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31 December, 2014

How To Start An Emergency Fire Using An LED Headlamp

When it comes to training for survival in an outdoor living scenario, few survival skills are more important to your overall level of emergency preparedness than the ability to start a fire with whatever means you have at your disposal at any given moment. Remember, you might not always have access to matches or a cigarette lighter. Lighters run out of fluid, and matches get wet. Even if you have weatherproof matches at your disposal, it is still a good idea to have other skills that might allow you to save that resource in the event that you aren't sure when or from where you will get replacements for the ones you use.

Here is an example of another unusual way to start a fire for you to file away in your skill set in case you need it in the future.

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30 December, 2014

DIY Rocket Stove

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If you are unfamiliar with the rocket stove concept, basically what we're talking about is an extremely efficient cooking stove that uses only small diameter fuel (basically, whatever dead twigs and pinecones you can easily find). This allows you to be able to cook food in a primitive or outdoor living situation, using very little wood to do so. Popular with campers, hikers, and other outdoor enthusiasts, I have seen rocket stoves in many different sizes and they are steadily becoming more and more of a concept in which Preppers, homesteaders, and other emergency preparedness minded people are expressing a great deal of interest. Predominantly something utilized for cooking, the rocket stove concept has also been modified to encompass a method of heating living spaces as well as creating a source of hot water.

Below, you will find a very informative video that showcases one individual building a small rocket stove. He uses only three metal cans: a soup can, a tomato sauce can, and a paint can. I wanted to share this with my readers as I found it to be a very interesting DIY approach, but I would be remiss were I not to point out that an actual improvement on the already highly-impressive efficiency of this technology is also available ready-made for purchase from our sponsors at Solo Stove. Please click the link or find their banner advertisement on the right-hand sidebar of the screen to visit their site, and let them know that Backwoods Survival Blog referred you. Thank you!

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A Handful of Possible Homestead/Survival Retreat Properties on EBay 12-30-14

I ran across a few of these different properties on eBay and thought I would share them with readers of Backwoods Survival Blog. Of course, everyone's needs are not the same and everyone seems to have a different idea of just what you need to make a proper homestead or survival retreat, but I present these few properties today for your perusal and consideration. Each of them has a few days left before the listing closes, and I have provided clickable links to each one:

19+ acre northern Arizona ranchlandthe high bid is sitting around $152 as I type this with the first $70 of that to be considered down payment and every penny beyond that $70 subtracted from the principal of the overall loan. $6,720 total for 19+ acres, and the owner is willing to self finance for $70 per month. They also have another parcel about the same size.

5+ acres in Ward County, Texas near Monahanthis is a straight up auction. Winning bidder owns the property, and the current high bid as I type this is only $111. Whoever wins will also have to pay a $295 fee to have all the documents changed over.

48+/- acres in northern Maine near Long LakeOver 20 acres of open fields and a suitable building site for a cabin overlooking the lake. Lots of hunting. Includes snowmobile and ATV trails as well as road frontage. The total price is $38,900 or around $322 per month for 20 years.

40 acres located 25 miles north of Battle Mountain, Nevada$18,750 total price. He's willing to do the first 60 months at 0% interest for $167 per month, then finance out the remaining $8000 or so over up to a decade for 6.9% interest. Or, he will let you simply commit to a 15 year term at 6.9% interest for the duration, meaning your payments would be higher but they'd also be fixed and never go up. The same seller has a comparable deal running for 7.23 acres in Oklahoma for $24,500 or $217 per month.

40.54 acres near Lovelock, Nevada for a total purchase price of $11,900The crazy thing about this property is that the minimum payment can be as low as $50 per month, and you have an unlimited amount of time to pay off the total asking price as long as you have at least a $50 maintenance fee balance with them at all times and don't fall behind. There's no interest whatsoever. Adjacent to approximately 640 acres of BLM land.


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29 December, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: "Mockingjay" by Suzanne Collins

The Doomer Fiction book I'll be reviewing today is "Mockingjay" by Suzanne Collins (Kindle edition), which is the third and final installment in the "Hunger Games Trilogy."  In recent weeks, I have already reviewed the other two novels in this series: "The Hunger Games" and "Catching Fire."

As discussed in those previous reviews, the setting in which this story takes place is essentially our future – how far into the future we are never really told – where what was once North America is now dominated by a nation that oppresses its people horribly. Much of their philosophy seems to be somewhere between tyrannical dictatorship and stark socialism, but what you are left with mostly is a clear understanding that those in the Capitol (which is somewhere in the area we now know as the Rocky Mountains region – maybe Denver, Colorado?) and the poor souls living in outlying districts of the country are, in no way, on the same social stratus. Rather, those in the districts seem to exist solely to provide goods and resources that those in the Capitol consume, gorging themselves in a materialistic lifestyle in which it is commonplace at feasts for guests to force themselves to vomit, just so that they can continue to eat more, while those in the districts never seem to have enough. I liken it to a socialist society only because all natural resources are considered to be the property of the state, and even hunting for one's own subsistence is considered poaching and is a crime punishable by death. In every other way, it is quite simply an example of tyranny.

Over the course of this trilogy of novels, what begins as simply the story of a young girl in a life and death struggle evolves into a second novel in which her actions seem to have unwittingly (and unwillingly) made her into a source of inspiration for a long-simmering rebellion against all of the injustices in the world; and this, the final novel in the trilogy, is the story of that rebellion with her being carried along on the tide of Fate, against her will and in great danger to herself and those she loves. Parts of the story also stand as a stark reminder that any notion of black-and-white, good and evil in war is the unrealistic province of children. Often, she finds herself at odds almost as much with those who are ostensibly her allies as she does with the enemy they are fighting against, and atrocities in battle are something that seem common to both sides of the conflict. Darker and far more sad than the two previous novels, in my opinion, I must say that finishing this book still left me with a satisfying resolution to the overall story.

If you have not already read this series of novels, I would highly recommend them all.


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28 December, 2014

MOVIE REVIEW: "World War Z" (2013)

Today's Doomer Fiction film review centers on "World War Z" (2013) Blu-ray (DVD version). With "The Walking Dead" currently on its winter hiatus, you should have known that I would need to seek out some zombies from somewhere. As is almost universally the case with zombie fiction, this one again treats the impending apocalypse as taking the form of a pandemic disease spreading that turns people into a particularly frightening, fast-running variant of the undead we see in many of these kinds of stories. As you may also recall, I previously reviewed the book upon which this film is based.

One thing that can be said for sure is that this film will not bore you, nor does it take long to get into the action. Everything begins in a relaxed state, as usual, just a normal day for a typical family, but all of that quickly changes. Stopped in traffic at a busy intersection, things suddenly break loose with this family caught in the middle, leading to their subsequent escape from the city of Philadelphia. All of the excitement and danger has an ill effect on the asthma that plagues one of their daughters, however, so a quick stop at a pharmacy along the road is in order.

The store/pharmacy is being ransacked for supplies as they arrive and they also split up to get whatever they need. Entering the pharmacy, Brad Pitt's character then has a surprising encounter with a man who has apparently been robbing the pharmacy and shot the pharmacist. Their interaction is not what you might expect, but you'll have to watch the film to get at my meaning. Then, the screams of his youngest daughter alert him to the fact that his wife is under attack, and he is forced to shoot one of the two men who are attempting to rape her right there in full view in one of the store aisles (the other assailant having or run off). A uniformed police officer approaches at this point and he raises his hands, no doubt thinking he is about to be taken into custody and questioned about what would undoubtedly end up being a justifiable homicide, but the police officer passes him up completely. It seems he is simply interested in getting supplies like everyone else, rather than enforcing law and order.

And for good reason. As they leave the store, it is obvious that half of the cityscape is in flames and plagued by widespread violence and looting. Society is failing, and the emergency broadcast system is advising people to stay in their homes and shelter in place with enough food and water for 2 1/2 weeks.

And, at that point, you are still less than 20 minutes into watching this film.

Another thing of interest to folks in our subculture is the fairly impassioned argument Brad Pitt's character uses to attempt to convince a family who shelters his own to go with them as they leave. You see, his character is a former United Nations aid worker who has spent much of his career in what he refers to as "dangerous places," and his wisdom boils down to a very good argument for what you and I would call bugging out. He tells them that those who move survive, while those who stay put in the face of approaching danger typically do not.

Another interesting thing that we witness him do is to create what is essentially a homemade bayonet by duct taping a kitchen knife to the barrel of a rifle. And, in a fit of genius often unseen in zombie fiction where getting bitten is how your life can quickly end, he also duct tapes what appear to be either telephone books or thick magazines to his forearms. That little tidbit isn't going to do you or I any good against a human assailant, but I wanted to mention it anyway, because it quickly added to the coolness factor of the film for me.

In closing, I would definitely recommend this film. In fact, I'd go as far as to say it's one of the most entertaining movies I've watched in a while, and by far the best zombie movie you're going to find. Be sure to check it out, and let me know what you think in the comments section below.


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27 December, 2014

PREPPER PRODUCT REVIEW: Backpacker's Pantry Colorado Omelette Freeze-Dried Meal

I was in the camping section of my local Walmart the other day and ran across several different varieties of these Backpacker's Pantry brand freeze-dried meals, so I thought I would grab one and give them a try. I've never personally had this brand before, and they were quite a bit less expensive than the Mountain House pouches hanging right next to them. As we all know, it is hard to beat Mountain House when it comes to taste and quality, but they are quite a bit more pricey being the acknowledged "big dog" in the field, and so I'm always on the lookout for other alternatives to round-out my long-term food storage supplies in varieties that are perhaps different from what Mountain House offers. And, I've got to say, Backpacker's Pantry did not disappoint me at all.

As for some specifics, the next two pictures are close-ups of both the nutritional information and cooking instructions as printed on the back of the mylar pouch. If you are at all familiar with the nutritional content of a lot of the Mountain House meals, you'll notice right off that Backpacker's Pantry seems to have far less carbohydrates. YMMV as to whether you consider that a good thing or not. If you are in a situation where you are anticipating a large amount of strenuous physical labor, loading up on carbohydrates might behoove you, but high carbs can also equal weight gain. I've actually been attempting to observe somewhat of a hunter-gatherer type of diet as closely as possible, limiting carbohydrates, so you might find it interesting that I was able to enjoy this meal without even going over on my self-imposed dietary restrictions.

Also, you'll notice that the instructions don't give you any type of guidance as to how long it should be left on the cooking surface. That's because, by the time you get it into the pan, it's basically identical to making scrambled eggs. If you've ever made those, you don't need any more guidance.

Prior to any kind of preparation
On the stove, after adding the water and stirring a bit
After approximately 5 minutes on low heat with continuous, slow stirring
As I previously stated, the final product comes out more like scrambled eggs as opposed to an omelette, but I found it extremely tasty. You can actually discern the flavors of the cheddar cheese, bell peppers, and onions. The packaging states that this packet is supposed to contain two servings, but you should consider that a conservative estimate. I don't typically eat large portions, so it was a little much for me to finish in one sitting, but I came back and finished all of the rest of it about two hours later. If you are a healthy eater, you will finish the entire packet yourself as a meal.

Still, considering that this Backpacker's Pantry meal cost only about one third of what Mountain House runs, it is still a pretty good deal to help round-out your supply of long-term freeze-dried storage foods. These seem to be a great product for those of us who consider ourselves Preppers as well as anyone in the market for quick trail food they can carry when enjoying outdoor living experiences like camping, hiking, hunting, or fishing. I'll definitely be picking up a few more varieties, so that I can try out all of the different flavors. I will be sure to post reviews here on Backwoods Survival Blog when I do.




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26 December, 2014

Gardening: Survive and Thrive

Editor's Note: Even now, in the middle of winter for us here in the northern hemisphere, the art of producing one's own food is an important skill that should never be far from our minds. So many seem to be stockpiling heirloom seeds and reading about gardening, while failing to actually get out there and do it; but the truth is that practice is always the best teacher, and I would be hard-pressed to name an aspect of survival training that is more important than learning to garden and can one's own produce. As a result and for your consideration, please enjoy the following article written by my friend.


by Matt M.


Cabbages
Working in a plant nursery, I talk to people on a daily basis about growing vegetables, gardening, fertilizers, insecticides, planting seeds, and everything plant-related. Immersing myself in this job was a conscious decision after being laid off from my corporate job during the economic downturn in 2008. Why chase the money carrot when the rug is pulled out from under you by the Big Banks? Now I plant my own carrots and am much happier, more fit, and much more prepared for any kind of economic collapse. When the balloon goes up, I will sit back in my lawn chair and relax, knowing that I have created my own food security. Not only my own, but the excess I grow is used to barter with neighbors for goods and services. This internet connection is paid for with Kale I grow and barter. I have bartered Onions and other vegetables for locally-raised Organic beef as well as locally-harvested wild pig. Letting my neighbors know that I am here for our Mutual Aid gains me allies, we watch out for each other, and help each other when in need.

Kale
Are you planning and prepping for TEOTWAWKI? How about a grid-down power disruption? Maybe an earthquake or natural disaster? Do you collect seeds and stuff them in your bug-out bag? If you are doing any of these things, then you should start a garden *NOW*, not later. Learning to garden by trial and error is a skill set you need to practice before you are hungry and scavenging for food along with the rest of the unprepared masses. Sure you have your fishing pole, CQB rifle all tricked out with optics, and maybe a bow and razor sharp arrows, but I have news for you: you will die of starvation only eating meat. Scurvy is easily preventable ingesting Vitamin C, but that Deer, Rabbit, Steer, Pig, etc will not provide it for you. Vegetables will (especially Kale). From an operational security (OPSEC) standpoint, gardening is a covert activity compared to lighting off a .308 round hunting for all around to hear. Why reveal your position, and the fact that you have ammo, when you can be quietly growing your own food?

Seeds
Buy seeds while you can. A few years ago, I purchased 1/4 pound of Kale, Zucchini, and Beet seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed. There were thousands of kale seeds in that 1/4 pound for $8.00. Heirloom, Organic, and GMO-free, these seeds have an excellent germination rate, grow healthy and vigorous plants, and if left to bolt their seeds will produce true, since they are not of a hybrid strain. That seed you plant today can provide food for generations to come. Baker Creek is a USA company in Missouri, and their 211-page seed catalog is free and full of information about the seed they sell. I highly recommend signing up for the free catalog. Seeds ordered from www.rareseeds.com will last for years if properly stored in a cool, dry place. I put my seed packets in a ziplock storage bags and leave them on my kitchen table, so I know where they are and that they are dry and properly cared for. Another company, Seeds of Change http://www.seedsofchange.com/Home.aspx sells their seeds in oxygen-removed and hermetically-sealed, resealable plastic packets. I buy them and keep them aside for long term storage.

Swiss Chard
Plant seeds now. Have you ever grown a garden? I talk to people all the time that have never grown a vegetable in their life. Six months later, they come back to me exclaiming how enjoyable it was harvesting their own food for their family. Find out when the Average Last Frost is in your area, and plant some seeds. In the early spring, I direct sow Swiss Chard, Beets, Carrots, Kale, Zucchini, Kabocha Squash, Yellow Squash, and Pumpkins. All of these seeds have an excellent germination rate, I do not plant them close together to thin the sprouts later. I plant them exactly where I want them, and if a seed does not germinate in 7-10 days I plant another in it's place. Tomatoes and Peppers, however, are not easily sprouted being direct sown. They are typically started indoors in temperature-controlled environments in seed starting trays early in the season, to be planted outside once they are about 6" tall.

Onions
Be sure to read the seed packets. There is a lot of information to glean from a seed package. Days to maturity is important when planning when you want the food to start arriving in your kitchen. Once the seed has sprouted, the plant will grow to maturity and either flower to start producing vegetables, or be large enough to start harvesting leaves or pull the root from the ground. Kale, Swiss Chard, and Lettuce leaves can be picked from the plant, and the plant will continue to produce food for months if properly cared for. Beets, Onions, Garlic, and Carrots can be allowed to grow to whatever size you want, or pulled out of the ground early depending upon your preference. Zucchini, Squash, Tomatoes, Peppers, all must flower and be pollinated to produce food.

Garlic
Rotating crops in the garden is important as well. Planting in February, I had food to eat and barter with, by mid-April. Come August, however, the plants were in decline, had reached their genetic potential, and it was time to plant fresh seeds for a fall garden. The summer squashes like Zucchini and Yellow Crookneck provide a lot of food during the warm months, but do not store well. So, in late summer, I plant the winter squashes, which have a thicker and tougher skin allowing for months of storage after harvest.
Brussels Sprouts
Butternut Squash, Pumpkins, Acorn Squash, Kabocha, etc. will all keep for months once grown to maturity. I also save the seeds from year-to-year to plant the vigorous varieties which produce well in my area. In late fall, I plant the cold weather plants: Kale, Swiss Chard, Onions, Garlic, Brussels Sprouts, and Cabbage, all of which will overwinter in my climate zone.

Fertilization is necessary for any vegetable garden. I fertilize my vegetable garden every two weeks during the growing season with a soil drench formula which provides about 5% of water soluble Nitrogen. Each plant gets a quart of fertilizer, then I water it in. Vegetables are fast growing plants, which need a lot of Nitrogen for their vegetative growth cycle. Start taking a look at the fertilizer labeling. The three numbers you see are the Nitrogen, Phosphate, and Potassium content of the fertilizer. These are just three of the dozens of nutrients plants need to grow and thrive. Nitrogen will either be water soluble or not. Water soluble Nitrogen is immediately available to the plant when the fertilizer is used as a soil drench. Insoluble Nitrogen is from a solid source which must be broken down by soil microorganisms into a form available to the plant roots. Both are beneficial in the garden. Looking at a package of Organic fertilizer you can see what kinds of products you can use to make your own fertilizer, such as Fish Emulsion, Kelp, Bone Meal, Feather Meal, Poultry Litter, Blood Meal, Alfalfa, Composted Steer Manure, etc. All of this you can source for yourself to make your own formula if the need arises. The solids can be tilled into the soil prior to planting, the liquids used as a soil drench once the plants have sprouted. Non-Organic synthetic chemical-based fertilizers are like an energy drink for your plants, the nutrients are all immediately available to the plant, but they do not feed the microorganisms in the soil. The long term tilth of your garden soil, and health of your plants, relies upon feeding with organic materials.

Pests are a reality. Once the store shelves are emptied and there is nothing being shipped to your local gardening center, do you think the bugs are going to care? I make my own Insecticidal Soap to spray on the bugs in the garden. It is highly-effective and non-harmful to my health. Using a clean spray bottle, I squirt some dish soap (about two teaspoons) into the bottle and then fill with water. The soapy liquid sprayed on Aphids will kill them. It is what I use at the nursery to kill the bugs. I keep an eye out on a daily basis for infestations. However, many insects are not harmful to the plants and are actually beneficial and necessary for pollinating. In my coastal area, the marine fog late at night and early in the mornings gets the large Zucchini and Squash leaves wet, which allows Powdery Mildew to form. To control it I take the clean spray bottle, add a tablespoon of vinegar (any kind, red, white, cider, etc) and fill with water. This diluted vinegar solution sprayed on the mildew will kill it and is not harmful to the plant or my heath.

Container Gardening
Wherever you may be, you should start a garden now and get some experience, before you really need to grow the food to feed yourself. If you have Sun, Dirt, and Water you can grow a garden. A Tomato plant will grow vigorously and provide fresh food grown in a 5 gallon bucket of dirt, with drain holes drilled in the bottom. So, even if you live in an apartment, you can still grow a container garden and gain experience growing food. The knowledge you gain will be a lasting and transportable skill, which you can take with you wherever you go, along with those seeds in your bug-out bag.





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23 December, 2014

Violence on the Streets: Things Could Get A Lot Worse Before They Get Better

If you are a regular reader of Backwoods Survival Blog, you might recall that I was somewhat silent as far as posting information about the civil unrest that plagued Ferguson, Missouri in the wake of the Caucasian law enforcement officer-involved shooting death of African-American teenager Michael Brown. The reason for my reticence was twofold: first, I was disgusted by the way that notorious race-baiters like Al Sharpton used the incident and the resulting anger over it to inflame and already-bitter conflict with racial undertones as a means of profiting from it; and, secondly, because I tend to walk a fine line with respect to issues involving law enforcement. What I mean by that is that I have a great deal of worry in my heart about the current trend of militarizing community police forces, yet I have been a student of the criminal justice system for many years (I already have a four-year degree in criminal justice, and I am currently a graduate student with the expectation of achieving my Masters degree in the field within the next year or so). So, needless to say, I am far from a layman on criminal justice subjects; my opinions are informed, rather than inflamed.

As a result, I tend to reserve judgment with respect to officer-involved shootings until I've had time to weigh all of the facts as they are presented. The fact is that, despite what some people might like you to believe, every time a white officer shoots and kills a minority suspect does not necessarily boil down to racism. The general public tends to get their passions inflamed through the release of information by people who are doing this for their own profit and personal aggrandizement. I, on the other hand, tend to trust the opinions of the grand jury in such cases, due to the fact that they have been shown more direct, impartial evidence of the event in question, rather than simply what pundits want them to see. This doesn't mean they don't move make mistakes, of course, but it is a much more well-informed way to make a decision. Taking into account the odds available, I would sooner throw in my lot with that group than with the race-baiters.

Anger is a powerful motivator, though. Most people who are impassioned on such a perceived in justice will not simply go away just because a grand jury rules one way or another. We are recently seeing the backlash of some of that now. Just in the past few days, two officers with the New York City Police Department were gunned down ambush-style in their patrol car by a gunman who was reportedly out for revenge over the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson and Eric Garner in New York City. Disgustingly, reports are now indicating that onlookers even cheered on the killer of the two murdered  officers. Likewise, an officer in Florida was shot and killed and run over by a suspect during a random noise complaint, an incident that is not believed to be directly related to any sort of revenge killing but remains as part of the recent onslaught of violence just the same. Police departments across the country, especially in major metropolitan areas, are now on a high alert as a result of these killings, and the violence is being disavowed by both some of the same race-baiters who are at least marginally responsible for it in the first place as well as the families of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.

Hopefully, the current spate of violence will die down soon, but I would call it a safe bet that things could get worse before getting better, and the sad truth is that any attempt to crack down will just make it worse. It would be utterly unwise to discount the significance that regular citizens (and apparently more than a few of them) cheered on the shooter. That is a rather damning statement with respect to the feelings of the general public toward law enforcement, and perhaps the government as a whole.

If I lived in a large city, I'd be preparing to shelter in place in my apartment or whatever in case of rioting. A minimum of two (2) weeks of food and water, firearms (for home defense, my preference would be a shotgun – not as picky about aim and you can choose a load that is less likely to go through a residential wall and kill one of your neighbors or a family member in another room) and plenty of ammo, first-aid supplies, candles or hand-crank/battery-powered camping lanterns or other means – in case of possible power outages – as well as something to black-out my windows to keep the light from being visible from the street.


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22 December, 2014

PREPPER SURVIVAL GEAR REVIEW: Mystery Ranch Terraplane Internal Frame Backpack

by Matt M.


The following is a Prepper gear review of the backpack I have had since 1992. Possibly the best backpacks ever made in America. A little background before the review. Dana Designs is no longer in business, but the originator of that company, Dana Gleason, went on to start a new company, Mystery Ranch. Hand Made in the USA, the best packs on the planet... not only that, the most comfortable to carry large loads over long distances. Mystery Ranch is again building this same pack.

I purchased this backpack in 1992. Considering it is now well old enough to legally drink, I figured I would write a review of my old trusted friend. Dana Designs Arcflex Terraplane internal frame backpack (pack size medium 5800 Cubic Inch Capacity). I purchased this Made in the USA backpack when I was just 22, heading off to college where my first class was a 21 day backpacking trip through the wilderness areas of Arizona. Carrying 70 pounds on my back on trail, off trail, swimming through box canyons, and across the desert landscape, this pack transferred the weight to my hips keeping my shoulders and spine uncompressed. This translates directly into less fatigue and the ability to carry a heavy load for long distances.

Since that trip in 1992, I have done numerous trips throughout the United States with this pack and others. Having worked at four backpacking stores over the years, I have had the opportunity to test packs by other manufacturers, civilian, military, internal frame, and external frame. Hands down, the Dana carries the weight most comfortably.

Large enough to carry my US GI Modular Sleep System in the lower compartment, it competes with the other large capacity backpacks on the market, but in my opinion does a much better job of it. More comfortable to carry the weight, Made in the USA, and at 22 years old with a significant amount of abuse it still carries the weight and does it's job. For many years, this backpack was no longer offered on the market, and folks had to make due finding used backpacks, running the risk of purchasing a pack not properly sized for their torso length. Now Mystery Ranch, started by the founder of Dana Designs, has re-released this design.

If you are in the market for a serious backpack, one you are actually going to be able to carry over a long distance for days, possibly weeks or months with a large load, I highly recommend trying on various backpacks to be sure of size and fit. The Terraplane is my backpack of choice, for fit, durability, long lasting materials (22 years old and counting) and Made in the USA. Additionally the capacity listed for the pack I have (size medium 5800 CI) is a conservative estimate. Having used other packs claiming 6000-6500 CI from other manufacturers I found them to be smaller in volume than the Terraplane.

Considering the articles I read regarding bug out bags, etc, do not skimp on the most important piece of gear in that equation, the backpack itself.


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One of the Most Important Emergency Preparedness Survival Items that Most People Probably Forget About

Few things could possibly be uttered in this life that would be more true than the fact that most people cannot seem to function without their coffee in the morning. This, of course, represents probably 10% being about the average person's taste preferences. Some people just honestly, really enjoy coffee. Some of them are in my family. The other 90% of the equation, however, is all about the fact that people are nearly irretrievably addicted to caffeine. This, also, applies to individuals in my own family.

Of all the addictions that plague modern society, caffeine addiction is definitely the most widespread. Whether it be coffee, soda, tea etc., the vast majority of people in the industrial Western world have allowed their bodies to form a dependence on caffeine, so much so that being without it literally results in palpable withdrawal symptoms (piercing headaches, fatigue, shakiness, nausea, etc.). And that, my friends, is going to be a big problem if some future disaster results in the inability for stores to stock the stuff anymore. Interestingly enough, coffee presents a particular problem, because though droves of people in the Western world are hooked on it, it is typically grown in tropical climates overseas and shipped to your local grocery store in a complicated supply chain that seems to be just begging for a wrench to be thrown in the works.

The way to get around this conundrum is, of course, to add the storing of coffee to your emergency preparedness food storage plans. By doing so, you will guarantee that a short-term hiccup in the supply chain, caused by a localized disaster or inclement weather, will not result in frazzled family members. Also, you will have the peace of mind to know that if something more devastating were to occur that made it likely it would be a long time before store shelves were restocked, then your stored coffee would allow you to wean you and your family off of caffeine slowly, thus mitigating a large part of the symptoms of withdrawal. Going cold turkey sounds like it would not be pleasant for anyone. Better to store a supply for a rainy day.

That being said, simply storing store-bought ground coffee is possible, but not optimal. Once the beans are ground, their shelf-life is greatly reduced, just like ground flour won't last nearly as long as simply storing wheat in buckets and keeping a good grinding mill handy. As a result, the optimal method for the long-term storage of coffee is to store whole beans in a sealed, airtight container.

And, on that front, our sponsors at Camping Survival have your coffee needs largely taken care of. Packed with oxygen absorbers and food-grade desiccant packs, you can expect the options below to to retain their freshness for 20+ years:





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21 December, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: "Catching Fire" by Suzanne Collins

Today, I'll be reviewing the novel "Catching Fire" by Suzanne Collins (Kindle edition). As you will hopefully recall as a reader, my last Doomer Fiction book review, published around a week ago, was of "The Hunger Games" by the same author. That was the first novel in a trilogy of which this represents the second installment, and my initial statement leading into the rest of this review will be to let you all in on the fact that I, quite literally, could not put this book down. Not willingly anyway. I had to tear myself away from the pages when doing other things became necessary, and found myself thinking about the book in anticipation of getting back to it.

As I stated in my previous review, the universe in which the story takes place is a dystopian future Earth. There's no indication of exactly how far in the future we are talking about, but it is safe to say that it is probably a minimum of a few hundred years from now. That being said, there are a few technological advances that threaten to drag this story into the science fiction category, but it stops just short; we're not talking about Star Trek here – the reader is left with the impression that perhaps technological and scientific advancement could have been retarded somewhat by the fact that there was apparently something of a Dark Age that followed our current world but preceded the rise of the nation that these stories focus upon.

To be succinct, the country is called Panem. It rose from the ashes of what was once North America. The Capitol exists in the area that was once the Rocky Mountains region. The government of Panem appears to share characteristics of being both a rather tyrannical dictatorship as well as a socialistic state. People are described as being married in a ceremony that consists of nothing more than signing papers at the Justice Building (pretty much what we would refer to as the courthouse, and every district has one) and then being assigned a house to live in. All resources, no matter how small, are the property of the State, and even hunting and fishing to feed oneself is a crime punishable by death because it is seen as stealing from the State. Personal freedoms do not abide here.

There are 12 districts that surround the Capitol, each of which has the responsibility of providing some resource to the State based on their geographical area. Failure to meet assigned quotas result in harsh punishment. Each district has a Mayor and law enforcement is carried out via a core of Peacekeepers, which are basically nothing more than highly militarized state police… but far closer to the Nazi SS than the average state trooper with which you and I might come in contact today. The Capitol is basically a proverbial land of milk and honey, full of frivolous citizens who have never had to go without anything and fill their time with non-consequential concerns like partying and grotesque body modifications. In contrast, the people in the districts live a hardscrabble life in which they often go to bed hungry and starvation is not uncommon, especially among those who are too infirm to work and have no one to look after them.

I won't go into a whole lot of detail here, regarding exactly what "The Hunger Games" entail. If you are unaware, please go back and read my previous review linked-to in this article for a thorough explanation. Suffice it to say that it is a punishment endured by the populace as a result of a failed rebellion that occurred decades ago. It is a demonstration of the power of the State over the people, both in its content and in the fact that it is required viewing on State television and people have no choice but to treat it like a anticipated sporting event. Failure to act as though you are enjoying the games or speaking out against any of it can also result in harsh punishments.

Anyway, this is the setting. The story itself and the characters who play it out are what will draw you in, however. The trilogy begins as sort of just the story of one teenage girl who is forced to endure in the face of adversity. This series is considered part of the Young Adult Fiction genre, so it isn't hard to see the beginnings of the previous novel as more along the lines of a typical female empowerment story. Very quickly, though (especially in this second installment), it becomes something quite a bit more complicated. What eventually unfolds as you read is actually very much a story about human freedoms versus the power of a tyrannical government. Some may not agree, but I – for one – could not shake the feeling as I have been reading through this series that there are definite and pronounced Libertarian undertones, whether the author actually had that intention or not.

I truly cannot wait to continue reading the third book in the trilogy, which I will also review here on Backwoods Survival Blog. If you have not already read this series, I would invite you to join me. The books are available for purchase from Amazon.com, simply by clicking the links in these reviews. I'm definitely giving these books my stamp of approval, and I will probably move forward and review the film adaptations soon as well.

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20 December, 2014

MOVIE REVIEW: "The Grey" (2011)

Today, I will be reviewing the film "The Grey" (2011) Blu-ray (DVD version), which depicts the aftermath of a plane crash somewhere in the remote wilds of Alaska and the subsequent ordeal of the handful of survivors.

In this particular instance, the passenger manifest of the doomed aircraft was made up of pipeline workers, employees of an unnamed petroleum company being flown south to Anchorage ostensibly at the end of a tour of duty in the much more unforgiving parts of the state north of the Arctic Circle. The few survivors who make it through the initial ordeal of the crash must then deal with overwhelming obstacles as they attempt survival in extremely harsh weather conditions and as targets who find themselves being stalked by a pack of gray wolves. It should be noted that the film engendered a bit of controversy as a result of the way the wolves were portrayed onscreen, wildlife advocates arguing that real wolves are nowhere near as aggressive and militant as the ones portrayed in the film and voicing concern that showing them in such a way could have ill effects at a time when wolves had so recently been removed from the endangered species listings in many Western states of the U.S.

For my part, I simply allowed myself to put aside reality and understand that the wolves were simply being used as a plot device in a piece of entertaining fiction. Plus, dialogue in the film actually gives a decent explanation for why the animals might act in such a way in this instance: the character played by Liam Neeson, who has been a salaried killer paid to shoot wolves to protect the other workers and so has made it his business to make himself somewhat of an expert on the animal's behavior, tries to explain that – the plane crash having dumped them all in an area most likely controlled by the pack – it is possible that they could be right in the middle of the animal's typical hunting grounds, and maybe even so close to the wolves den as to be considered as threatening outsiders. That kind of explaining away obviously did nothing to make the wildlife advocates any happier, but it made enough sense to me to simply overlook. I took it as their way of saying that the wolves were acting more aggressively than a typical wolf.

As far as the survival part of the equation, I found myself yet again thinking about how much easier things might have been for these characters if they had been carrying even the most simple of preparedness gear. I can't imagine finding myself in a situation where I was that far from civilization, even as a worker who expects the company to provide for their needs, without at least taking some precautions just in case. I think of it as no different than paying for car insurance, even though I don't plan on getting in an accident; you should always hope for the best, while preparing for the worst. In the end, dumb luck leads one of them to find a disposable cigarette lighter somewhere in the crash that helps them to light a fire, but otherwise they would have been dead in less than 24 hours, I imagine. You will never catch me in that sort of weather without the means to light a fire should I need to do so. That is insanity to me.

Liam Neeson's character, known for most of the film simply by his last name Ottway, does a very commendable job of quickly getting all of the other survivors organized to attempt survival, despite the fact that some of them are in shock and most are nursing injuries of some sort or another. There's also a very interesting parallel that the film draws, never explicitly stating it, that sort of gives you the impression as a viewer that the small group of survivors is operating as a pack much like the wolves, even including an instance where the "Alpha" has his authority challenged and has to put the challenger in their place to restore the balance. I found that very interesting, and I wondered if anyone else might have picked up on the same bit of subtext that I did.

In the end, this is another very enjoyable film that received quite a bit of critical praise. Essentially, it is a story of man against nature in its many manifestations, and it is riveting to watch. Rather than fall into the trap of simply becoming any other formulaic action movie, there are even times in the quieter moments when we get to know the characters fairly deeply, giving us a better idea of their motivations and making us care about them and their survival. I would definitely recommend that you check this one out, and be sure to sit and watch all the way through the credit sequence for a final brief shot. For the record, you don't need to see this to walk away completely satisfied with the film, but I thought it was a nice touch.


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19 December, 2014

The Looming Future Threat of Cyber Warfare Just Touched Us On Another New And Disturbing Level

In case you have been living under a rock or out camping on the Alaskan tundra these last few days, you've no doubt heard the news. The long and short of it is thus: a Hollywood movie was made by two popular comedians. In the film, one of them plays a sort of tabloid-style television talkshow host and the other is his producer (I think). Then, one day, they are contacted by the president of North Korea, dangling a rare western interview but only if it can be on their show. Apparently, he's a fan. Then, things become complicated as the CIA enters the picture, appealing to their sense of patriotic duty in order to convince them to carry out the assassination of the North Korean leader. Sounds dumb but funny, which is exactly the point, being advertised as the sort of raucous comedy the two comedians (and real-life friends) have been known to make together in the past.

The story becomes a bit more complicated when you add in the resulting cyber warfare hacking of the movie studios servers and the subsequent release over many weeks of confidential (and sometimes embarrassing) emails, etc. that occurred as a means of protesting the film. Then, suddenly, things turned a bit darker. Apparently, releasing sensitive information and intellectual property of the studio didn't get a big enough rise for these hackers, so they decided to up the ante and actually make a physical threat. A threat of violence. A completely empty threat that there's no way they could possibly have actually carried out. Surprisingly, though, major theater chains announced that they would not show the film and Sony Studios decided not to release it in any way or in any format. I was rather surprised, to say the least.

I, for one, consider this to be a shameful reaction on the part of the theater chains and the studio. When I read the supposed "terrorist" threat made regarding this film's showing, I actually laughed it was so absurd. A bunch of computer hackers who steal emails do not equal a friggin' terrorist organization, which any Criminal Justice major knows requires boots on the ground individuals to carry-out attacks as well as expansive logistical support. Threatening "9/11-style" attacks wherever the film is shown is an obvious attempt at chest thumping. It was all bluster, and these morons caved anyway. Shameful. We're tough against real terrorists, but we tuck our tails and cave against a bunch of computer nerds making empty threats. Ugh.

Not surprisingly, and despite their efforts to route traffic through multiple servers in other countries, the cyber warfare attacks (the hacking of the Sony servers) as well as the threats have apparently been confirmed as having originated within North Korea, according to CBS News. There is quite a bit of speculation now as to whether or not this was actually an operation endorsed by the regime in power in North Korea, who are known to be – shall we say – lacking in their sense of humor. Many are even calling for some sort of a retaliation on our part if the regime in Pyongyang is found to be at fault.

For my part, I have no doubt that there will be retaliation, but then again I have no doubt that cyber warfare goes on from all sides all the time anyway. I imagine that they have people working on our servers full-time, and we are doing likewise. I would imagine that the hacking thing extends toward even allied countries. The real problem with what the major theater chains and Sony Studios has done here is that I fear it signals the beginning of a Dark Age with respect to freedom of expression. We have essentially shown that we will bow to whatever threats come our way, even laughable ones that shouldn't be taken seriously.

What do you think?


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18 December, 2014

The Death of "Real" News

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We have a serious epidemic in this country, but this isn't going to be an article talking about deadly influenza pandemics or anything of that nature. The epidemic I'm referring to at this point revolves around modern society's grotesque obsession with celebrity culture. It makes my brain hurt, to be honest. It really is a problem, but it would normally only be one of those sad things that makes you shake your head about the sorry state of our culture; instead, though, this growing sickness of obsession has also brought a much larger problem into stark contrast: that being the failure of the mainstream media as a legitimate source for real news.

More and more, as I examine things, it seems that we don't really have a legitimate media in this country anymore. Some outlets are better than others, I guess, but all of them are more concerned with entertainment value and profit margin than real news. This comes as a result of almost every news outlet in the country being owned by a small cabal of private corporations. News used to be something that television stations, in particular, provided as a service free of charge in return for the government giving them access to the airwaves. It was never meant to be a profit-generating venture, but now that it's all controlled by the corporate world they often ignore or downplay real news stories just so they can cover frivolous nonsense like celebrity weddings. They are all terrified of being a source of hard news, because that would run the risk of our spoiled, entitled, and childish populous becoming bored. Boredom is bad for business. It makes people change the channel, and keeping the viewership high is how they can justify charging their ever-increasing advertising rates. It's all about profit, just like any other business. It's shameful. As a result, I don't really trust the media anymore. I pretty much question the validity of everything they say or show, and I'm always wondering what else may be going on in the world from which they are attempting to draw our attention away.

Taking such an attitude may seem distrustful in general and likely the words of someone who thinks everything is a conspiracy. Actually, though, I don't really think most conspiracies have value (though I'm not surprised at all when some of them turn out to have been true all along). I enjoy reading them as a thought exercise, but the truth is that most conspiracies are able to be debunked with very little critical thinking. I am a distrustful, though, and for good reason. I just can't wrap my mind around the idea of implicitly trusting anyone, especially when their main motivation is making money off of you. If this were still the 1950s, I might be able to muster up more trust in the media, but now it's mostly just another profit center.

And, even worse than the idea that the entire point of it is simply a way to make money off of us, is the realization that all of the people behind the ownership of the media have in their grasp a tool by which they can tinker with public opinion and perception to further their own agenda(s).

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17 December, 2014

The False Veneer Of Polite Society Hides An Ugly Truth



I am not, in any way, taking any sort of credit for the Internet meme pictured above. If you pay close attention, there is actually a copyright notice in the lower left-hand corner which I left fully intact. Also, I give full credit to the Facebook page that originally shared it: the Anti-Media page. I just thought it worthy of sharing with you folks, because I found the message it carries to be both timely as well as chilling. Originally, I had shared it on the Facebook page for this blog, but I know some of you folks avoid most of social media due to the privacy issues. So, I thought I would make a point of showing it here on the Backwoods Survival Blog main site as well.

It really does conjure up some worrisome thoughts when you sit down and ask yourself, the question: if otherwise normal, everyday people will act in such a way over something as frivolous as cheap electronics for the holiday season, then how are they likely to react when there is a real crisis facing us?

The truth is that we live in a society that is largely peopled by individuals who are selfish and pampered, unaccustomed to having to deal with the kinds of hardships you and I have in mind when we make our efforts toward emergency preparedness. There's a lot of debate with respect to whether or not we live in a democracy or an oligarchy, but more than either of those I think – more and more every day – that what we really have in our society should be classified as an idiocracy. People these days are frivolous and spoiled. I don't hate them for that. In fact, I know myself well enough not to be ashamed to say that I fall into the same traps at times. I'm a guy. I like my toys, which in the grown-up version of the little boy I once was pertains to electronics, firearms, etc. The difference between myself and many other people, however, is that I have worked diligently in my own mind to make sure that the things in my life do not define who I am. The majority of people can't say that. Not and be honest.

This epidemic of frivolousness would be nothing more than a sad commentary on the fortitude of our society, if it weren't for the looming future threats we face. When you allow your mind to center on the concept of being prepared for emergencies, though, the result is that you naturally begin to mentally assess the foundations of society, and the truth of your deep-seated fears cannot be denied – modern society really is a very fragile thing. With that in mind, the self-centered and entitled nature of the average person in our society takes on a much more dangerous connotation. People act like complete barbarous maniacs, shoving aside strangers and causing injuries with what amounts to less than even an ounce of compassion or remorse, and that's how it is when all they're fighting for is a good deal on a big-screen TV. Can you imagine how these same people will react when their own survival is at stake?

It truly is a terrifying thought when you come to the realization that mankind's baser animal instincts are still so close to the surface. Being terrified of such knowledge doesn't make it go away, though, nor does it make it any less true. In a situation such as a food shortage, the future threat of civil unrest, rioting, and widespread anarchy will become a much more immediate danger. Crime and violence will be the order of the day. Panic will rule these people who have never given a single moment's thought to the idea that they might go to bed hungry in the future.

And the other terrifying part of the entire equation is that there's really nothing any of us can do about it. You can't really change people. Maybe you can convince a few of your family and friends of the wisdom of preparing themselves for future emergencies, but if you have ever attempted to proselytize our way of thinking then you have no doubt run into the same resistance I always have. The vast majority of people simply refuse to believe anything could ever occur that would break down the order of their daily lives, and many will die in some future disaster because of that lack of forethought. Most people simply don't want to take time away from drinking their favorite beer or Starbucks coffee and watching the latest rage in Reality TV. They are oblivious. And, as a result, when something truly bad really does come upon us, it will shock the average person to the point that they will either crumble under their own sorrow or revert to animalistic behavior. These are the dangerous ones.

And all we can do in the meantime is to continue to quietly prepare for ourselves and our families/friends, based on what we think is best. I urge that you use the proper discretion with respect to your emergency preparedness efforts in the face of people you do not know or are not sure you can trust (and, if your head is in the right place, the latter ought to include most people). If some truly harrowing disaster or resource shortage does ever occur, you can bet that the false veneer of polite society will quickly be torn asunder and you don't want most people to be aware of the preparations you have put in place. To be honest, having no choice but to put myself out there somewhat in promotion of this site has placed me in the precarious position of far more people knowing I try to stay on top of preparedness then I would prefer were aware. This has resulted in me having to take various precautions in case I'm faced with a similar situation. I will not go into detail about what those precautions entail, but you have it in your power not to be forced to deal with those kinds of issues. Just keep your head down and only trust those people you know for sure will have your back.

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16 December, 2014

Trapping Small Game As a Food Source

Photo Source – This is an example of a figure-four deadfall trap for small game. I hate them. I hate them. I hate them. I don't enjoy having my fingers crushed by a big, heavy rock, so I went looking for a better option. Read the rest of this article to see what I came up with.
As Preppers, most of us understand that if any of the things we spend our time preparing for actually occur, then food production is going to become a large part of our daily life. That's how it has been for most of human history, that's how it still is for those who live a subsistence lifestyle, and that's how it's going to end up being again even for the rest of us. No way around that. Folks gotta eat.

To that end, most of us spend our time acquiring the skill of gardening on as large a scale as we are able in our current circumstances with the understanding that, once you have the knowledge, all you have to do is step up the size of your operation to be able to produce more food. A goodly number of us at least try to get our toes wet in the field of raising livestock, even if all it amounts to is keeping a few chickens and a rooster in our backyard. We do these things because we understand the need to be self-sufficient, either to continue to survive after some disastrous event has occurred or just to live more simply now, rather than conforming ourselves to what the rest of society considers a proper lifestyle.

And a lot of us also hunt, fish, and trap for these same reasons and/or simply because we enjoy the sport of it. There are, of course, folks out there who will glibly call you a monster for being active in these types of activities, but most of that – I'm convinced – is simply because people tend to get far too entrenched in their own ideological viewpoints to see the bigger picture. There may be some truth to the argument that people don't usually actually have the need to hunt in this day and age, unless they are on the very low end of the income spectrum; we all can, after all, buy our meat at the grocery store. But that has always seemed a hypocritical argument to me, seeing as how those cows, pigs, chickens, etc. were once living, breathing animals as well.

Somehow, people can take comfort in the spoils of violence as long as they themselves don't have to be involved in the actual act, which is both intellectually dishonest as well as hypocritical. A cow killed in a slaughterhouse doesn't suffer any more or less necessarily than a deer taken down by a rifle in the woods. And then there's the other important part of the argument, which is that a failure of a certain amount of hunting and trapping can cause increases in the animal population that result in their being insufficient food and the poor critters end up either starving to death or wandering into city streets in a vain effort to find something to eat.

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Participating in these kind of activities also has the benefit of training those involved how to better be able to achieve self-sufficiency if needed. A person who can hunt, fish, and trap can feed themselves and others with just a handful of tools. That kind of self reliance is beyond value, in my opinion, and is something that is sorely lacking in most of today's society of people who either have no idea where their food comes from or who are simply so far outside the means by which that food was produced that they lack the respect for the animals who died to feed them.

Producing food for ourselves through the death of animals should only be done in such a way that the spirit of the animal is honored and respected. I have no problem with people hunting for sport as long as they also make use of the animal whose life they have ended. I'm not a fan of people who shoot a deer and leave it to rot, having only taken the head for the antlers and the back strap meat. You may or may not agree with me, but I consider this a sin against nature, so much so that any wild game that makes it into my orbit of control is broken down in such a way that every part of the animal that can possibly be used is used. It's simply the only way I can feel right about it, and we all have to be able to lie down and sleep at night with whatever we did that day. I prefer keeping my conscience clear.

This article has already become far more lengthy than I intended, but I felt the need to get my point across with respect to food coming from wild game. On this subject, what I wanted to share with you were the YouTube videos you will find embedded below. They represent a couple of different ways one can make a homemade trap to catch small wild game, which could become a very important food source in the future. My interest in building the sort of traps comes mostly from a dislike of the traps you often see built by survival experts, such as the several different kinds of deadfall traps (also pictured above), because these are sometimes difficult to set up and can actually result in injuries to your hands.

To put in my own two cents on the subject, allow me to just say first off that I preferred the design utilized to build the trap in the first video. The fulcrum-driven system used in the second set of videos (they are part 1 and part 2 of the same series – I didn't bother posting the rest of it as part 3 was missing entirely and parts 4 and 5 simply show the guy building the traps) seems overly precarious to me in that I wouldn't be surprised if something triggered it from the outside. To be honest, it looks like even something as ubiquitous as a strong wind could cause this trap to spring prematurely and result in you going hungry. The first one seems like a much better system, but I would include the metal grating on the side that the second guy has on his traps. As he states in his video, these make it possible to not only see what you have caught but also to actually use a .22 caliber to kill the creature before you even take it out of the trap. Much more efficient. So, I guess my best advice would be to build a hybrid of these two.

The main thing I like about both of them is that the cost of putting the straps together yourself as a DIY project would be almost nothing. The first guy quotes his as costing around $10 per trap, but you'd have to up that a little if you wanted to install the grating in the side of the box or if you were building something larger to try to catch something like a raccoon. Still, it would be very cost effective to simply build a bunch of these for very little money and have them positioned all around the woods. Each day, you'd simply have to make your rounds to check all the traps and retrieve whatever game they may have produced for your stewpot.

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