Homesteading and Survivalism

Living a simple life

Month: April 2010

Internal vs external frame backpacks

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Internal frame VS external frame backpacks, ask a group of backpackers which one they prefer and your sure to get a variety of answers. The truth is, asking about internal and external frame packs is like asking about:

chevy or ford
dodge or toyota
apples or oranges
iron man or spider man

This article is based on my personal opinion, established through years of hiking, backpacking and camping.

There are pros and cons to every argument – some of it depends on what you like, and what your going to be doing with it. Personally, I do not think there is a “right” or “wrong” answer here. All I can do is tell you why I pick my packs and go from there.

Cool weather –   Having the pack right up against your body helps retain some of your body heat in cold weather.  Depending on how cold it is where your hiking at, this may or may not be a big deal.

Hot weather – Here in east Texas summer temps can get stay in the 90s, day and night.  In July and August day time temps can easily reach the lower 100s.   The external frame allows your body heat to escape from around your back. Just having that little bit of air space can help out a lot.

I have seen people carry an internal frame pack during the summer. When they drop the pack, their back and their pack is drenched with sweat. Just having that little space between your back and the pack can really help out when its 90+ degrees.

Strength – External frame packs feel stronger then internal frame packs – it might be just me, when I have a heavy load, I like having something solid to grab onto. Internal packs just seem flimsy and week – but I know that is not the case.

Military testing – the military test a lot of stuff. So there has to be a reason why they continue to pick an external frame pack over an internal frame. I do not know the “exact” reason, but there has to be something there.

Heavy loads – When you start dealing with heavy loads, the closer you have the pack to your body, the better. Extending the pack off your body just a few inches can put more strain one yourself.

Its like when you carry something that is heavy. Do you hold it at arms length, or do you get it as close to your chest as possible? The same goes for your back. The closer you hold it, the better it carries.

To counter the “having your load next to your body” debate, external frame packs seem to handle heavier loads better then internal frame packs.

We can sit back and say – this pack does that well, while that pack does this well. But a lot of it boils down to which pack serves you the best. It might take you 3, 4, 5 or more packs before you get one that fits well and carries well. Regardless of what you buy, later on you might find something that you do not like.

My pack lineup:
Jansport cloth backpack – frameless
Fieldline – internal frame
Medium alice – external frame
Large alice – external frame
Maxpedition Falcon-II pygmy – frameless
Maxpedition Condor-II – frameless
Maxpedition Vulture-II – frameless
MOLLE-II 3,000 cubic inch with external sleep system – external frame
Large MOLLE-II 4,000 cubic inches – external frame
Kelty Big Bend, 4,000 cubic inches – internal fame
and a couple of others

Before I just grab a pack and head out into the woods, I’ll take the time to size up the situation.

How long will the trip last?
Cool, warm, hot or cold weather?
How long will the trip last?
Will I need extra clothes?
How much water and food do I need?
Is it a day hike, or camping trip?
Hammock camping or tent camping?
Sleeping bag or poncho liner to sleep in?
Am I bringing a camp stove or MREs?

Once some of those questions have been answered, then I will sort through my packs and pick one out. The pack will then be loaded and try it out to see how it fits. Mount the loaded pack, do some squats, pick something up off the floor, twist around a little bit and just get the “feel” for the loaded pack. If I dont like how that pack wears when its loaded with my desired gear list, I’ll try another pack. But most of the time the first pack is the one I go with.

Post your comments in the Internal Versus External Frame Backpacks thread of the forum.

Related Articles:

molle pack vs alice pack review
Kodiak Gearslinger
Maxpedition Kodiak Gearslinger
Sitka Gearslinger
maxpedition sitka gearslinger

What it means to be a survivalist

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Lets see, how would be the best way to describe this – prepping/survivalism is a way of life. Its not anything that I put any extra thought into, it just happens. Its like putting on your shoes, or tying your shoes, walking to the kitchen to get something to eat,,,,, its like a way of life.

Over the weekend, when my wife and I are at the grocery store. I picked up a couple of jars of creamy peanut butter and a couple of jars of honey. The 2 things that do not require special storage. They can be opened and left on the kitchen counter for months, honey will stay good forever.

So while we are shopping, I’am standing there thinking about how to eat the peanut butter and honey with no bread, or maybe just crackers, or straight out of the jar. The honey contains trace minerals, its good for cleaning wounds, and its its supposed to be good for your allergies. It does not have to be kept cold, or frozen and it does not have to be cooked.

We walk around to the mac-n-cheese. Ok, that needs milk, so what about powdered milk. How do I cook mac-n-cheese anyway (without electric stove), the pit is not efficient, its more for briskets, ribs and pork chops. So that leaves the grill on the deck and my single burner propane stove. That reminds me, I need to get the propane tank on my grill swapped out.

Wal-mart and lowes has seed in stock.  Ok, there is snap bean seed – does good with some manure and pot ash, and maybe some 13-13-13. Corn on the other hand needs lots of nitrogen.  This is the kind of stuff that I  think about.

Prepping/Survivalism has levels. Its kinda like learning how to drive.

When you just learned how to drive, you have to think about putting on the blinker, or stopping at a red light.

As you become more experienced, it just comes naturally.

The same thing happens with prepping / being a survivalist – things start to become more “natural.”

On april 15th I pulled out some seeds and put them on to soak. While looking through my seed stocks, I realized that I might have to redesign/rethink my entire seed stockpile plans.

Coin collectors look at their change when its given to them by the store clerk. That is the way a well balanced survivalist thinks. When they walk through a store, how does that canned meat play into the big picture, how about those noodles, how about the canned fruit, how about the fishing and hunting items, gardening section,,,,,.

Being a survivalist is a never ending process. To prevent from being burnt out, incorporate it into your life.

ALICE, MOLLE II or Maxpedition backpack for a 2 day trip

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The other day I received a question asking which one would make a good 2 day pack – MOLLE II Rifleman pack, ALICE pack, MOLLE II pack, or something from Maxpedition. In my opinion, there is no clear cut answer. The large ALICE packs are big, but their too “fat” – meaning they extend off my back too much and make me lean forward to balance the load. For this discussion, lets just talk about the medium ALICE pack, 3,000 cubic inch MOLLE II with external sleep system, the Maxpedition Vulture-II and the Maxpedition

For a 1 – 2 day warm – hot weather trip, I would have to go with either the Maxpedition vulture-ii, 3,000 cubic inch MOLLE with external sleep system or a medium ALICE pack.

The large 4,000 cubic MOLLE would be good for cold weather – where you need to carry a large sleeping bag, coat, change of clothes, 4 season tent,,,,,. But for a 2 – 3 day trip in warm weather, the large MOLLE will probably be too big.

A lot of it depends on where your going, temperature, and how much gear you carry. During the summer months, I can usually get away with an 1,800 – 2,000 cubic inch pack for an overnight trip. During July and August, I can get away with a 1,500 – 1,800 cubic inch pack.

Here is a video about the Maxpedition Falcon-II Pygmy that I use as a hot weather pack.


Sodium content of MREs

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For people with high blood pressure, the sodium content in MREs is an important consideration. Before you stock up on MREs as a survival food, first take a look at these numbers.

Beef ravioli in meat sauce – 1,080mg
Beef Stew – 850mg
Beverage Powder, Grape – 150mg
Beverage Base Powder, Lime Lime – 20mg – 150mg
Beverage Base Powder, Orange – 20mg – 150mg
Cappuccino, Mocha – 0mg
Cappuccino, French Vanilla – 0mg
Cinnamon Imperials – 12mg
Cinnamon Scone – 310mg
Cheese Spread (fortified) – 300mg
Cheese tortellini in tomato sauce – 840mg
Cherry Blueberry Cobbler – 170mg
Chicken and Dumplings – 240mg – 820mg
Chicken Fajita – 980mg
Chicken Fajita Filling – 700mg
Chili With Beans – 630mg
Clam Chowder – 340mg – 370mg
Cocoa Beverage Powder – 140mg
Crackers, Vegetable – 230mg
Crackers – 130mg
French Vanilla Cappuccino Powder – 50mg
Grilled Chicken Breast Fillet – 390mg
Jalapeno Ketchup – 180mg
Meatballs in Marinara Sauce – 1,620mg
Mexican Style Corn – 450mg – 580mg
Peanut Butter – 220mg
Penne with vegetable sauce crumbles in spicy tomato sauce – 710mg
Raspberry White Chip Cookie – 160mg
Spaghetti with meat sauce – 810mg
Strawberry Dairyshake Powder – 260mg
Strawberry Toaster Pastry – 190mg
Tortillas – 320mg
Tortillas – 400mg
Vegetable Crackers – 220mg
Veggie Burger in barbecue sauce – 1,130mg
Wheat Snack Bread – 120mg

All of these values came from my own personal stock of MREs. One thing that I noticed while looking through the meals, the sodium content would vary. So your MREs may not have the same “exact” sodium content as what has been posted here.

Couple of canned food examples

Chef Boyardee mini Ravioli – 15oz can – 950mg of sodium
MRE Beef Ravioli in meat sauce – net wt. 8 oz., – 1,080mg of sodium
Maruchan Ramen hot & spicy noodles – net wt. 3oz – 2 servings per package – 770mg per serving – for a total of 1,540mg of sodium
Campbells Spaghettios meatballs – 14.75 oz can – 650mg of sodium

Pleas post your comments in this forum thread about the salt content of MREs.

Heat related problems while hiking

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Summer time is almost here, and so is the summer heat.  It wont be long and the 90s and 100 degrees will be the norm, so lets take some time to review.

Pace yourself – You should know your own physical conditioning, your not superman, so dont act like it.  If you rush up a hill, get overheated, wear yourself out and still have 6 more miles to go, you have nobody to blame but yourself.

Carry plenty of water – stay hydrated at all times.  If your thirsty, then get something to drink.

Wear a hat – to keep the sun off the top of your head.

Wear clothing that wicks away moisture and promotes evaporation – this will help keep your body cool.

While on a hiking trip with my son and nephew in 2009 I got overheated, and I felt like I was on the verge of heat exhaustion, if not heat stroke.  It was a very dangerous situation in which we arrived at our destination just in time – a nice cool stream.

Video from my July 2009 hiking trip.

One of the mistakes that was made on the 2009 trip – we did not carry enough water bottles. Instead of having 32 ounce water bottles, 2 of us carried 1 quart water bottles and canteens. For the heat, the 1 quart canteens just were not big enough. When its 100 degrees outside, and you just hiked a hike uphill, 1 quart could be sucked down in a matter of minutes.

For this years trip, the 1 quart US Army canteens are going to be replaced with 32 ounce water bottles. The clear bottles also allow the water level to be viewed, so there is no guessing “the canteen feels like its 1/2 full”. Even though a 1 quart canteen holds the same amount of fluid as a 32 ounce water bottle, I think being able to see the water level helps the hiker keep things into perspective.

Even though my hiking team had some heat related problem during the 2009 trip, I’am hoping to avoid some of those same problems this year.

Post your comments in this forum thread about heat related problems while hiking.

Example of E. Coli infection control

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There is an interesting example of E. Coli infection control by a Health Department in Washington State.  Instead of closing the day care, and telling the parents not to take their children elsewhere – in other words, quarantine the children – the children are allowed to return to the source of infection.

This provides a good example of how health officials might react if there is an outbreak of a much larger disease.  If we go back to when the swine flu first broke out in early 2009, the officials in the US government refused to close the borders.  The reason being – it would cost business too much money to close the borders.

The opinion I have – the local, state and federal governments will be powerless to stop an outbreak of a disease.  Whether its refusal to quarantine, or its “going to cost too much money”, the government will not take actions to stop the spread of infectious diseases.

Now lets say that some kind of new killer disease breaks out in Asia, and Central America.  If we use the Swine Flu example and what the governments have done in the past, the new disease will be free to roam free and kill as it wishes.

Do not depend on the government to protect you from a new disease – they are not willing to do what it takes.  From previous examples, its going to be up to you and your family to protect yourself.

Dermabond for wound closure

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On April 10, 2010 I had the chance to see Dermabond in action.  While helping someone wire a house for phone, internet and television, we were outside looking at some underground phone wire.  This is not your usual phone wire –  it has a tough outer jacket, a jell waterproof coating, a heavy aluminum wrapping under the jacket, then another liner that holds the wires.

I wanted to get a good look at the wires before I said if it was going to be ok to run from the main building to the new construction.  So I took this small pair for wire cutters and was trying to pull the aluminum wrapping away – when the wire cutters slipped, my hand went forward, and the foil sliced my middle finger open.

This was not the type of cut where you look at it and say “is it going to bleed”.  As soon as I pulled my hand back and looked at it, the side of my finger was already covered in blood.  The man I was working with got me a rag that I used to apply direct pressure.  After a few minutes the bleeding stopped, but as soon as I moved the finger the bleeding started again.

The man I was working with had a first aid kit close by – the wound was washed with soap and water (there was blood all in the sink), the hand was dried using a towel, and then a couple of layers of Dermabond was applied.

For those of you that do not know what Dermabond is, its a topical adhesive that is put on the outside of the wound to help stop bleeding and to keep the wound closed.  Its kind like superglue, but its approved for human use and its designed for closing wounds.

The man that I was working with went on to tell me that he has used Dermbond several times.  From his explanation, it works best when the skin can be pushed back together, and then sealed.

Within about 5 – 10 minutes we had my new wound closed and the bleeding had stopped.

Post your comments in this forum thread about Dermabond topical skin adhesive.

Trip to the camp

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A couple of weeks ago my family and I made a trip to the camp.  The wisteria was blooming, the weather perfect, and life was good.  As we were packing up to go to the camp, I took the time to load up some survival stuff and “make a haul.”

Over the counter pain killers – instead of buying a few packages, my wife was able to get a couple of boxes which contain 250 doses of advil and tylenol.  So that gives the family 500 doses.

Water Filter – the Royal Berkey was loaded up and brought to the camp.  The Royal Berkey is made out of stainless, so the rodents will not be able to chew any holes in it.

How about a video on the Royal Berkey just for the fun of it.

While we were at the camp messing around, I decided to take some mental notes, so here goes.

The fruit trees -need pruning and are starting to bloom.  Over the past couple of years I have neglected pruning the peach trees, but I’am going to have to fix that problem next fall.

We need more eating utensils – Why do we have so few metal forks and spoons?  It seems that all we have up there are plastic ware.  So I’am going to have to keep an eye out for metal forks and spoons going on sale, or check some of the local garage sales.

Wood stockpile – is getting a little low.  I’ll probably have to buy a cord of wood this summer.  Instead of cutting the firewood myself, it would probably be easier just to buy it.  After you figure in gas and time going to the woods, wear on the chainsaw,,,, it seems that the prices would equal out.

MRE VS Mainstay Meals

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There is an interesting thread in the forums about MREs VS Mainstay Meals. Both types of meals are good for what they are designed to do.  Its not a matter of which one is “the best”, its which one fits your needs the best.

MREs – have a short lifespan, especially if they are stored in a shed, or somewhere where it gets hot, say above 90 – 100 degrees.  I think its something like 1 day over 100 degrees takes 1 month off the life expectancy – but dont quote me on that.

MREs are somewhat expensive, with 12 meals costing about $75 – depending on “where” you get them from.  For the sake of discussion, lets use the rough estimate of $75 per case.  This equals out to $6.25 per meal.  If you eat 2 meals per day, a case should last a single person about about 6 days.

Lets say that you wanted to stock a months supply of MREs for one person, this would equal out to 5 cases, 5 cases * $75 per case = $375.  Now lets say that you have a family of 4 people, 4 * $375 = $1,500.  $1,500 for a months worth of survival meals, for a family of 4 can get a little expensive, especially when you start talking about buying 3, 4 or even 6 months worth of meals.

I like to have a few MREs at the house, they make an easy “grab and go food” for a hiking or camping trips. Its a full meal in a pouch, what more could you want?  When your getting ready to go on a camping or hiking trip, MREs make meal planning simple.  Just read the outside of the pouch, pick out the meal you want, stuff it into your backpack, and head out.

Some MREs have a high salt content, which may not be good for people with high blood pressure.  The main entree I’am looking at right now – Meatballs in Marinara Sauce – has 1,620mg of salt, which is 68% of the recommended daily allowance of salt.

Now for random video about MREs.

Mainstay Bars – Are supposed to have a life span of 5 years, contain 9 – 400 calorie meals divided into individual potions, contain no animal products, and are supposed to be kosher.

The lack of animal products makes the mainstay an excellent choice for people who can not eat meat due to religious reasons or restricted diets.

The mainstay meals are not supposed to induce thirst – but after eating one, it would have been a lot better with something to drink.

Mainstay meals are supposed to be resistant to temperature fluctuations of -40° F to 300°F.

Each serving of a mainstay contains about 23mg of sodium, which is 1% of your recommended daily allowance.  If you eat all 9 portions, that equals 207mg of sodium, as compared to the 1,620mg in the main entree of the MRE.  For people on salt restricted diets, the sodium content alone is of great importance.

Mainstay bars take up WAY less room then an MRE.

Your going to have less trash with a mainstay bar, as compared to an MRE. Mainstay bars are wrapped in foil, where each part of the MRE has its own packaging.

MRE Drawbacks:

Price – they can get expensive. The average price I see on the internet is about $75 per case. With 12 meals per case, that gives an average price of $6.25 per meal. If your looking for a cheap camping / backpacking food, there are less expensive options out there.

Bulk / weight – MREs can get heavy, fast. After all, each package is probably 1.25 – 1.5 meals. A lot of times part of the MRE is left over for the next meal. If your looking for a lightweight camping / backpacking meal, your probably better off with some dehydrated stuff then with an MRE.

Sodium content – as already mentioned, MREs have a high sodium content. People with underlying health conditions need to keep this in mind. If you have high blood pressure, maybe 800mg of sodium in one meal is not for you.

Affected by heat – You do not want to store your MREs in the garage or storage building if temps can get above the 90s. The MREs lifespan is severely affected by high temps, and should be stored in climate controlled conditions.

MRE Advantages

Full meal in a sealed bag – main entree, side dish, snack, desert, heater, accessory pack all in a single pouch.

Military tested – when the military test and approves something, that tells me that I can put my faith in it.

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