Monday, June 24, 2013

Prep Like NASA: Define your Scenario

NASA uses a winning formula for interplanetary exploration. It’s a rather simple set of steps that when followed they provide a clear path to success. The first step ground observation from earth. The next step is a flyby providing a general but more detailed observation. The third is close observation using an orbiting spacecraft. The fourth is a stationary landing craft. The fifth is a roving landing craft. And the sixth is a sample return mission that brings material back to earth.

Some objects in space, like comets, skip a step or two, but for larger bodies, the six steps work well by defining the environment and eliminating many surprises. The same should be true for your prepping.

For example, if you make a BOB filled with whatever odds and ends strike your fancy at that moment (or season, or news report, or movie plot), or you stockpile food of some kind somewhere and somehow, you might have tilted the overall odds in your favor, but you have still left a considerable portion of your prepping to luck.

Imagine you are lifting off earth in a spacecraft to a place where you cannot supplement your supplies. Well, if you were headed out, wouldn’t you want to know where you were going and for how long? Of course you would. So why is prepping any different?

You’ve defined your basic needs (water, food, shelter, protection, mobility), and you’ve defined some threats (humans with guns and bad intentions), and you’ve defined some possible locations (Bug in, Bugout location A, B, or C). Now what you need to do is face up to a major reality check. As much fun as it would be to get caught in a urban combat situation where you are vastly superior to the cement-headed fools trying to rob you, that is actually a highly unlikely scenario. And even if it were to happen, it would be over in seconds…and then what? You've still got a whole life ahead of you.

The most likely scenarios are of two kinds; short and civil, and long and WROL.  The short and civil kind are small scale natural disasters or localized man-made ones. Tornados, floods, epidemics, fertilizer plant explosions, etc. There is little to no threat of theft, assault, or victimization by anyone other than out-of-state internet scammers. The point of prepping for the short-civil is be comfortable while avoiding adding anymore bodies to the problem.

The long and WROL scenario is a whole different ball of wax. And prepping for such and event is somewhere between going to Afghanistan and going to the moon.  Trust me, your bag of gold and Rolex watches is not going to buy you any food or safety unless the there is a general belief that things will get back to normal sometime in the imaginably future. Weeks, months, years? It’s hard to tell, but value is only placed on things that serve a purpose.  So-called valuables work only if the value is mutual. I’ll offer you a glass of water for that Rolex Submariner. Fair deal? Depends.

So what does NASA have to do with prepping? Well, beyond the steps mentioned above, NASA also models the location it plans on going to. If Mars is the target, then NASA builds a model of Mars and plays around with the model to better understand what environment and situations are likely to be encountered. In the prepping world, there are many situations in the past and present worthy of inspection for insights as to what can happen and what to expect. It should not be a surprise that hungry people become desperate people. Or that when conventional law enforcement is unavailable or out gunned, the citizen will have to fend for himself because while you might see the situation as a threat, others view it as an opportunity.

And equally, it should be no surprise that a zombie apocalypse is a worthless scenario about which to prep for the very same reasons that NASA does not plan for finding intelligent life on Mars. The probability is so astronomically small that any effort even considering it is not only a waste of time, but also a critical deviation from rational thought.

Road trips, camping, and temporary bugging in could all be models for a true prep situation. You can learn much about the limitations of your gear, your skills, and your tolerance for discomfort. Further, as in the case of a road trip, you can experience the vulnerability of traveling in unfamiliar territory. Trust me, if your first night under the stars (or better yet camping in a thunderstorm) is because you have nowhere else to go, then you are in for a big surprise. Actually its an extra serving of surprises followed by seconds. I don’t mean to scare you, but put some prep in your prep.

You can have all the cool gear, dehydrated food, bottled water and carburetor-fueled four-wheel drives, but when you hear those fan blades struggling under a mighty load of excrement, there is no book in the world you can read fast enough to prepare you for what is about to happen.

NASA also addresses the potential for failure and considers the cascading mechanisms of additional failures. For instance, let’s say the rocket scientists created a scenario worthy of prepping, and that scenario was long and WROL. Before tricking out the Toyota FJ with the latest aftermarket bugout accessories, a realistic situation would need to be created for which then the BOV could be designed. In some cases it would not be an FJ but a Prius. Others would be a mountain bike or a horse, but in most cases it would be a sailboat.

A few possible scenarios include war, outbreak or epidemic, catastrophic natural and man-made disasters, major shortage of food, clean water, fuel, or freedom, and of course the ever-present threat of a nuclear accident or war. There are others, of course, but asteroid collision with the earth, and megavolcanos/earthquakes are a little tough to prepare for given their scale and lack of warning. In those latter cases your chances of survival are not really worth spending time thinking about.

While all the aforementioned scenarios are possible, none are occurring right now in America. Regardless of what the commercial gloom-and-doom survival blogs would like you to think, there are actually situations occurring right now that must be prepped for, and as they unfold before our eyes, you will have a clear path upon which to lay your prepping scenario. And that scenario is Global Climate Change.

The silliness of climate change deniers is sounding especially foolish today given the endless supply of evidence for massive inconsistencies in earthly operations.  Not to mention the total absence of measurable numbers challenging climate change. In fact the only actual measurable evidence against climate change is found in the imagination and misrepresentation of hard-to-starboard talking heads who are paid to say such thing. Just take a look at how military is adjusting for the treats of climate change. If they are, then so should you!

Personally, I don’t need no more stink’n data to prove climate change is real. I can see it. I can feel it. I can explain it. And most scary of all, I can model the cascading effects down to the point it where it will hit me square between the eyes. When dead fish are floating down the river because it is too hot, I don't really care what anyone else thinks. I am going prepare for it now while there is still time. Unfortunately the climate change effects I’m worried about in the near future are not those of immediate temperature increase, but instead the highly predictable human reaction to a large-scale long-term upheaval in their way of life that will fairly quickly contaminate my way of life. Famine, fires and fighting. The four F’s.

Just as NASA restructured the spacecraft designs after Apollo 13 in order to make parts more interchangeable and redundant, you can run out the climate change scenario in your neck of the woods an make predications of what to have on hand, where to go, and the most important element of all, the advanced warning signs that will allow you to get a head start on the masses. So paying attention might be the best prep tool ever. And it’s free!

Most likely there will be a slow but steady slide into chaos that will be covered in detail by the popular press. At first it will make a few headlines, but then sink below the fold until the bodies pile up. At that point there will be a rapid acceleration, a cascade of effects if you will. 

Have you considered how you will hunt for food when the forests are on fire? Or how you will fish when the rivers are too warm? Is your bugout location above 10,000 feet? Hiding out in your bomb shelter eating ramen noodles every day for a year is not going to work even if you supplement yourself with vitamin C, D, B complex, protein supplements, and the rest of the periodic table. If and when you surface, you will be at a significant disadvantage by not knowing how the new world disorder is operating. The moment you shut yourself out of the equation behind your blast door is the same moment you relinquished your position in society along with all your possessions, money, and land. Seriously, if you think others can do all the heavy lifting while you hide out, then hopefully they will be more generous than I. For when you wander back into town as if nothing happened, then good luck to you. If it really is that bad, then it is really is that bad.

However, on the up side things are pretty good right now so have fun and prepare like you mean if. You know, like NASA does.

Carrry on.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Welcome to Montana. Now go home.

We don’t mean it as an insult. Just a suggestion.

When I travel to other states, especially those smaller and more densely populated ones (which is almost all of them), I enjoy striking up a prepping conversation to learn what my fellow citizens in other parts of the country think they will do when TSHTF.

Strangely, the end of the line for many folks is a complete bugout to the high country that includes my home of Montana. Yet these folks speak of Montana as if there is nobody already here, and the lush deer-filled mountains surrounded by crystal-clear trout-rich streams are there for the taking. Well, I don’t know how to break it to you all, but we are already here.

You know that dirt road you were going to camp next to? It’s actually my driveway.

And that nice creek you plan on fishing. Well it crosses my land.

And that inviting mountaintop in the distance. It’s actually a great place to get hit by lightening.

And see that No Trespassing sign? That is your one and only warning.

Just because you don’t see anyone around doesn’t mean we’re not here.

Imagine me driving my BOB vehicle into another state. Any state. At 80mph, there are all kinds of great looking places to go and stake out a new life if only for a while, but just like when you pull off the pavement to pee, people were/are everywhere whether in person or as toilet paper and beer can trace evidence of their recent visit. If you are alone, you won’t be for long.

So after rolling into your neck of the woods, I now stake out my perimeter and fortify my space. The problem is it is not my space, but yours. Imagine waking up and seeing me camped out in your backyard. Your first thought would be WTF? And you second thought would be which long gun would draw the best bead on this situation.

Well, the same is true for Montana. Pull out a map and point to a spot. Any spot.  Pretend that is your hypothetical bugout location (BOL). Guess what! Someone either lives there or plans on going there who already lives around here. Sure there is a lot of room in Montana, and we do consider ourselves a rather hospitable folk, but the Montana ethos is clear; you can do what you want, where you want…as long as it doesn’t affect me. Parking your BO rig at my fishing hole –even if on state land—affects me. And if you happened to lack the foresight to affix Montana license plates to your outfit in a token attempt to fool us, don't expect us to toss a welcome mat at your feet. Or lower the shotgun barrel when in range.

Now unless you happen to have a unique skillset beyond what we all have around here, like, like say you are a brain surgeon or Navy Seal or MacGyver, then you will quite possibly be considered a liability rather than an asset. So spill the details quickly.  I don’t mean to burst your BOB bubble, but my home is not your BOL just as I expect you don't want me treading on yours.

Katrina was a wakeup call to BOLs in action. Although most were unplanned or just rough concepts, it was kind of the folks in surrounding states to graciously absorb the displaced masses. But the stresses did add up, and next time (and there will be a next time) the accommodations won’t be, well, so accommodating.

You see we here in Montana are not simply placeholders building out a mild infrastructure for your bugout dreams. We have the small country stores because we like and patronize them. We left the trees standing and the game running because that’s the way it needs to be for us to survive. We like the weather. We understand that the potholes keep the vehicle speeds down reducing impacts with animals. And we don't anyone to swoop in and save us when things go south whether by flood, fire or famine.

Enough dense-staters have moved in around here only to plant lawns where they don't belong, drain wetlands, build high fences to protect their invasive flower garden from wildlife, changed migration patterns by building right in the middle of ancient routes, then banning hunting causing an overload of charismatic megafauna on lands never designed for such carrying capacity. They build palatial structures requiring massive amounts of electricity, water and asphalt. They argue with locals. They complain about the unplowed roads in the winter, the wildfires in the summer, and the bears in their garbage. 

Basically, they behave as the spoiled children of wealthy parents they are. Since most of them are so dysfunctional as families and humans, it is only a matter of time before they implode and move away leaving a chunk of land so valuable it goes into disrepair because no one in their right mind would buy it.  Of course the taxes of surrounding properties also bear the scars of the viral infections of conspicuous consumption where greed carved its way deep into the generations-old Montanans who now own the land- the same land you think you are going to bugout onto.

Have I made my point clear?

Now I don't want to blame the victim, but when watching the wildfires situation unfold in Colorado, primarily the Black Forest Fire (got to love those inadvertent puns), it is obvious that the interface between wildlands and those tracts of property domesticated through the decades were blurred. Many dream of a BOL that is entirely within the wild side of that interface yet little of the prepping involves the realities of living in the wild. If you plan on shooting any four-legged threat with the same prejudice as those dangers on two legs, well, I'll let you in on a secret; you will be perceived as a threat to our way of life in Montana, and trust me, in an actual WROL, that is a capital offense.

But I’ll be nice and let you in on another secret. Seven of them actually. Here are the rules to bugging out to Montana:

1.    Visit Montana. Not just the parks and cities. Do you homework. Appreciate what's here beyond the tourist destinations.

2.    Be nice. Be humble. Make as little impact as possible. Invisibility is considered a quality trait here in Montana.

3.    Never ever assume you are entitled to be here. Yes, Montana is one of the United States, but I've seen what you've done with your state, and frankly, I'm not impressed.

4.    Ask permission. And accept the answer. We're not stupid, we're quite. And good shots.

5.    Ditch the bling. You cannot impress us so don’t try. If we wanted your lifestyle, we would not live in Montana. Plus after a few rough days, the bling will be removed for you anyway.

6.    Never judge us by our clothes, cars, or trucks. We operate under a different set of indicators here, and unless you are authentic, you will come across as silly as the endless supply of actors who play big city types in movies who are trying to fit into small towns. I know all about you from just a cursory glance at your choice of shoes and tires. 

And last and most important…

7.    If you want to be truly prepared to bugout to Montana, then already be here.

The Montana Boarder Patrol has very few roads to block so unless you are going to try and sneak into Montana over the mountains, have a plan B. Look at the map. Notice the over 1700 miles of state line with only about two dozen roads penetrating the border. This is a very well designed state with excellent buffer states fortifying all points on the compass.

But hey, I’ve heard Texas is nice. 

Carrry on.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Prepping in Layers: The BOB within a BOB

We all know that dressing is layers is the ideal solution for any outdoor situation regardless of season, elevation, or sport. The rules for layering are not hard and fast, but slushy and variable. I’ve always said that I want to live in a community where wearing a down coat with shorts is totally normal. And I do. For me the down coat/shorts combination represents the best in brains and lifestyle. As do a short sleeve shirt and gloves, as does a down vest over a tee shirt, or even a stocking cap and no shirt. Rules are for those who don’t understand the “why.”

Dressing in layers is simply putting a sequential and purposeful set of barriers between you and the world. Rather than having one giant coat with a tee shirt underneath (which is actually a viable strategy in Alaska where you move from freezing to tropical as you go from building/car to building), you instead work with varying degrees of insulation each with its own features to be exploited. The features include wicking (the movement of moisture away from the body and into another layer or the air), dead air space, wind breaking, water resistance, and resistance to penetration (whether by pokey sticks, sharp rocks, or full metal jackets).

The sequence of the layering is then based on both the activity and the design of the article of outerware. Putting a rain coat over a down parka may look silly but technically it makes perfect sense if the conditions are right for such a thing. The reason you don’t see that particular sequence very often is that anyone in the know realizes that moisture will be trapped inside the water resistant layer –thus the down coat- and down loses its loft (=insulation ability) proportionately to its moisture content. Wet down is useless.

However, you could wrap your head with your raincoat. No rule against that. And other than diminishing your hearing, a raincoat makes makes a fine hat when needed.  Was I the only one who while watching the astronaut actors in the movie Apollo 13 freeze their way back home in unheated capsule was yelling at the screen to “Put on your hat!” In the launch sequence, the astronauts wore makeshift leather caps under their helmets. Even though low-tech throwbacks to their fighter jock days, the insulation of the cap would make a difference. Heck, even ear plugs make a difference since a pair of uninsulated holes into your head are a definite heat sink.

So when you crank the handle of your prepping scenario machine, do you see yourself needing a BOB organizational flowchart where all of one type of supply is occupying a similar space? Or do you envision that your situation may require you to downsize yet remain viable?

Imagine yourself leaping off your front porch or raceing down the stairs as you hear your front door close behind you for possibly the last time. You and BOB hit the road. As your adventure begins, you find yourself in the unenviable but entirely predictable position where you must dump your best friend BOB in order to increase your survival potential as you traverse a hostile environment, or perhaps just do a little recon that might entail a day or two away from your friend BOB. Sure you could spread out your wares like a flea market and pick and choose the necessities for a day or two away from your primary BOB. Or, you could slide a hand through a zipper in your main BOB, grab the appropriately sized mini-BOB, and continue your adventure in style.

Of course weight is a serious concern so I don’t expect you to order a six-pack of Ruger LCPs, but do give it some thought. My Glock 19, if not on my hip, is in my pack  only on zipper away from my fingers. But I do have an LCP inside one of my mini-BOBs. As a mouse gun, I don’t carry much ammo for it. Frankly, if it comes to a Blackhawk Down situation, the LCP is only going to prolong the inevitable. No point in carrying more weight for that dead end purpose. But the LCP may buy enough time when on the run to multiply the equation from one with a negative quotient into to the right of zero on the lifeline. Remember, even the petite LCP speaks the same language as the big boys.

To start BOB within BOBing, think four levels deep. The extremes are your EDCs and your main BOB. That allows two mini-levels larger than EDC, or two smaller than a full BOB depending on your perspective. Aim at something the size of New York Times best selling book in hardback for the larger Bw/iB (BOB within a BOB) and something about the size of the same book when it comes out in paperback for the next size down. 

The smallest mini-bob should have more value then if you just stuffed more stuff in your pockets. If your smallest BOB can be subdivided into your pants pockets, then great, you have transitioned into extended EDC or EEDC, a topic or later. But that is not the point of a small BOB. In fact, a that small fanny pack with no padding, support, or attachment points might be just the ticket for your smallest BOB. Organization and predictability are critical. You don’t want to have to rapidly dig through your pockets feeling for a micro flashlight only to drive your fingers tip into the business end of a fishing lure.

The last aspect of mini-BOBs is food and water.  Treat both like ballast. F&W are for immediate needs and are 100% consumable. That means there is no reuse or redeeming value post-consumption. That also means if you have to drop them in order to fly away faster, then so be it. Since the bulk of food and the weight of water are distractions from speed and stealth, don’t hitch your mini-BOB wagon to F&W or you might have to cut ties to both. So while not technically a mini-BOB, a wearable container/bag/pouch with some food and water already in place is a great alternative to squandering away your most prime and sacred bodily real estate…your hands.

So dump out your BOB on the floor and reorganize your survival tools into layers. In other words,  get in touch with your inner BOB.

Carrry on.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

What's the best digital camera for the Apocalypse?

I’m often asked what's the best digital camera to have during the apocalypse?*  It’s a fair question, and one I believe represents the true misunderstanding about just how bad things could get.

Modern society, especially as expressed in larger cities, has all but removed the man vs. nature opportunities that not only keep us sharp as humans (and arguably thin the herd as with the Darwin Awards), but also satisfy the craving we all have for adventure of the survivable kind.

In my experience working in outdoor recreation, I am often reminded just how limited the exposure most people have for even the most mild situations where the survival mentality buried deep in our brains must be accessed. And zombies only make it worse.

Two observations of my outdoor work and recreation experience include 1) that what I could do day in and day out for a living is considered extreme by some, and Kodak moments by almost all the rest. And 2) that my hobbies would kill most people.

So where do zombies fit? Simple. Zombies are a naturally occurring mental fabrication created to stimulate the adventure-region of an adult mind that has been dormant for many years. In other words, the lower the adventure in one’s life, the greater the zombie fantasies. And worse, the zombies in your dreams behave in a way just below your level of tactical fighting experience. If you have no skills, then the zombies are like infants. If you have some experience, then the zoms have a little fightbackability. If you think of yourself as a real operator, then the zombies can attack full force and your machete arm never grows tired.

Zombies represent a slow but relentless foe in a roughly human form, but yet carries none of the emotional baggage when you "kill” it. Yea, I know about the fast zombie crowd out there, but chew on this: making your zombies quicker and sharper is nothing more than a manifestation of your need to advance beyond the dull, exhausted previous sluggish zombie fantasies. Fast zombies do not represent a major evolutionary advancement making you somehow superior to those preferring slow zombies.

The absurd number of zombie related products from green ammo to bleeding targets is further evidence that the make-believe world of the apocalypse is alive and well. My focus here at the Prepping Professor, however, is to point out the fallacy of such thoughts and hopefully refocus them into a call for productive skills and preparation focused on realistic scenarios completely devoid of brain eaters, space aliens, and global destruction on any given day that contains a round number.

So what camera is a good one for the end of the world as we know it? Well, like most so-called preppers, having a camera that is water resistant, dust and shock proof, has long battery life, and great overall durability would come to mind. But those things don’t really matter in the big picture. However, a camera does matter. It matters more than anything else.

The camera as a physical object is not important, but instead what the camera represents is the key to survival. In a nutshell, the camera acts as a time capsule recording past events for future consideration. Two components are necessary for the concept of a camera to work; the present and the future. If your prepping scenario includes the alternative to put a bullet in your own head, then a camera will do you little good. But if you have deep survival instinct that claws towards the future regardless of the seemingly insurmountable challenges in front of you, then the camera can document your journey, viewable at your destination.

The low threshold for suffering is evidenced by city dwellers who venture outside only to discover cold rain, extreme temperatures, large animals, and the fatal effects of gravity, and then exercise the permanent check-out option long before most outdoor types would even begin to grumble.  It doesn’t have to be that way, but unless one builds up a tolerance for being uncomfortable, one will not have a proper measurement system for assessing just how bad it can get.

The recent spat of books about survival attitudes has clearly documented that the way you view the future is as important as the preparations you make now. If you are lacking the survival attitude—and I don’t mean some reckless kill-em-all arrogance-gonna-go-down-fighting-brain-spasm, then chances are great you won’t emerge intact on the other side of the event.

But if your situational awareness includes a positive element conducive to the collective survival of yourself and our species, including the wellbeing of society at large—not just you the individual, then I promise I’ll say nothing but good things about your pictures.

*Actually, nobody has ever asked me this question.

Carrry on.