind this infographic very much, we felt that there were some real opportunities for improvement in it:

First off, the items listed in Top 10 Fire Starters are all sort of lumped in together as an extremely loosely termed category of “fire starters”, but as you will quickly see, not all “fire starters” are created equal. Several of the “fire starters” on this list are purely ignition sources while others are purely tinders. Several are a combination of the two (like the steel wool and battery fires starting method). It is important to distinguish between the two types of fire starters because having one but not the other can make a huge difference when attempting to start a fire in an emergency situation.
Another issue that we have with the list offered on the Top 10 Fire Starters infographic is that many really great fire starters (both ignition sources and tinders alike) are notably absent from this list. 

So... we decided to take our own stab at a version of this Top 20 Fire Starters infographic!

Top 20 Fire Starters and Tinders!
Top 20 Fire Starters and Tinders!


Let’s run through our list in a little more detail, shall we? It’s hard to fit a lot of good information into such little spaces!

TOP 20 FIRE STARTERS!

Top 10 Ignition Sources (Fire Starters)

Butane lighters are the ultimate fire starters and are the ideal backbone for every survival kit. Quality disposable lighters like the classic Bic are optimal. In a pair of skilled hands, lighters are virtually a guaranteed fire. Lighters are the easiest and most reliable way to make fire even for beginners. Lighters are beyond simple to use requiring almost no skill. They are compact, lightweight and can produce fire after fire.

Even a “dead” lighter can be used to start a fire simply using the “sparkwheel” and flint on the top of the lighter with a suitable tinder or spark catcher like charcloth or a petroleum jelly cotton ball.
As terrific as lighters are, they are not perfect. Starting a fire with a lighter can still be a challenge in wet and windy conditions. Careful attention must be given to your fire making materials, construction, environment, weather conditions and location of your fire bed for one to successfully create a fire in adverse conditions. That being said, most would still agree that lighters are by far the ultimate fire starting tool.

Stormproof Matches
Stormproof matches are next on our list because they too are lightweight and compact, reliable and even resistant to adverse conditions. They burn hotter and longer than both conventional matches and even “strike anywhere” matches. Stormproof matches are even resistant to wind and rain even after submerged in water! Stormproof matches are a terrific item to have on hand or in your kit as a backup method for starting fire since they are so compact and lightweight.

You can make your own “stormproof matches” by taking common “strike anywhere” matches and coat them in paraffin wax, varnish or nail polish giving them a nice watertight protective coating. Or you can seal a few of them up in a soda straw by crimping the ends of the straw and melting it shut on each end.

Magnesium Fire Starters
Quality magnesium fire starters (like the classic Doan Magnesium Survival Fire Starter) are terrific fire starters that have been issued by the military for decades. They even work in wet conditions. Magnesium fire starters combine the terrific spark rendering ability of a ferro rod with the ability to make highly flammable magnesium shavings. These shavings burn incredibly hot and actually burn hotter when wet!

The Doan is not the only quality magnesium fire starter out there. There are a number of quality magnesium fire starters available that are as nice or nicer than the Doan. You can even get magnesium pencil sharpeners that you can scrape shavings off of in the same way and use the sharpener to create tinder with by sharpening sticks just like you would a pencil!

Ferro rods are brilliant fire starters and are often favored by outdoor enthusiasts. Compact, lightweight and reliable, ferro rods can light many more fires than a lighter or book of matches provided you assemble a proper tinder bundle to ignite from a spark. All you have to do to get a shower of sparks from a ferro rod is to scrape it firmly down its entire length with a high carbon knife or tool blade.

Ferro rods are waterproof, durable and very reliable. Many survival enthusiasts carry a ferro rod as a primary ignition source. You simply have to know how to create a proper tinder bundle in order for it to ignite from a spark from a ferro rod. Once you do you are set!

Electric
Electricity is another great way to start a fire. A common and popular way to start a fire with electricity is with a 9 volt battery and steel wool. Metallic gum wrappers and cylindrical batteries work as well. Most common batteries, both large and small, will generate a spark when properly coaxed. The leads from car and motorcycle batteries can be contacted to create a spark over fuel soaks rags to start a fire as well.

Starting a fire with electricity may require a little creative ingenuity on your part, but electricity should always be considered a viable option for starting a fire when other options are not readily available.

Solar
Sunlight is another terrific way to start a fire. With a solar fire starter you can focus sunlight to start a fire by concentrating it on a material that you wish to ignite with one of two options: reflection or refraction. A terrific example of using refraction to start a fire is using a magnifying glass to concentrate sunlight on the surface of a combustible material. A Fresnel lens is a great item to keep in your kit or wallet because of its ability to concentrate sunlight like a conventional magnifying glass without all the bulk and weight of a conventional magnifying glass. You can even concentrate sunlight to start a fire with just a water filled container or even a condom!

Reflection methods of starting a fire also concentrate sunlight on a focal point on your tinder only instead of bending light waves with refraction you bounce (reflect) sunlight from a general area into a concentrated point with a concave reflective surface. A great illustration of this is disassembling a large flashlight and using the concave reflector to concentrate sunlight down into the bulb area where you would place your tinder (bulb removed first, of course). If you are clever enough, there are all kinds of options for taking materials with reflective surfaces (aluminum foil, retired compact discs, etc.) and devising them into a concave shape (like an old satellite dish, hub cap, etc.).
Many survival experts and survival programs refer to this fire making method as a “parabolic lens” method, but that is actually not accurate. The reflector from a flashlight is not actually a lens at all. It is a reflective surface that works on an entirely different principle than a lens does. A reflector collimates light waves and redirects them as opposed to bending them into a concentrated spot like a lens does.

Chemical
Some chemical reactions are exothermic (a chemical reaction that literally “releases heat” resulting in combustion). There are a number of such chemical combinations that result in combustion. Simply having a familiarity with a few of these chemical combinations could turn out to be a life saver. One of the more infamous of these combinations is potassium permanganate and glycerin.

As with other fire starting methods, make sure you do your research before haphazardly combining chemicals. Be smart and be safe. Take the necessary precautions by wearing protective gear when prudent and always mix chemicals in well ventilated locations. Noxious and/or caustic fumes can do terrible physical harm to the human body... even kill you. Always be extremely cautious when mixing chemicals.

“Spark”
Sparks result from many fire starting methods and can be created in many different ways. Ferro rods & electricity are just two fire making methods that produce sparks, but you can also produce sparks by simply striking a carbon steel edge (like on a knife or tool) against a piece of flint like our ancestors did for millennia. You’ll need a good tinder to catch that spark.

While starting a fire with only a spark takes a bit more knowledge and skill than simply lighting a fire with a lighter or a match, it’s really all about preparing a suitable tinder/spark catcher that can take that spark and turn it into something you can work with like either an ember or flame. Not all tinders are capable of this.

You need a tinder with a very favorable oxygen to fuel “surface area” ratio (extremely fluffy or fibrous). A single spark, while very hot, is also very tiny and very momentary. If you are going to depend upon a single spark to start your fire, you are going to need a “fuel” that can take that tiny and briefly hot speck and convert it into an exothermic reaction (in this case an ember) that you can eventually coax into a fire. The smaller and briefer your source of heat is, the finer your “fuel” (tinder) will have to be. Fluffy and fibrous tinders like petroleum jelly cotton balls (fluffed finely), fine cotton fuzz (like lint), charcloth, etc. Natural tinders like fluff and dander from cattails, milkweed, thistle and sycamore fluff could work as well.

Friction
Friction fire is a primitive fire making method that was heavily relied upon well before the matches and butane lighters of today, especially before the advent of steel. Fire bow, fire plough, hand drill, and fire saw and fire thong are all examples of friction fire making. Unlike the butane lighters and matches of today, each of these primitive friction fire making methods requires a tremendous amount of skill developed by practice and experience. That being said, the time, energy and effort invested in those skills can be quite rewarding.

Many “survival experts” on TV make starting a fire with a friction method look really easy. It is not. DO NOT simply assume that you will be able to start a fire with friction when your life depends on it having never done so before. You are setting yourself up for a colossal disappointment. It is not nearly as easy as it looks.

On the positive side, friction fire making is an impressive and beautiful skill that only a small percentage of outdoorsmen and women have mastered. Learning this skill is an impressive feat and is often regarded as the “litmus test” of a true survivalist or bushcrafter. Anyone who puts in the time and energy to learn this skill and all of its nuances not only adds another fire making “tool” to their fire making “tool box”, but they also earn the respect and admiration of their fellow outdoor enthusiasts.

Compression
Fire pistons are regarded by many to be nothing more than a novelty in the primitive fire making world, but a quality fire piston in the right hands can be more reliable than other methods. Fire pistons are compact, lightweight and can be very reliable. Like other primitive fire making methods, practice is recommended. It is unwise to simply acquire a fire piston and never use it until you actually need it.

Top 10 Tinders and Fire Starters

PJCBs (Petroleum Jelly Cotton Balls)
Petroleum jelly cotton balls are indisputably the ultimate “tinder” for many reasons. OK, will maybe not indisputably, but pretty darn close. They are so cheap and easy to make, the’re fairly water resistant, compact, last virtually forever, and will ignite from even a tiny spark! They are easy to carry in a capsule, tin, or even a re-sealable plastic bag.

The only down side that we can see to PJCBs is that you actually have to carry them with you. That’s why we make up batches of them at a time and stuff them in all of our kits and in all kinds of nooks and crannies. We put them in airtight watertight containers (like capsules, old film canisters, pill containers, Ziplock bags, etc.) and stuff them into all the smallest pockets and pouches in our kits. Got a fire steel or ferro rod with a built in capsule? Put PJCBs in it. We put petroleum jelly cotton balls in our fire kits, EDC, Bug Out Bag, 72 hour kits, car kits, camping kits and even start our backyard fire pit fires with them. Do yourself a favor: Make a batch of these, container them up and put them everywhere. They come in extremely handy even in non-emergency situations!

There are a variety of commercially made tinders available for purchase. One of the most popular is WetFire, a highly water resistant “tinder” or firestarter. A little money saving tip: If you like WetFireWeber (yes, the company that makes grills) offers a product for starting charcoal that is essentially the same exact product but the cubes are larger, you get more of them and for far less money (half the price!). Check them out here! Weber Charcoal Starters.

There are many other great commercially made fire starters like EsbitInstafireLive Fire & Tinder-Quick just to name a few. You should try several types of commercial fire starters to see which ones work best for you!

Trick birthday candles are an underrated fire starting tool. They are cheap, compact, lightweight and easy to carry. Like regular candles, the wax in trick birthday candles is a terrific asset when starting a fire in wet conditions. The added benefit of using trick birthday candles is once they are lit they can’t be blown out by the wind! Trick birthday candles are a wonderful item to keep in your kits.

Chemical
A number of chemicals are flammable, will easily ignite, and can be leveraged as fire starters. Alcohol is found in many household items like hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes. Lighter fluid, charcoal starter, kerosene, and other fuels are also terrific options.

When it comes to hand sanitizer, not all hand sanitizers are created equal in terms of fire starting capabilities. Most hand sanitizers are between 60% and 70% alcohol. The products with lower alcohol content do not flame nearly as well as the products with higher alcohol content. Obviously this fact stands to reason, but your luck with using hand sanitizer as a fire starter can vary depending on how much alcohol is in your hand sanitizer, so take a careful look before you purchase hand sanitizer for your preps.

Denatured alcohol is another popular “fuel” that burns cleanly and is often used in compact alcohol stoves. Clean burning chemicals and fuels are ideal since you may likely use your fire to cook food with. Dirtier burning fuels like gasoline, kerosene and oils can leave your food tasting like chemicals at best and even inedible at worst, so choose your chemicals for fire starting carefully.

Wax
Wax is another versatile fire making tool. Wax is virtually water proof and is terrific for making all kinds of fire starters from toilet paper tubes, sawdust, shredded documents, dryer lint, egg cartons, and much more. You can also shave off thin strips of wax from an old candle to help start a fire in wet conditions. Most people simply toss old candles once they burn down past their prime, but resourceful individuals see the unused potential in these little chunks of wax and set them aside until they have enough to make come great little DIY fire starters for their fireplace, fire pit, for survival kits and more! You can even coat cordage like jute with wax to protect it from moisture and enhance its fire starting abilities!

Fatwood is an amazing natural tinder because of its natural high resin content. You can buy it commercially or you can find it in the wild if you know how to locate it. Fatwood burns hot, long, and is water resistant. Many survivalists and bushcrafters carry fatwood in their fire kit.

Fatwood is created when a high resin wood tree (like pine or cedar) experiences some kind of debilitating trauma like being blown over or struck by lightning in a storm. The roots of the downed and damaged tree continues to pump moisture, nutrients and resin toward the tree, but there is no longer any tree left to receive those substances. Therefore they end up concentrating at the base of the tree leaving a stockpile of concentrated highly resinous wood in the remaining stump. Any time you see a downed pine or cedar, you should always check the remaining stump/trunk to see if it is a fatwood jackpot!

Charcloth
Charcloth (or char rope) is a terrific traditional tinder that is super easy to make. While charcloth won’t produce a flame, it will catch a tiny spark creating an ember that you can coax into a flame in your tinder bundle. To create charcloth, you simply need to heat cotton cloth in an air deprived container.

Foraged Natural Tinders
There are many wonderful natural tinders all around you if you simply know where to look: dried grasses, birch bark, cattail, milkweed, thistle and sycamore seed dander, tinder fungus, abandoned bird nests, and many more. The best tinders will catch from just a spark.

Improvised and Processed Natural Tinders
While there are many natural tinder materials available in the wild, there will be times when finding suitable dry natural tinder can be a challenge. That’s when you have to process natural tinders down even finer to produce a material that will take a spark or produce a flame. Feather sticks are a great example.

Improvised/Repurposed Tinders
Cotton balls, cardboard, dryer lint, feminine hygiene products, egg cartons, newspaper, shredded documents, lip balm, rope, wine corks, sawdust, gum wrappers steel wool, toilet paper tubes and many more. Most of these work best when combined with petroleum jelly, wax, or alcohol.



Tuesday, January 21, 2014

11 OVERLOOKED AND UNDERRATED SURVIVAL GEAR ITEMS!

11 Underrated & Overlooked Survival Gear Items!
Always be open to new possibilities when it comes to survival!
For survival gear enthusiasts who have been around for a little while, there are a good number of survival gear items that, at this point, most of us are quite familiar with. The "old guard" of the survival gear world may shudder at our proposal to consider some newer, more unusual or perhaps just a bit overlooked survival gear items, but we feel like you deserve more than just the status quo in terms of survival gear options. We are pretty sure that you are well aware of "Swiss Army" knives, Leatherman multitools, MREs and paracord "survival" bracelets at this point. How about we take a closer look at some far less conventional survival gear items? Some that are a bit less cliché?

Sure, we get it... How can survival gear that is tried and true... survival gear that has earned it's rightful place among the ranks of it's elite survival gear "champion" counterparts... How can proven survival gear of this caliber ever become "cliché"? Well... we as a species are constantly discovering, innovating and inventing new ideas, methods and tools for every aspect of our lives. Why would this not be the case for our survival gear? What amazing innovations have been made on the survival gear front that you may be missing out on? What are some relatively recent survival gear innovations that you might not be aware of and might want to consider for your packs and kits?
There is absolutely something to be said for the old adage, "If it ain't broke don't fix it!". There are countless examples (well beyond just the survival gear realm) of how you simply can't improve upon the original... especially in the case of bushcraft, woodcraft ("Nessmuk" anyone?)and wilderness survival (which by default tend to be about primitive skills and doing things the way they used to be done with tools and materials of old). But in actual "survival" (disaster preparedness, prepping, survivalism, bugging out, etc.), where ideologically standing "true" to the old ways is less of a priority, we can and should be open to new ideas and innovations. There's a time and a place for tradition, but there's also a time and a place for choosing the right tool for the job... even if that tool seems a bit "newfangled" upon first impression.

In an actual "survival scenario" where you are genuinely trying to stay alive and ensure your survival... this is really not a scenario where you want to get particularly ideological (say, "purist" or "self-righteous" just for example) about your survival gear. In fact... your best option would probably be to remain open to any and all advantages that you can leverage, new or old.

So just in case you are interested in considering a few less conventional, frequently overlooked and completely underrated survival gear items, you are going to want to check out the list on our 11 Underrated and Overlooked Survival Gear Items page found here:



11 Underrated Survival Gear Items




Tuesday, January 7, 2014

2014 BLIZZARD APOCALYPSE!!!

Goal Zero LightALife LED Lantern
Our Goal Zero LightALife LED Lantern faithfully illuminating our crisis!
So... last evening around 6PM we lost our power. It was almost completely dark and the windchill outside was -40 degrees!! I went into FULL FLEDGE APOCALYPSE mode. 

My wife Erin and I both immediately grabbed our head lamps. Next I grabbed my Goal Zero battery backup and light, Erin grabbed every candle in the house, I centralized all flashlights, snapped some chemlight sticks... 
LIGHT: CHECK!!! 

Then I grabbed the Coleman heater and slightly less than a dozen canisters of gas, gathered all sleeping bags, survival blankets, down blankets, hand warmers, etc. 
CORE BODY TEMPERATURE: CHECK!

Had Erin fill up all pitchers and food safe containers with water while we still had water... 
WATER: CHECK!!

Pulled the camping stove, camp cookware, MREs, canned bacon, etc. ... 
FOOD: CHECK!!

Pulled the solar/crank radio off the “survival shelf”.
COMMUNICATIONS: CHECK!!

Next, I ripped out all of my reflective mylar survival blankets and Gorilla Taped them around our doors and windows to keep heat in and cold out. 
ADDITIONAL PROTECTION FROM COLD: CHECK!!

After an hour into going into full fledge Zombie Apocalypse and wading through every piece of survival gear I owned, ranging from a bin full of survival knives to another full of molle pouches, I was sweating my tail off and needed a break. We were now officially set up for the 2014 Blizzard Apocalypse, so Erin decided to open a bottle of wine to help us "endure" this thing. We were ready. Bring it, Blizzard Apocalypse!! In fact... throw a few zombies at us why don't ya??? 

Took one sip of my wine and... our power came back on. I now had "apocalypse" crap strewn all over the entire house. First thing out of my mouth... "Man, I have so much crap to put away now." Erin started laughing her ass off. 

I was actually kinda SAD that our power came back on!! What is WRONG with me???

Erin and I now know that we can officially survive one hour without power. We are so proud right now. ;)

Where did my glass of apocalypse wine go?

Saturday, January 4, 2014

SURVIVAL KNIVES

Survival Knives
Survival Knife Assortment
Survival knives are arguably the most critical asset in all of your survival gear, but with thousands upon thousands of survival knives to choose from, how do you know which survival knives are going to be the best for you? It's not an easy question to answer until you learn a few important criteria regarding survival knives.

There are so many variables to consider when choosing survival knives. What style of survival knife should I choose? What brand of survival knives is best? How much should I spend? Size? Materials? All important questions to answer when choosing from the multitude of survival knives on the market today, but even these variables are just the tip of the iceberg.

The first thing you need to determine before choosing any survival knives is... how do you intend to use your survival knife? What tasks do intend to perform with it? Do you want a survival knife that you can rely on as a rugged chopper for processing firewood and use almost like a machete or hatchet so you don't have to carry these additional items? Do you like to leverage your knife for rougher and tougher tasks like prying, scraping or digging? Or do you plan on carrying a separate machete or hatchet in your kit for these "tougher tasks" and would prefer a more intricate cutting tool for more detailed cuts like making triggers for traps or more precise bushcraft camp tasks? Are you planning on using your knife to process fish and small game? Do you plan on using your knife as a weapon for self-defense, or simply as a tool to help you accomplish tasks?

You see, how you plan to use your survival knife should be the primary determining factor in choosing the right survival knife for the job. Larger, longer and thicker knives are better for chopping and batoning, scraping, digging and your more labor demanding tasks. But these knives are not nearly as well-suited for more intricate tasks like making precise cuts like feather sticks, survival trap triggers, pot hangers, etc. This is why many outdoorsmen and women actually choose to own and carry several different kinds of survival knives, each serving a different intended purpose.

It's obviously not realistic to carry a designated survival knife to serve each and every possible specific survival or outdoors task, so choosing a knife that can serve as many of those tasks as possible really well is the way to go. For this reason it would be a great exercise to make a list of the tasks that you would ideally like to be able to accomplish with your knife, evaluate those tasks (are they mostly demanding tasks or lighter-duty precise tasks, etc.) and choose a survival knife that would best fit the tasks you intend to use it for.

As usual, there are exceptions to every rule. In the experienced hands of a veteran woodsman or woman who truly knows how to leverage their survival knives, surprisingly intricate tasks can be accomplished with surprisingly large and cumbersome survival knives. The same is true of smaller and lighter duty knives. Many experienced survival knife users can also accomplish incredibly demanding tasks with their much smaller knives designed for much more intricate work... but this comes with experience, knowing the limits of your tools and what to reasonably expect of them, and knowing the proper techniques for doing such tasks safely and without risking damaging your knife.

If you are interested in learning more about survival knives, you can read about on our Choosing the Best Survival Knives page.


Thursday, September 5, 2013

HOT SAUCE AS A PREP!!

 
 

If you are a fan of spicy food (jalapenos, hot sauce, wasabi, horseradish, etc.) like we are, then you probably think of spicy as just another slice of the flavor spectrum just like sweet, sour, salty, bitter and savory. Some never quite acquire the “flavor”, but for many of the rest of us… life would not be complete without spicy. Having absolutely no spicy in our flavor spectrum would be like having a rainbow with no red. That rainbow would totally suck, right??

Those of us who grown to love that classic vinegar/tomato/hot pepper combination in one form or another… many of us start putting it on everything. It doesn’t stop with our Mexican food and Buffalo wings. We start putting it on our eggs, burgers, on Cajun and Creole foods, potatoes, rice, oysters, cocktails (like Bloody Mary’s), sandwiches, soups, stews, meatloaf… the list is endless!! Hot sauces are being used on everything and on all kinds of foods!


Hot Sauce Makes Bad Food Better!

OK, so have you found yourself in a situation where you really needed to eat something, but the food really wasn’t great at all? Or perhaps it was actually terrible? But for one reason or another (like you didn’t want to offend “someone” by not eating it) you really needed to eat it? You need a secret weapon to help you get your Mother-in-law’s cooking down? Well… enter hot sauce!! For we heat aficionados, that secret weapon can absolutely be hot sauce!

Not only can hot sauce help you get through your mother-in-law’s cooking (don’t worry, your secret is safe with us), it could also save your life in a survival situation by helping make some pretty unappetizing food sources (like semi-fresh road kill for example) a bit more palatable. Hot sauces have the amazing ability to make even bad food taste at least slightly better! Or… at least cover up the bad taste by setting your mouth on fire.
 



 
Hot Sauce is Easy to Store!
Because the vast majority of hot sauces have such a high vinegar content, not only do they have a fairly long shelf life, they can also be stored on a shelf unrefrigerated even after opened! This makes them an ideal food storage item! Also, since usually a little hot sauce goes a long way (depending on how spicy the sauce is and how much heat you enjoy), bottles of hot sauce are typically very small and take up very little space compared to other standard condiments like ketchup, mayo, mustard, etc. It’s hard to beat your favorite hot sauce in terms of bang for your buck!

 
Did you know? - Tabasco in MREs
  • Individual serving-sized bottles of Tabasco sauce were first included in military MREs in the 1980s, but it wasn’t until 1993 that these now famous tiny Tabasco bottles found a home in almost every military MRE.
  • Capsaicin (the heat producing chemical compound found in hot peppers like cayenne, the main ingredient in Tabasco) is a natural blocking agent of the chemical involved in the transmission of pain.
  • Cayenne is also rich in natural aspirin-like chemical compounds making it a great substitute pain reliever for headaches!
  • 10-20 drops of Tabasco in a glass of warm water is amazing improvised gargle for sore throats!
  • Capsaicin can also dramatically reduce chronic nerve pain like arthritis, shingles, trigeminal neuralgia and diabetic neuropathy.
  • Tabasco can also be used as an insect repellant


 

 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

SURVIVAL PYRAMID

EQUIP2SURVIVE SURVIVAL PYRAMID
SURVIVAL PYRAMID
Most of us are familiar with the popular survival adage “The more you know, the less you need!” There are a lot of “survival guys” (and girls) that use this adage as a way to disparage other “survival guys” (and girls) that have a tendency to rely on more heavily and invest in nice survival gear. While we absolutely see the point and merits of this adage, it is true… only to an extent. This saying is only true to a certain point and we all would be wise to realize that it is a gross over-simplification. The reality is it’s a bit more complicated than that and you simply cannot live in a world where knowledge is your only asset.

At Equip2Survive, we have given this subject considerable thought and discussion as of late, and we have sort of “settled” on (at least for the moment) an improved survival hierarchy of sorts. You see, the implied hierarchy in the adage above would be as follows:

1) Knowledge
2) Gear

That’s it. Knowledge trumps gear, end of story. OK… but is that really it? We should 100% invest in knowledge as it trumps gear (tools, materials, resources) 100% of the time? That seems like a pretty extreme viewpoint. Hmmm… Aren’t there other fairly significant “assets” in terms of survival also? Well we certainly think so.

For example… What if you know how to make a fire with a bow drill… but one of your hands was injured during a fall. Something tells us that in this situation you might be willing to trade in your fire bow knowledge for a Bic lighter.  ;)

There are an endless number of hypotheticals like this. As we know, there are always exceptions to the rules, aren’t there? And just to be clear, we are not in any way trying to diminish the importance of knowledge. We agree that knowledge is a powerful tool! But it is not the only tool! And… it is not necessarily the most powerful tool either! What we ARE trying to diminish is ARROGANCE. Foolishly dogmatic statements like the adage above (if held as a core belief) can put you in great danger if you foolishly believe that you can overcome any disastrous situation if you simply know enough. Simply put… this is frequently not the case. Even Angus MacGyver had that paperclip.  ;) Supplementing your knowledge with tools, resources, experience, skills and other important items can not only increase your chances of staying alive… they can also help you do it more easily and more comfortably!!

After much thought and discussion, we at Equip2Survive have arrived at a new “Survival Hierarchy”. Let’s take a closer look COUNTDOWN STYLE!

5) Unprepared
This one is pretty self-explanatory. You are unprepared on all fronts. No gear, knowledge, emotionally… you are pretty much hosed if anything happens to you.

4) Gear (Tools, materials and resources!)

Now we are getting somewhere. Now you have some tools, some food, a way to produce light, power, stay warm, stay cool, stay safe and secure… you have stuff. Resources to tap into. You have knives, saws, solar panels, sleeping bags, flashlights, duct tape, paracord… you are on your way, but are you really prepared now? Mmm… no. You can have a tire iron, a jack & a spare tire, but this doesn’t mean you know how to change a flat tire, does it?

But that being said… Better to have the gear and not know exactly how to use it than to know how to use the gear but not have it!!!  

3) Knowledge (What to do and how to do it!) 

Now we are getting somewhere! Now you know what to DO with that gear! You KNOW you need to keep warm, stay hydrated, stay safe, stay cool, stay fed, a way to illuminate after dark… and you know how to use all of those tools to meet those needs! Right? You are all set! Or are you??

You can know all kinds of stuff but still be poorly equipped for a situation. Knowledge alone is not going to save your life. You can “know” that you need a 72 hour kit to help you get through a crisis, but if you don’t actually create that 72 hour kit… well, that knowledge did you little good. You have to actually ACT upon that knowledge for it to be of real value.

2) Skills (practice what you know, experience)

This is where the rubber hits the road. The key word here is action! It is one thing to have lots of gear and equipment with you in a survival situation. It is another to know what to do with them. But it is even better to have developed skills and experience using them well!

You can “know” all kinds of great survival tricks by watching Dual Survival or Survivorman, but until you actually get out there and try it, this knowledge does you little to no good.

Nothing is more frustrating and demoralizing than knowing what to do yet not being able to do it! It is one thing to watch it be done on TV. It is quite another to be able to do it yourself! The key to developing a skill is to do it, gain success and keep doing it over and over again! PRACTICE!! Repetition makes it become a part of who you are!!

And finally… #1 on our countdown…


1) Will
Will is a funny thing. It is a powerful asset in a disaster situation and can allow you to accomplish incredible things. There are many survival stories where would-be victims are able to defy all odds and survive a crisis with little but the clothing on their backs in the harshest of conditions for days and even weeks!

While these inspiring stories do exist… Simply having the will to live is not a survival plan. You simply can’t count on “willing” yourself to live in a life-threatening situation. Your “will to live” really needs to be backed by some real knowledge, tools and skills.

So why then did we put “will” at our number one on our “Survival Pyramid” then if you can’t rely on it alone to keep you alive? Simply put… even if you have gear, knowledge, & skills… if you don’t have the will to live, the rest are worthless. And even if you don’t have much in the way of gear, knowledge or skills, but you do have the will to push on and do whatever it takes to stay alive… your chances of surviving are increased substantially!!

The key is not to give up! DON’T GIVE UP! People are looking for you! People love you, care about you and will miss you! Your wife! Your husband! Your children! They need you! Stay alive for them! Know who are and what is worth living for and do anything and everything you can to stay alive for them!!

Believe it or not, you can actually strengthen your will! The military is a prime example of this! They put our brave men and women through rigorous training and experiences to help them learn their limits and to strengthen their wills!

Getting out there in the woods and trying things, challenging yourself, safely pushing your limits and your abilities can actually strengthen your will! TEST your will! Push yourself! Mental toughness and your ability to withstand stress, discomfort, pain & fear can actually be expanded and can be an educational experience as well... but DO IT SAFELY!!! Don’t push yourself too hard or too far. Don’t do it alone! It’s good to gently and responsibly test your limits… but don’t DISREGARD those limits!


NOW IT'S TIME for us to come clean about something. We haven’t been entirely forthcoming with you in this article. After putting you through this whole mental exercise regarding survival priorities… it’s time to give you the truth:

At the end of the day… you can’t really realistically put these survival assets into a neat little linear triangular graph like we did in the graphic above. We only did this to facilitate conversation and thought.

Honestly, all of these assets are really important in a survival situation and each of us should aspire to develop each of them to use in harmony together. We all need to strengthen ourselves on ALL of these fronts!

As a disaster preparedness-minded individual, you need to prepare your home, your vehicle & your family with the proper gear, tools, food & water preps, light, heat, cooking, hygiene & sanitation, firearms & ammo… everything you need to make it through a crisis situation. Then you need to learn how to implement and leverage your preps and teach your family how to as well. Next you need to practice your preps and develop skills and experience! And last but far from least… talk to your family about why it is important to prepare, stay alive, continue living life and never give up even when things get tough! That, my friends, is a survival plan.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Campfire Electricity!

How to generate electricity with a solar panel and your campfire!
Charge devices with a solar panel and fire!
Did you know that you can actually generate electricity with your campfire and a solar panel? Neither did we, actually... until recently. We actually stumbled upon this discovery in the past few months as a result of some very interesting after hours internal conversations (and a few adult beverages... but I digress).

In the interest of full disclosure, we are not scientists. We are not engineers. We aren’t even electricians... but we are thinkers! And the result of this thinking? Well, we think we have discovered something pretty ground breaking! And we are pretty sure you are going to agree!

A few of us at Equip2Survive started to get really interested in solar energy (and other alternative energy solutions and technologies) a few years ago for disaster preparedness purposes. Because of this unconventional preparedness approach to “off the grid” energy alternatives (as opposed to the typical “green” movement), we were able to ask some pretty interesting questions and come up with some pretty unconventional theories. 

The short version of this story... One evening after hours, a few of us began discussing how solar panels worked. We were intrigued by these glass panels that you could put in direct sunlight and magically transform this sunlight into electricity!! What’s not to love, right? But how does this happen? What wizardry takes sunlight and turns it into electricity? Turns out... it’s no wizardry at all. It’s science! Who knew?

We then started taking a closer look at this science and discovered that certain natural materials are “sensitive” to light and have the capability of translating sunlight into electricity!! We’ll let the scientists take care of all of the details on molecules getting hit by sunlight and jumping around and all that. For our purposes, these details matter very little. But there is another scientific aspect of photovoltaics (fancy word for the science behind “solar energy”) that is a huge part of our discovery: The electromagnetic spectrum.

You see... sunlight has energy in it. And solar panels are “sensitive” to this energy and become “active” when they are in contact with sunlight. The energy given off by the sun is all part of the electromagnetic spectrum... or as most of us refer to it, light. Now if you have had any basic physics, you might remember that “light” as we know it (visible light) is only a tiny fraction of the electromagnetic spectrum. The electromagnetic spectrum covers everything from x-rays to microwaves to radio waves to gamma rays. Don’t worry... we aren’t going to worry about any of these in this discussion. We are only interested in a small part of the electromagnetic spectrum barely larger than the visible light portion of the spectrum. 

You see... we non-scientist, non-engineer, non-electricians... we know just enough to be dangerous. We wondered to ourselves... are “solar” panels only sensitive to 100% pure sunlight? And... are they only sensitive to visible light? What about man-made light like flashlights, headlights, lamps and such? Incandescent? Fluorescent? And the mother of all questions... what about fire?? These are questions that we had to get answers to. 

We started researching. We found a few posts on the internet about solar panels and their sensitivity to man-made light, but strangely... we found nothing about solar panels being sensitive to fire in either in the positive or the negative. Nothing. We found this very strange. Had this idea never occurred to anyone ever before? Surely that wasn’t possible, was it? Surely we had not just made an significant scientific discovery... when we are not even remotely scientists. Is that possible? So... we stepped up our research. 

Solar panels are sensitive to sunlight, right? Sunlight (once it reaches the earth) is basically covers three primary categories of light: The visible spectrum, UV and... infrared. Infrared... hmmm... Interesting. Isn’t infrared light actually heat?? Well... yes, it is! What other sources of “light” give off these same wavelengths? Well... many actually!

The sun is basically a big ball of fire, isn’t it? And it gives off visible light and a bit of invisible light... including heat. So if another light source emitted some of these same wavelengths (albeit not at the nearly the same intensity of the sun), couldn’t a “solar” panel potentially be sensitive to other light sources besides just 100% pure solar? 

It was time to stop researching and theorizing. It was time to do some tests!! On our next camping trip, we brought our solar panels and lit a campfire. Once the sun went down, we propped up a solar panel next to the fire and then propped up a mylar reflective survival blanket on the other side of the fire to basically double his fire light... and amazingly our panels started charging our deep cycle marine batteries (yes, plural). 

This discovery was astounding to us. And we knew that the possibilities of this discovery were HUGE in terms of a survival skill! How? So glad you asked.

What if you need to charge a battery, phone or other device and you have a solar panel... but it is night time and almost completely dark outside? What if you are in a part of the world (like Alaska) where either the daylight hours are short or the intensity of the light in this region is less than optimal? You are hosed, right? Well... apparently not anymore!!

We are going to do many more tests and cover the specifics of this in much more detail, but we are ready to share our very simple, basic and straightforward demo of this on video! This is merely a very basic beginning to what we think is an astounding discovery!! We are looking forward to doing more experiments and tests in the near future, so stay tuned and enjoy the video!!