Bug Out Skivvies

If you’d asked me when I started this website if I’d ever write about underwear I’d have given you an emphatic “NO!”  But the topic seems to come up from time to time and believe it or not it really is preparedness related.  In a previous post I described the Magic Fireproof Underwear that I wore in Iraq.  Here at Prepography we often borrow heavily from our military experiences to advise our preparedness activities but we aren’t wed to them when something else will work as well or provides a better value so today we’re talking about my new Bug Out Skivvies!

Once or twice a year I update my bug out bag which largely does double duty as my get home bag.  I strip it down, check expiration dates and function check all the contents before deciding what I want to update or change based on new skills, knowledge or tweaks in my preparedness philosophy.  One piece of knowledge that I’ve added since moving to The Hermitage, our homestead is that cotton underwear just doesn’t do it when they’re sure to get wet from sweat or rain and you’ll be spending large amounts of time trying to stay warm and/or avoid chaffing.  I did have previous experience with the XGO underwear (the magic fireproof underwear with moisture wicking properties) I wore overseas but frankly I’m a briefs wearer and boxer briefs (which is what XGO makes) are all well and good when the twigs & berries are in jeopardy from IED generated fire but definitely wouldn’t be my first choice in areas that are to date…virtually IED free.

I’ve been actively reading the past year or so about ultra lightweight travelling and ultra lightweight hiking tips, tricks, techniques and gear and have been incorporating some of what I’ve learned into my Bug out bag.  One of the pieces of ‘gear’ that virtually everyone in those communities recommends is ExOfficio brand underwear so I decided to give them a go.  I discovered that:

  1. ExOfficio brand products offer the same or better wicking protection than I received from my XGO underwear

    Magic Fireproof Underwear

    XGO Magic Fireproof Underwear

  2. ExOfficio brand underwear costs about 2/3rd’s the cost of the XGO underwear, just remember that XGO provides fire protection and ExOfficio synthetics would likely melt under high heat
  3. ExOfficio offers briefs and boxers as well as the boxer brief style that XGO offers (XGO does offer some balaclavas and long underwear options that have value as fire retardant layers though)
  4. ExOfficio is treated with an antimicrobial just like XGO.  While they describe their technology differently they both help eliminate odors and keep your privates healthy.
  5. ExOfficio offers outerwear layers made of the same moisture wicking material
  6. The ExOfficio briefs I ordered weigh significantly less than my XGO boxer briefs.
  7. ExOfficio brand underwear costs about 2/3rd’s the cost of the XGO underwear, just remember that XGO provides fire protection and ExOfficio synthetics would likely melt under high heat

I’ll spare you the details of the 2 day stress test I put my new Bug Out Skivvies through but suffice it to say that they came through as all the ultra lightweight testimonials described.

Bug Out Skivvies

ExOfficio Underwear

ExOfficio underwear is available for both men and women.  It is made of 94% nylon and 6% lycra which is light weight, wicks moisture effectively, provides great comfort and dries out quickly.  In fact after testing this underwear I’ve reduced the pairs of underwear in my but out bag to 2 pair of underwear…I’ll wear one and wash one…no need to wait for it to dry either…just roll them up in a dry towel after washing and they’re ready to wear…hang them off your pack or set them in the sun for a few minutes if you want them 100% dry.

While XGO products would be my go to choice in a war zone or for fire fighting operations, I’ve found ExOfficio brand underwear to be as comfortable to wear to the office as it is to sweat through all day on the homestead (no chaffing).  Additionally, while more expensive than cotton briefs they are cost effective as compared to other wicking garments like those made by XGO and are extremely light weight.  My new ExOfficio briefs have already replaced all the bug out skivvies in my bug out bag / get home bag, I’m going to buy enough pairs to use while traveling and will likely replace much of my daily wear unmentionables as I wear them out as well.  In fact they aren’t just good for bug out skivvies but good around the homestead or working outside as well.  If you try them out, let me know what you think.

ExOfficio Men’s Give-N-Go Brief,Charcoal,Medium

 

10 Steps To Sharpen A Chainsaw

My recent Prepography article “8 Tips For Using A Chainsaw” gave the basics on using a chainsaw. Having a sharp chain is very important for safety as well as productivity. Chains will dull very quickly, especially if cutting an extremely hard wood such as hedge. Knowing how to sharpen a chainsaw is an important skill to have. Not only will it increase the effectiveness of your efforts, it will save you money to boot because you’ll use fewer saw lubricating oils and won’t have to pay someone else to do it for you.

How To Sharpen A Chainsaw In 10 Steps

oregon sharpening kit - How To Sharpen A Chainsaw In 10 Steps1) Determine Your Chainsaw’s Gauge – You will need a rotary grindstone or chainsaw file that matches the size of the chain’s teeth. You can also buy a chainsaw sharpening kit that has everything you need in it, like the one to the right.  Typical sizes are 3/16, 5/32 and 7/32 of an inch in diameter.

2) Thoroughly Clean Your Chain – Use a brush and solvent to clean dirt, dust and debris off the chain.

3) Inspect Your Chain For Damage – Look for chipped, broken, or bent teeth. These will make a chain dangerous to use. If a tooth is worn short, it is at risk of breaking during operation, which is extremely dangerous to the operator. Replace any chain that is worn or damaged.

4) Place Your Saw On A Solid Surface – For safe and accurate filing your saw must be stable and the blade firmly supported. Use a vise to clamp the bar while allowing the chain to rotate freely is the best option.

5) Locate Your Start Point – The lead cutter on a chain is the shortest cutting tooth on the chain. If you can’t locate it, just take a permanent marker and mark a tooth as the starting point.

6) Set Your file Into The Notch On The Front Of The Cutter – The cutter is the angled “tooth” on the front of the flat surface of the chain link. Your file should exactly fit the curve of the face of the cutting tip. The top 20% of the file diameter should be above the top of the tooth.  The file should be at the same angle as the cutter. Also check your saw’s specs to find out what that correct angle is. Usually it is a 25 or 30 degree angle

7) Push The File Across The Face Of The Cutter – Using a twisting motion push the file across the cutter. The twisting motion help get the metal filings out-of-the-way. Do this on every other tooth until you have made one full rotation of the chain.

8) Reverse Sides And Repeat – Once you have sharpened all the teeth from one side, switch to the other side of your saw and repeat step

Be sure that all the cutters, on both sides, are filed to the same width. This is important, because the teeth need to take the same size “bite” from the wood. This will make for a smoother cutting process.
Chain Tooth Parts

Chain Tooth Parts
(Image courtesy of http://www.forestapps.com/)

9) Check The Clearance – Check the clearance of your depth gauges which are also known as the rakers.  These curved hook shaped pieces link the cutters. They govern the amount of wood that the cutter removes on each pass. They should be about one tenth of an inch lower than the cutter. A special tool called a Depth Gauge Tool is available online or from chainsaw dealers or hardware stores. You can eyeball it if you don’t have one but the tolerances are pretty small so use the depth gauge if possible.

10) Oil The Chain & Check Tension – Saturate the chain with oil. Then, check the tension to ensure it is not too loose, or tight. Adjust as needed, and you should be ready to cut again.

8 Tips For Using A Chainsaw

Using a chainsaw to cut wood is an essential part of maintaining a homestead and providing your home with an alternative heating fuel source. Both of the aforementioned are integral parts of the Full Spectrum Preparedness Doctrine. Whether you are an experienced chainsaw user, or a novice starting out, any time of year is a good time to cut wood.  In my book, now is the best time, though. Late fall is upon us, and we’ve had our first hard freeze. This is for a variety of reasons:

  • It’s not too hot, or too cold; making cutting wood much more comfortable.
  • Most of the things bite, sting and make you itch have been killed off with the first freeze.
  • The small underlying vegetation and leaves have died back, or fallen, making it easier to move around and get to trees that will be cut.

With this in mind, here are Prepography‘s:

8 Tips For Using A Chainsaw

1) Select a model that is dependable , that you can handle, and is the right size for what you are cutting.
Chainsaws come in a variety of sizes, from a number of manufacturers. Like anything else you buy, “you get what you pay for”. There are some inexpensive reliable models, as well as some more expensive unreliable ones. Consumer reviews are great at helping you decide which one is best quality and best suited to your needs. Chainsaws range from small electric models with 12 inch bar blades, suitable only for cutting small limbs, to huge industrial ones with large bow blades used for lumberjacking. A novice would not want to start with one of the latter, as it would be too unwieldy for them. Conversely, they may find the smaller one incapable of doing what they want. As a rule of thumb, you should be able to comfortably lift the chainsaw, and the blade should be about 1/4 to 1/3rd larger than what you want to cut. Engine power and size, known as HP and displacement, are usually dependent on the blade size, and are matched at the factory. The biggest reason all this is important is safety. When using a chainsaw, use the proper tool for the proper job.

2) Get familiar with your chainsaw.
Before you even start your chainsaw, read the operators manual. Book learn the tool and its operation. Know how to maintain it. Learn proper safety precautions for using a chainsaw. Thanks to the internet, there are videos, and online courses you can watch. Your local chainsaw dealer, or big box DYI store might even offer training courses as well. Lacking all this, find someone with experience to teach you. Even if you are an experienced chainsaw user, it is good to periodically review the manual; lest you become complacent or forget something.

3) Do a maintenance and safety check on your chainsaw.
Before using a chainsaw, check to ensure everything is in proper working order. Check all the fluid levels, and ensure that you are using the proper ones. Chainsaws use a special mix of small engine oil and gas. There is also specially weighted oil for use in small engines. Using improper fuel and oil will cause damage to your chainsaw. In addition to the fluids, make sure everything is mechanically good on your chainsaw. Ensure nuts and bolts are tight. Ensure the chain is fitted properly and sharp. Not only is all this important for the long life of the chainsaw, but safety as well. Once you’ve done all the above, fire up your chainsaw and make sure it runs properly. Be sure to always use two hands when operating your chainsaw.

4) Starting your chainsaw.
The proper methods of starting your chainsaw is as follows:

  1. Engage the chain brake before you start your chainsaw.
  2. Hold the front handle with your left hand and lock the body of the saw head between your legs.
  3. Pull the start cord with your right hand using short, fast strokes.

Alternatively

  1. Place the chainsaw on the ground and put your foot through the back handle to hold the chainsaw down.
  2. Hold the front handle with your left hand
  3. Pull the start cord with your right hand using short, fast strokes.

5) Suiting up and safety gear.
When operating your chainsaw, be sure you have the proper safety clothing and gear. At a bare minimum, you should have proper heavy-duty outdoor work attire, safety gloves, safety glasses/goggles, and hearing protection. Additionally, you could wear a leather apron and chaps to protect your torso and legs. A safety helmet and face shield also improves safety. Other gear that improves safety are straps or chains with a come-a-long, for securing things being cut and a maul and wedges in case your blade gets bound in a cut.

6) Know your cuts.

There are four basiccutsthatare made with a chainsaw. The cuts are:

  • Felling: This is the act of cutting down a tree.
  • Limbing: This is removing limbs from the tree before or after it is felled.
  • Trimming: This is cutting limbs back or taking off branches on a limb.
  • Bucking: This is cutting the “log” or trunk of the tree in usable pieces, for instance, fireplace lengths.

Each of these have considerations addressed. Where will the cut piece will fall? Are there any obstruction, like power lines, buildings and vehicles. What is the proper length I need to cut the wood in for transport and usage? These are some of the more prominent questions that need to be asked. You may come up with others, each time you cut wood.

Beware of Kickback When making Your Cuts: This occurs when the blade of the chainsaw catches, comes to a sudden stop and throws back toward the operator. Most of the time this happens when the upper tip of the cutting bar gets in to the cut. So, avoid getting this part of the blade into the cut if possible. Having a firm grip on your chainsaw, a firm stance, and a stable location will help in the event of a kickback.

7) Inspect the area and have a plan.
After you’ve taken your properly working chainsaw in to the field and before you make your first cut, have a plan. Inspect the area you will be working in and what you will be cutting any hazards you should know about. Hidden barbed wire, rocks, or other obstructions could cause you to trip, with a running chainsaw. Or, they can be embedded in the tree you are cutting; hitting which can ruin you chainsaw and/or cause you injury. If felling a tree, look for lean, excess growth, or obstructions. All of these could cause the tree to fall an unexpected direction. If cutting a fallen tree, or limbs, check to see how they are laying. Make sure that when you cut a limb, the whole thing won’t shift, because you’ve just taken a support out from underneath it.

Safety Tips For Using A Chainsaw

Drawing courtesy of Mother Earth News

8) Begin cutting you wood.
Once you’ve done all the above, you are ready to start cutting. Here are some safety tips for chainsaw use from the US Forestry Service:

  • Keep upper tip of bar in solid wood.
  • If cutting a log from below, do it in two stages: first cut from above, then make another cut from below to meet the first.
  • Hold the chainsaw with both hands.
  • Grip the handle by putting your thumb around it.
  • Keep your elbow locked.
  • Never cut above shoulder height.
  • Keep the saw close to your body.
  • Use a saw with chain brake.
  • Start every cut under full throttle.
  • Keep the chain sharp.

Finding Your Prepper Homestead

Recently I announced that the Jackson clan completed a seven year quest to purchase acreage for a homestead and full time retreat.  Rachel and I had been considering purchasing acreage for a number of years as a combination hunting/recreation/retreat property but as I served in Iraq I watched neighborhoods turn into war zones and the radicalization of ordinary civilians I realized that the only (relative) safety in societal breakdown lies in either complete isolation or surrounding yourself with the fellow members of your family, ‘clan’ and ‘tribe.’  I hope that by sharing our story and homestead evaluation criterion we help you in finding your Prepper homestead.

That said I want you to consider how unrealistic complete isolation is for the average person or family.  Not only are we social animals, but complete isolation in a family compound would make securing and trading for necessary resources…not to mention husbands and wives for your next generation… problematic.  No one can plan for or afford to prepare for every contingency so some trade will be required to deal with any extended and even many short term TEOTWAWKI events.

I once read about a retreat island (in the Caribbean… I think) for sale that had been developed by a former employee of the CIA for his family.  This CIA alum had earned millions working in industry following his national service and to stock his island he purchased the inventory from entire hardware stores to ship to the retreat.  Most of us don’t have that kind of money or the resources to travel to such remote retreats when the balloon goes up or the stock market crashes down so what’s a regular guy to do to keep his family safe and sound…I say do the best you can where you are with what you have (financially, social network wise, etc.).  This doesn’t mean that you hunker down during a hurricane or wildfire and hope to survive, or that you don’t relocate to a safer area if you’re lucky enough to be independently wealthy or have ‘mailbox income’ and the time and willingness to develop new social networks… but it does mean that even if you’re not tied to a geographic area by family or financial requirements you should strongly consider setting up your retreat or homestead in the safest location with the best resources within own social geography.  This was the epiphany I had as I watched civil society in Iraq tear itself to shreds.

Even before I returned to the states I’d started researching prospective homestead sites and on my return we started looking in earnest.  Over the years I developed a network of real estate agents and bankers (for foreclosures) that tipped me off to new properties going up for sale, wrote absentee landowners to make unsolicited offers and set up standing queries on a number of real estate sales websites.

Over the years we refined our homestead evaluation tools and learned how to move quickly to avoid the day late, dollar short disappointments we experienced early on.  It’s important to note that until the last 18 months of our search we hadn’t developed our wish list sufficiently to effectively analyze, compare and decide if a prospective homestead was right for our needs.  I hope that by sharing our evaluation criteria we will help you find your homestead/retreat more quickly than we did.

Check back tomorrow for more on finding your Prepper homestead as we discuss the Homestead Evaluation Criteria that led us to find The Hermitage.

Finding Your Prepper Homestead

Recently I announced that the Jackson clan completed a seven year quest to purchase acreage for a homestead and full time retreat.  Rachel and I had been considering purchasing acreage for a number of years as a combination hunting/recreation/retreat property but as I served in Iraq I watched neighborhoods turn into war zones and the radicalization of ordinary civilians I realized that the only (relative) safety in societal breakdown lies in either complete isolation or surrounding yourself with the fellow members of your family, ‘clan’ and ‘tribe.’  I hope that by sharing our story and homestead evaluation criterion we help you in finding your Prepper homestead.

That said I want you to consider how unrealistic complete isolation is for the average person or family.  Not only are we social animals, but complete isolation in a family compound would make securing and trading for necessary resources…not to mention husbands and wives for your next generation… problematic.  No one can plan for or afford to prepare for every contingency so some trade will be required to deal with any extended and even many short term TEOTWAWKI events.

I once read about a retreat island (in the Caribbean… I think) for sale that had been developed by a former employee of the CIA for his family.  This CIA alum had earned millions working in industry following his national service and to stock his island he purchased the inventory from entire hardware stores to ship to the retreat.  Most of us don’t have that kind of money or the resources to travel to such remote retreats when the balloon goes up or the stock market crashes down so what’s a regular guy to do to keep his family safe and sound…I say do the best you can where you are with what you have (financially, social network wise, etc.).  This doesn’t mean that you hunker down during a hurricane or wildfire and hope to survive, or that you don’t relocate to a safer area if you’re lucky enough to be independently wealthy or have ‘mailbox income’ and the time and willingness to develop new social networks… but it does mean that even if you’re not tied to a geographic area by family or financial requirements you should strongly consider setting up your retreat or homestead in the safest location with the best resources within own social geography.  This was the epiphany I had as I watched civil society in Iraq tear itself to shreds.

Even before I returned to the states I’d started researching prospective homestead sites and on my return we started looking in earnest.  Over the years I developed a network of real estate agents and bankers (for foreclosures) that tipped me off to new properties going up for sale, wrote absentee landowners to make unsolicited offers and set up standing queries on a number of real estate sales websites.

Over the years we refined our homestead evaluation tools and learned how to move quickly to avoid the day late, dollar short disappointments we experienced early on.  It’s important to note that until the last 18 months of our search we hadn’t developed our wish list sufficiently to effectively analyze, compare and decide if a prospective homestead was right for our needs.  I hope that by sharing our evaluation criteria we will help you find your homestead/retreat more quickly than we did.

Check back tomorrow for more on finding your Prepper homestead as we discuss the Homestead Evaluation Criteria that led us to find The Hermitage.

Wood Stove Checklist

Let’s admit it…as Preppers we love wood heat.  Wood is the perfect renewable resource as a heating fuel because you can harvest it with the most primitive of tools and nature supplies a steady supply if we don’t overharvest.  But like most simple solutions it’s simple for something to go wrong and that’s why you should develop and use a wood stove checklist if you include wood heat in your daily life or preparedness plan.

I want to discuss this topic today because it’s that time of year again when many of us in the Northern Hemisphere are getting ready to put our wood stoves and furnaces back into operation.  Before the first cold day arrives and you light that first fire make sure that you work through your wood stove checklist to assure that fire is your friend and not your enemy this year.  Flue fires can damage expensive chimneys, spread to other parts of the structure and even lead to the death of you or your loved ones.  Even without an out of control fire, smoke inhalation hazards exist from poorly maintained or improperly installed wood stoves.

Seek the help of a professional chimney sweep in your area to help you develop a maintenance plan for your unit and a safe wood stove checklist specifically tailored to your system.  Below is an example of one type of wood stove checklist to review as you and your professional are developing your own:

  1. Check flue pipe for corrosion, missing tile, leakage or defects.  Have a professional repair any deficiencies noted.
  2. Check wood stove or furnace for damage, corrosion and function.  Assure proper function of doors, seals and gaskets.
  3. Make sure your flue’s spark arrestor is properly attached and able to contain embers.
  4. Have the wood stove’s flue cleaned by a professional. If you elect to clean it yourself make sure to seek the proper training and use the proper equipment for your situation.  Assure that there is no build-up of creosote or ash within the stove or the flue.
  5. Make sure to remove any flammable or unnecessary items that have accumulated around your system out to the distance specified by your unit’s manufacturer or  36 inches, whichever is greater.
  6. Make sure that the fire resistive barrier behind, under and around your stove is still in good repair and is installed to manufacturer specifications.
  7. Make sure that all household members understand that flammable items should not be place on or within 36 inches of the stove…including wood, fuel, matches, other fire lighting supplies, etc.
  8. Make sure that you have at least one Class “A” or “ABC” rated fire extinguisher mounted on the wall close in your stove’s room, that all household members are familiar with it’s use and that the extinguisher’s gauge still shows it to be ready/in the green.
  9. Verify that you have a metal can with tight fitting metal lid available for ash removal during the upcoming fire building season and that it is free of cracks, holes or corrosion.

Additional considerations:

  • Barrel Stoves Are DangerousDon’t skimp on working your checklist if you’re a ‘just in case of power outage’ wood stove person either.  Many wood stove accidents and emergencies are caused by poor maintenance and poor habits resulting from insufficient experience operating wood heating appliances.
  • If you buy a wood stove and don’t intend to install unless there’s some type of breakdown or collapse make sure to purchase enough of the manufacturer’s recommended double or triple walled stove pipe and the correct thimbles for each wall/ceiling/roof penetration that must be made to properly vent your stove.
  • Buy only Underwriters Laboratory (UL) listed stoves as your family’s safety isn’t worth saving the few dollars you might save up front by installing a home-made or barrel stove.
  • Don’t purchase any wood heating appliance that requires electricity to operate like pellet stoves.


Pallet Wood Projects

5 Minute Pallet Table

Grumpy G’s 5 Min Pallet Table

Frequent Prepography contributor Grumpy G is nothing less than a pallet aficionado and has had me taking a second look at pallet wood as a low cost resource for building pallet wood projects.

I’d previously dismissed this abundant and low cost building material from an outdated worry surrounding introducing toxic chemicals into my immediate environment.  I can still hear one of my sergeants yelling at then Private Jackson…”Jackson, take that damned pallet off the fire, don’t you know they’re treated with toxic chemicals!”

Grumpy G and others over the years have shared pallet wood project stories with me and I’ve been concerned with their safety but have had my concerns brushed off by those in the know…that doesn’t mean every pallet is safe to build from (or burn nearby) but some of them certainly are and you can find out which ones by reading this short article from Instructibles or this article for expanded information.

Pallet Rabbit Hutch

Grumpy G’s Pallet Project Rabbit Hutch

…anyway, on to the purpose of this note to our readers…Grumpy G has shared a cool website with me called 1001 Pallets but would more appropriately be titled 1001 Pallet Wood Projects.  It’s a great place to view the possibilities for this most humble of recyclable materials.  You can see pictures of pallet wood projects for the garden, the workplace, the home or anyplace else you can imagine…check it out.

Cargo Container Home Infographic

Well, it’s official, after weeks of design and discussion, Rachel has put her foot down and refused to build a cargo container house for the Jackson family.  Doesn’t mean that Cargo Container Homes aren’t the neatest habitational upcycle available though!  Check out this Cargo Container Home infographic from Self Storage Finders.  I like the redneck versions better…but the high dollar conversions are interesting too.

Living in Storage Containers

Explore more infographics like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.

Rigging A Tarp Shelter Infographic

Rigging a Tarp Shelter

 

Andrew’s Note:  I’m still a fan of using bungee cords as described in Building a Poncho Hooch but this method of rigging a tarp shelter eliminates the need to carry additional gear/bungee cords.  Note that tarp shelter techniques can be used with poncho shelters.  Click on the graphic to take a look at ScoutmasterCG.com.

How To Build A Campfire Infographic

How To Build a CampfireAndrew’s Note:  A few years ago I took a group of kids out to the woods, broke them down into several groups and challenged them to build a campfire.  I had a prize waiting for the first group to successfully start their campfire…it was a very long wait.  Knowing how to build a campfire was skill nearly every child learned when I was a kid…not so anymore.  This is a critically important skill that’s key to protecting yourself from the elements in cold weather…pass it on. 

 

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