Sunday, February 28, 2010

Saturday, February 27, 2010


My wife and I think squirrels are kind of cute so we put ears of corn out for them.

Recently, the rabbits in the area stole some of the ears of corn we put out. You can see here the results of the rabbits gorging themselves on the corn. I found this and a number of empty corn cobs in the side yard.

The squirrels are pretty smart and have started putting the ears of corn where the rabbits cannot get at them. On top of the fire pit.

In a flower pot sitting on a chair on the deck.

In a juniper bush.

In a flower pot on the deck railing.

In the fence.

On top of the wood pile.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Mini survival kit

In a previous post I talked about survival kits, and mentioned I think it is better to assemble your own rather than buying one. An exception I might make is for a mini or personal survival kit. I do not currently have one, but if I were to decide I needed or wanted one, I would probably get the Personal Survival Pak designed by Doug Ritter, and marketed by Adventure Medical Kits. The primary reason I consider this a buyout item over a DIY kit is that by the time you acquired the things in this kit, you can just buy the kit at Amazon or eBay for about what it would cost you to assemble it yourself. I still suggest you take it apart and become familiar with the items in the kit.

It has one oddity I just have to comment on. The only cutting implement it provides is a scalpel blade. I thought this was odd, being as a scalpel blade by itself is close to useless, especially in gloved hands or when your hands are cold. Some other PSKs at least give you a single edged razor, which is a lot easier to use IMO. If a scalpel handle was supplied it would have a lot more utility. Why no handle? Who knows? Maybe budget considerations. Maybe the minimalist nature of just supplying a blade and no handle appealed to Ritter for some reason. He does mention on his Equipped to Survive website that you could fabricate a handle for the blade. Of course there are no tools to fabricate such a handle provided in the kit. Maybe it is a marketing gimmick like some of the Altoid tin style kits that have a condom (water container) or a couple of tampons (tinder) included.

I have wondered why he did not put a low cost folding blade knife in the kit in lieu of the scalpel blade. He talks about this a bit in some of his commentary, but I am not sure I am convinced. Maybe he felt it would be a problem to get and keep them sharp, or maybe space, weight or cost constraints came into play. It is not always easy to tell why these kind of decisions are made, and it seems quite possible that it was driven by marketing issues (the cynic in me says it is to help market his small knife, but I suspect that is but one aspect of a fairly complex decision ).

In any case, he has a pretty decent review of various PSKs on his web site that goes over the good things and the deficiencies and limitations of some kits on the market, including those of his own kit. I think he is mostly dead on with his comments. Part of the problem with this kind of kit is that it is severely constrained, and he covers this in his commentary far better than I could, so I will refer you to what he has to say. deals with the Personal Survival Pak. It goes into considerable detail on what is in the kit, and more importantly, why. covers other commercial mini kits. Lots of good commentary on various kits, that can also apply to this type of kit in general.

This kit is heavy on signaling (mirror and whistle) and fire building (tinder, freznel lens, and Spark-Lite fire starter), and the gear supplied for these purposes is high quality. IMO, it would be a good kit just with this stuff. A small compass, cord, fishing line, fishing "kit", wire, some safety pins, duct tape, and aluminum foil are also included (I might have missed a few miscellaneous items). You might get some use out of these items, but I think they are there mostly so the item count is increased to compete with other kits (Ritter admits this about some of the items in the kit in his commentary and he should be applauded for being upfront about it).

Whats missing? Well, some obvious things are missing. No food, no water, no shelter, no first aid, no flashlight. His commentary goes into some of his thinking process along these lines. If you restrict yourself, by size, weight and cost the way this kit restricts you (along with the constraints of your kit design philosophy), the most important things you can actually do anything about are going to be fire and signaling, and the kit handles that pretty well, given the constraints.

Is this for everyone? I don't know. It seems mostly oriented around planes crashing out in the middle of nowhere, or getting lost in the woods on a hiking trip. I don't think I would carry it as an EDC item. If I am out in the woods hiking, I am going to be taking a little more than this with me if I go more than a few hundred yards away from civilization. It does kind of make sense to me as something you put in your pocket while you are on a rafting trip just in case the rest of your gear goes overboard, so maybe as a backup to your regular gear it makes sense. It also might make sense as the fire starting and signaling part of a small kit for hiking or hunting. Maybe something to put in your glove box if you just refuse to have a more realistic car kit, although as a minimalist car kit it really is not going to be all that useful.

Personally I might be inclined to add a space blanket, a small multitool (at least a small knife), and a small flashlight. I don't know if a space blanket would fit in the kit, but you can certainly put it in another pocket. Its not like I think space blankets are the greatest thing in the world, but they are small and cheap and will serve to keep the wind and rain off of you. Staying dry and out of the wind is a big deal.

BTW, I am not denigrating the kit (or Ritter for that matter) by mentioning that marketing decisions affected the choices Ritter made. The bottom line is after all the bottom line, and if he can't sell enough of the things to make it worth the time he spent on it, he will have failed. He won't have helped anyone if the kit can't be sold for some reason.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Survival kits

Survival kits are called a lot of things such as:

BOB - bug out bag. This is a kit you would grab on your way out the door if you had to leave home due to some emergency that popped up such as a fire or nearby chemical spill. You don't have time to go around looking for things you need because the chemical cloud or fire is bearing down on you. Grab your bag, your wife and kids (if applicable) and your dog, hop in your vehicle and take off for some place safer. Some people insist that a "real" BOB is one where you plan to never return home.

GHB - get home bag. A kit designed to get you home from where you happen to be.

PSK - personal survival kit. A pocket sized kit that you are supposed to have on your person at all times, just in case. Altoids tins are popular containers as are small pocket sized pouches. Realistically you can't put all that much in such a kit. There are a number of such kits available commercially.

MSK - mini survival kit. Another name for PSK.

USK - urban survival kit. A kit designed to help you survive an urban disaster such as 9/11.

Wilderness survival kit. A kit designed to help you survive in the wilderness, if for some reason you end up stuck out in the woods.

Car kit. The stuff in your car to help you deal with common travel emergencies such as flat tires and other minor mechanical issues, or for staying warm if you break down in some remote location in subzero weather.

EDC. Everyday carry. not really a survival kit, but the stuff you put in your pockets when you get dressed. Pocket knives and cell phones are very common as EDC.

72 hour bag. I see this as a variation of the BOB. Grab it and go if you have to leave quickly.

What made me decide to make a post on this subject when there are so many already? Well, a few weeks ago, I realized that my car kit was starting to take over my car. What was once neat and orderly in a few containers has grown to the point where there is just a ton of stuff in the Jeep with no organization and no real thought as to how things ended up there. That got me thinking on just what I want to have and how it should be organized.

Regardless of what you call it, a survival kit is designed to help you deal with some kind of emergency. People have different ideas about what should be in a survival kit, and will even argue on end about the difference between a BOB and a GHB. To me, they are all variations on a theme. There are a lot of posts on the Internet about various kinds of survival kits, and a lot of videos on Youtube and other places where people show the content of their kits. While the content of the kit is nice, I am more interested in why specific items might be in a particular kit as opposed to just an inventory.

There are a lot of commericially available survival kits of various flavors that you can spend your money on, or you can put together your own. My suggestion is to look at the contents of various commercial kits, and some home built kits (google is your friend in this), and make your own. Not only will you be able to control the cost, but you can put together a kit that makes sense for you. Its also a good idea to work with the items in the kit to make sure when you might need them, you have at least some experience with them.

A lot of wilderness type survival kits can be found all over the Internet, and some are pretty well thought out. But, a fair number of BOB inventories on the Internet seem to start out with 40 pounds of guns, ammo, and knives, and seem oriented toward walking off into the woods and "living off the land" while engaging in weeklong fire fights. If you total up a lot of them, its not unusual for the BOB contents to be in the 100 pound range. For most of us that is far more weight than is realistic, and having to "live off the land" for any length of time is even more so. I don't know about other people, but where I live there is no place within walking distance that would be practical for me to go "live off the land", even if I had the skills and desire to do so. And when I say walking distance, I am thinking 50 miles or more. So for me at least, I think more along the lines of a cloud of chemicals is headed my way and I need to get the heck out, and plan to do so by vehicle.

A lot of people seem to think that if they have to evacuate they will be doing so into the woods, based on their BOB contents. I think it is far more likely that you will be evacuting to a motel or refugee camp down the road (think about the aftermath of Katrina). I can't prepare for the end of the world, but I can prepare for more likely occurrences, and that is where I will put my focus.

Some pretty rational stuff about survival kits for various scenarios can be found at

Don't get crazy about it though. A few people have given the word "survival" a negative connotation, as they seem to almost revel in the remote possibilities that could result in TEOTWAWKI. Its very rational to prepare for potential emergencies. Thats why we have spare tires in our vehicles, first aid kits, and fire extinguishers.

BTW, if you happen to look at many of the equipment lists for BOBs and other survival kits you may notice they look a lot like an equipment list for a short camping or backpacking excursion. That's not surprising given that the intent of the kit is to give you something to live off for a short time, and the camping or hiking kit is for the same purpose.

Note: I do not claim any special knowledge or experience in survival kits of any kind, or of survival skills.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Bob's blog

Last year I was going to start a blog. I never got around to it. I do spend some time writing in various forums, so I think what I will do is put anything original I write in here and either link or copy it to other places.

I am not sure just what all the things are I may write about.

Guns, knives, politics, outdoorsey things. Those interest me. I may also do some writing about interesting sites on the Internet. If you have ideas on things for me to write about, let me know. I am not sure where this thing is headed, or just what I will be commenting on. Doing a blog right takes a lot of effort. I would rather do a small amount of quality work than a lot of crap.

I also like exonumia (tokens and other coin like things that are not actually coins). I have other interests as well such as science fiction, and I will probably do some posting about those interests as time permits.

I welcome comments to any of my posts. I prefer it if you do not do so anonymously, but I won't delete posts solely because they are anonymous. I don't want to be trying to decide what posts are bad enough to delete so please be civil. At present, posts are not moderated so comments show up right away.

Someone suggested to me a few weeks ago that a good test is whether you would be comfortable saying something in front of your mother and minister. So if what you have to say meets that test, feel free to say it.

I am under no illusion that I know all that much about anything. The older I get, the more I realize how little I really know. I am generally not offended if you disagree with something I write, especially if your response is well reasoned and informative.