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Articles in this column

When a dirt Bike Ride Goes Down Hill

Okay, I'm a nut about motorcycles. Just ask my wife and she'll simply roll her eyes in confirmation. Like many riders, I started riding when I was a little kid on my hand-me-down Honda Trail 50 and it has been my passion ever since. It's been 30 years since first discovering this love of mine and luckily I've learned a few things along the way. One quickly realizes that if you want to continue your journey in this fantastic hobby, you will want to outfit yourself with the best protective gear you can afford. You also figure out that there are a few tools and emergency items you'll want to have along with you as well. I consider these statements to be pretty obvious ones and like to think I do pretty well to abide by them since we all know what happens when you don't. Right, Murphy's Law gives you a sly smirk and proceeds to promptly bite you in the ass as it is tasked to do. Unfortunately this past weekend I discovered that I am not above that law.    I am telling this quick story because it has to do with one of our products at 180 Tack, the BearLine+. I always carry my personal BearLine+ in the tail bag of my trail bike on any ride I go on. It's just there, just in case and not only because I am a co-founder of this company but because I truly value it as a tool not to be left at home. I dutifully point it out any chance I get to those who feign the slightest curiosity. We put the "+" sign at the end of the name because it is much more than your average hang-a-meal bear line. In my hobby, it's a life saver! No, of course I don't mean I'd actually parish without the BearLine+, but I would be stuck for a very long time off trail without it possibly wishing I could die as I struggle with the weight of my 400 lb motorcycle.    If you have ever lost your dirt bike or 4-wheeler over the side of a steep trail edge where the only way to continue on is to get your machine back on the trail, you know what I talking about. Frankly, it sucks! Even if you have a riding buddy with you to help work it back onto the trail, they are heavy and it's extremely exhausting. The BearLine+ is the absolute necessary tool to have with you in these situations.That's because this versatile system acts as a compact winch system because you can arrange the 500 lb test paracord and climbing-rated carabiners into a block & tackle system allowing you to easily hoist your machine back onto the trail.  The reason I bring up this weekend's ride is because it was the first time I failed to have my BearLine+ system on my bike and it was, of course, during this ride that we needed it. My riding buddy and I came around a corner to find another rider about 25 ft off the trail down a very steep embankment. He was already exhausted from trying to get his bike back up to the trail and he had only been there a few minutes. His rear tire was dug in and his bike was going nowhere. We fortunately did luck out in this particular situation because 4 other riders came across our little scene and were available to assist. Of course the first tongue-in-cheek question posed by one of those riders was "does anyone have a come-along?". You can imagine my frustration when I had to explain that "I own a company that manufactures this great product and if only I had it with me today, I could show you how well it works!" But I did not have it this day of course and could not demonstrate it. Luckily, between the multiple riders we had available, we were able to sweat and grunt to get the heavy bike back to the trail where it belonged. But, most of us also ride in places where we're not likely to run across 5 other riders to help us out of our predicament. So, by learning my lesson and posting this quick blog about it, I hope I've convinced you to take a hard look at your tools and emergency equipment you bring along with on your next adventure. The BearLine+ will always be in my tool kit from now on. No excuses will be tolerated! ~ Travis   You can find the 180 Tack BearLine+ by following this LINK Don't leave home without it.        

Curt Linville

Curt Linville

What Kind of Pan is Best for Backpacking?

All pan materials will work well with the 180 Stove.  Some are better for backpacking than others.  That said, here is a rundown of a little of our research.   Cast iron – too heavy for backpacking, but perhaps the best material for cooking.  It spreads the heat evenly, minimizes scorching, and some believe the healthiest material to eat from.  If pan metal “leaches” into the food, it is iron – a vitamin.   Aluminum – light and common as a backpacking pan.  There are lots of “unproven”  health concerns about eating from aluminum cookware especially when cooking acidic food like tomatoes, lemons, etc.  For simply boiling water, this is a minor concern.  But, this is one of the reasons our stoves are not made of aluminum.   Once the aluminum has been anodized, then this concern is mitigated significantly as long as the hard anodized layer is not scratched.  I do cook with anodized aluminum from time to time.       Stainless steel – thin stainless steel is great for backpacking; strong and light.  While it is possible for trace amounts of chromium to get into the food, this is minimal and not a real health concern.  This is my favorite backpacking cooking material.  It will scorch food more than some materials, however, but this is common for most thin backpacking pans.   Titanium is known to be one of the best materials to cook with as it is highly unreactive and does not leach metals into the food.   Pans with a larger diameter base heat water more quickly, as a rule, but they can take up space in the pack.  They have the added advantage of working better for cooking eggs and the like.  Our stoves are sturdy and have no issues cooking even with large, cast iron Dutch ovens.  Other backpacking stoves cannot do this.  They are simply too small and flimsy.       Make sure whatever you use comes with a good lid.  It speeds up boiling time and doubles for a plate or bowl.    One thing to keep in mind is that some natural fuels will coat the outside of the pan with creosote.  This is because the pan has cooler water or foods inside that allows the creosote to condense onto the pan.  This creosote causes no harm, and does not even stain the pack once it is cool.  It can be “cooked off” by heating an empty pan, but I usually don’t bother as it causes no issues.  However, I would not use my wife’s favorite pans when burning pine, especially….  Some people coat the outside of the pan with a little soap before cooking as it reduces the “smoking” of the pan.  Again, I don’t bother as the creosote is a non-issue to me.   And don't forget, the 180 Stove works well without a pan too as a packable grill.      Have fun!  Get out there!    

Curt Linville

Curt Linville

Latitude vs. Altitude

My family and I have lived in the Colorado Rockies at over 8000 above sea level for 17 years, with the last seven at nearly 9000 feet.  The years since we made the move here have been filled with unique experiences to say the least.  Life at altitude may seem commonplace to Buddhists in Nepal or Tibet.  There are some native tribes in the Andes of South America who have also lived for centuries at altitude.  But the existence that may seem ordinary to a Buddhist monk who was born, nurtured, and educated at 3000 meters above sea level is certainly full of surprises for those of us who learned of life at a lower altitude.  Wherever there is a great mountain range, one is sure to find interesting people who have adapted their ways of life to survive the challenging climates that embody the spirit of these high places.  But what about the outsiders?  What about the lowlanders?  These must learn the mountain crafts to last.    Respect is quickly won by the mountains from anyone who ventures to dwell among them.  The high places are both beautiful, and dangerous.  This environ can be fickle; changing abruptly from warm and inviting to cold and deadly.  A stroll over a high, dry rock can change in a heartbeat to a perilous scrambling over slick, wet, polished granite.  Visibility often changes from literally scores of miles to mere feet in a matter of minutes as dense clouds race through the trees and over the ridges.  The wind varies from screaming at over a hundred miles per hour to whispering in an eerie hush that almost sucks breath out of one’s lungs.  This silence can capture words leaving sentences hanging.  Words trail off into quieted, indistinguishable tones.  This is a land of variety.  This is a land that demands much of all living things.  Yes, it is absolutely beautiful.  It can be as comforting as a mother’s warm embrace.  But this world will turn on a person.  It often attempts to drive living things away; down to a lower realm where the biosphere is more predictable and safe.     We go to the mountains to find peace, freedom, privacy, happiness, and adventure.  These things may or may not be found, but one thing is certain.  No one lives for long at altitude without being changed.  Some attempt to force this world into submission.  They fail.  Either learn the ways of the peaks and adapt, or run.  And run many do.  Every summer dozens families make the move into the high places.  Every spring, dozens of for sale signs sprout from the earth as predictably as the aspen buds sprout from the naked white trees.  What is it about these mountains that draws people into them?  What is it about these mountains that drives these same people away?  What is it really like living at 8240?       It has been said that some change in altitude is equivalent to another change in latitude.  In other words, the world of the north is similar to the world of the heights.  There are some similarities.  Denver is well known as the Mile High City.  At 5280 feet, Denver is certainly one of the highest “large” cities.  Denver is at about the same latitude as Washington D.C., and Madrid, Spain.  Denver is even a couple of degrees south of Rome.  Still, the climate in Denver is much cooler and snowier than that of D.C. or Rome.  This is due primarily to altitude.  If Denver were at sea level, it would have to be located in Montana to have similar summer temperatures.    We moved from the Mile High City to the 60% higher world of 8240 feet.  For many years since our move, I have tried to predict the weather up here based on the Denver forecasts.  I have found two things to be true.  The temperatures at our home are usually about 15 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than Denver, and if Denver is predicted to get a foot of snow, we are in for more than double that amount.  So where would that put our mountain home in terms of latitude at sea level?  Well, at least in the summer months, that would land us in the middle of Canada.   In the winter, the relationship between latitude and altitude do change somewhat.  In the winter at high latitudes, the nights are quite long, and Old Sol peaks weakly over the horizon.  At our latitude, the daylight hours certainly seem short, but we get several more hours of sunshine each day than our northern neighbors, and that at a more generous angle.  This moderates the cold somewhat, but the altitude still diminishes the temperatures.  Our winter temperatures are usually similar to those in Montana.       Another way to describe the climate at 8000+ feet is via the seasons.  Forget the calendar.  The first day of spring comes and goes here in the midst of the snowiest month of the year.  The snow that accumulates through the long winter does not melt off until May.  Except for crocuses, the wildflowers don’t flourish until the middle of June.  By these measures, spring comes to our elevation in late May.  If spring drags its feet up the slopes, the onslaught of winter seems to come crashing down from the higher peaks with an early gusto.  Snow can come in August.  It almost always shows up in September.  By the end of October, 8240 reliably provides snow that may not melt completely until spring.    This harsh, elongated winter season seems to be the primary cause of the spring exodus.  But, it is hardly the only defining quality of the climate at 8000+ feet.  Bring any lowlander to these heights, and the other characteristic of life at altitude becomes apparent with their first stroll across the property.  The thin air leaves the unaccustomed lungs gasping for a grip.  Doctors tell us that the first day or so is the worst.  The body acclimates to the thin air by producing more hemoglobin. This additional hemoglobin balances the lack of atmospheric pressure by carrying more oxygen from the lungs to the cells of the body.  Adjustment continues for several more days, and one may not be completely at ease for over a month.   Altitude sickness does attack some at this elevation.  Having made a hobby out of climbing mountains, I am all too familiar with the early stages of this attack from the thin air.  It usually first shows up as a headache; a pain behind the eyes.  Soon one begins to lose a little equilibrium.  A misplaced foot here or an off-balanced stumble there is a sure sign of the next symptom.  Nausea.  The word reminds us of the one who wants to stop the sea.  Stop the rolling waves.  Oh please, stop this ground from rocking!  Following the cursing of the sea comes the heaving of the sailor.  This is the limit.  It is time to get thee to lower ground; to thicker air.  The fool hardy who do not heed this warning may find themselves with edema in the lungs or even brain.  Next comes a coma, and then the great beyond.  Luckily, few ever get much beyond the upset stomach at 8240.  Some experience no symptoms at all.     All of this may make living this high seem unattractive.  Don’t be deceived.  Life at altitude is a lifestyle, not only a location.  But what a lifestyle!  Consider sleeping in a house that will never have an air conditioner, and using winter blankets all summer long.  Imagine the pleasure of letting the sun saturate your skin on an average July morning and not breaking into a sweat.  Feel the crisp icy air that crystallizes the inside of your nose on a February afternoon.  It is invigorating!  Snow comes often in the winter, and it shrouds the destruction of humans.  All the scars that machines and tires and feet have cut into the terrain are erased by the snow.  The negligence of our species toward the earth is hidden for a season.  All is forgiven under a cover of fluffy white whisperings.  The snow comes lightly.  The snow comes silently.  It balances in clumps on deep green pine needles.  The world is transformed.  It smells different.  It looks perfectly clean.  On a sunny morning, a gentle breeze on a tree will create hundreds of tiny sparkling avalanches.  Each minuscule snow crystal acts as a prism refracting the suns golden rays into dozens of microscopic rainbows.  The combined effect is a symphony for the eyes.  I have seen such beauty, that I have had to close my eyes.  It is too rich to take in all at once.  I take a small bite of patterns and color, and then close my eyes to savor its uniqueness and flavor.  Then I open my eyes capture another sample of the visual feast.             The lifestyle required by these high peaks gives and takes.  But living here, close to nature, nourishes my soul.  Getting back to nature is a big part of what 180 Tack is about and our stoves embrace this approach by working with nature to cook naturally rather than burning processed fuels from foreign oil wells.  Being natural in nature just makes sense.  Get out there!  Have some fun!    

Curt Linville

Curt Linville

Be a Fire Guru – Wet Wood Fire

There are many skills that, while almost primordial, are neither known nor practiced by the majority in our modern world. These skills are fundamental to basic survival. While I am convinced that the most fundamental and necessary skill is that of building simple shelter, for comfort and long term survival, no skill is quite as rewarding as mastering reliable fire-building techniques that will work with a minimum of modern materials in all conditions—even in pouring down rain. While fire is low on my personal list of survival priorities, there is nothing like sitting around a nice fire enjoying the heat and light and the community that fire encourages. And when it comes to longer-term survival, fire becomes critical for sterilizing water and cooking.


Considering that I am co-owner of 180 Tack, LLC, the developers of the natural fuel 180 Stove and 180 VL, the knowledge of building reliable fires in all conditions is definitely a priority. We believe that our stoves offer the most reliable, compact, safe, environmentally conscious, portable cooking solution available. But the stoves are only as reliable as one’s ability to build a fire (or to use alternative fuel sources such as gel fuels or charcoal…).


So, come with me on a short journey; a journey that will reveal the primordial mystery of fire building. After reading this article and practicing these skills a few times, you will be able to join the ranks of the fire shaman. You will be the one who will start fires with ease when the rest of the neighborhood is ready to run to the convenience store to buy a fake wax log that promises a simple one-match fire. People will watch in awe as you illustrate the long lost mystery of the fire gods. Oooooh! Awe! Hurray!


Well…you may not become rich and famous by knowing these skills, but you very well may save an evening for your friends, provide a hot meal to those in need, or even possibly, save a life. But if none of those things happen, then at the very least, you will have the confidence that you are not among the fire ignorant. You will know that you can depend on yourself for this basic, worthwhile skill.


The following will cover fire making including tender, kindling, the proper way to arrange the wood, and a fantastic, reliable method for building a fire even when all the fuels are soaked. We will also talk about responsible use of fire and fire safety.


THREE THINGS

Three things are essential for any fire: air (oxygen), heat, and fuel. To start and maintain a fire, one must understand the interactions of these three things. Many inexperienced “would be” fire builders throw a bunch of sticks or logs in a pile and stick a match to the pile. After emptying their box of matches they either reach for gasoline or make that trip to the corner store to buy that fake wax log. WARNING! Don’t reach for gasoline to start a fire. It is not needed. It is very dangerous. There are safer ways to start a fire using volatile fuels, but I am going to keep those ways secret in this article. If you like your hair and skin, then just leave the gasoline out of the equation. As for that wax log, YOU DON’T NEED IT.

What you will need is some tender, kindling, dry wood, and to know how to stack the wood. I will cover starting a fire with wet wood in the next section. As a rule, the thicker the wood, the more heat will be required to get it to burn. This is because thick pieces of wood have a greater heat sink mass and less surface area. That means that the heat is absorbed/dissipated into the wood instead of igniting the wood, and the air can only reach the comparatively small surface area. Take that same chunk of wood and break it up into splinters, and the surface area increases hundreds of times over and the potential heat sink of each splinter is tiny. Stick a match to these splinters and the heat has fewer places to go and there is plenty of surface area exposed to the air. That is why a toothpick lights easily and a stick of firewood does not. As a rule, the smaller and more fibrous the fuel, the easier it will ignite.

Tender is finer still. The purpose of tender is to start a flame from a tiny coal or spark. If you are starting a fire with a match, then tender, while helpful, may not be necessary. Still, tender will expand a flame until it is large enough for the kindling to catch. In the woods, the best tender will be nests of very fine, very dry fibrous materials like fine wispy grasses, broken up cedar bark strands, milk weed fuzz, etc. If you have home resources at hand, then dryer lint or cotton balls with Vaseline worked into them work well. Surprisingly, steel wool can also make good tender and can be ignited with a 9-volt battery. To get a flame from a coal, make a nest about the size of your two hands together from tender, place the coal in the nest, and blow the coal gently until the tender ignites.

Kindling is composed of small pieces of fuel/wood that will catch and expand a flame. Kindling will range from toothpick sized up to twig sized, depending on how dry the fuel is. Larger sticks may be considered kindling but these will need smaller ones to grow the flame. Kindling does not burn long, but it burns quickly and hot enough to get those larger sticks of firewood started.

PROPER FIRE STACK

But what do we do with this stuff to get a fire going? Since heat rises, the tender needs to be under the kindling, and the kindling needs to be under the wood. But this will only work if there is enough space for air to get to the flames and not too much space to dissipate the heat. A single stick will rarely burn well, but two sticks an inch or two apart will capture each other’s heat and burn efficiently. Place the same two sticks too closely together and the fire will smother out. Understanding this is key to getting a fire to grow.

I prefer to stack my wood “log cabin” style with firewood-sized sticks separated by one to two inches. This stack can take full advantage of the tender/kindling and will grow quickly. Some like to prop the wood teepee style, which is nice for creating a hotter and taller flame, but I don’t like the way the wood tumbles as it burns, and it is harder to get the spacing correct.

Please be very careful if you use paper as kindling. Burning paper tends to escape a fire ring and float to places where fire is NOT wanted. Many forest fires have started this way resulting in the loss of thousands of acres of forest, homes by the hundreds, and even lives. Likewise, burning trash in a fire is really not a good idea.
WET WOOD FIRE

Above I stated that fuels need to be dry to start a fire. So what does one do if all the available fuel has been soaked by rain or snow? There is no great trick to this. But it does require a decent-sized knife. Wood that is wet on the outside, even wood that has been soaking in water for days, will be dry on the inside. All one needs is to get under some shelter to keep the wood dry, and split the wood into tender and kindling sizes. Well-seasoned (dead) wood will work best for this. The following pictures show this process.   Making a wet wood fire requires wet wood. Just to prove the point, I am soaking an aspen stick.  
Even though the stick is soaking wet, there is still dry wood on the inside.  

Using a decent knife and a second stick as baton, split the stick. You will need split sticks thumb-sized, pencil-sized, and toothpick-sized. Split more than you think you may need. You can always use the extra wood later, but running out of this kindling when building a fire can be disheartening. Be sure to use some sort of base plate to keep the stick out of the mud, and to protect your knife from dulling in the dirt.  
When the wood is small enough, it can be split simply by forcing the blade into the wood and twisting.  
Once there is a generous collection of thumb, pencil, and toothpick sized dry fuel. then if you have some tender or even just a match, you are ready to start the fire. If you do not have tender, then you will need to make some by first cutting some shavings from the wood and then making some sawdust by scraping the dry stick.  
Making scrapings. The scrapings will catch a spark from fire steel to create a small flame. Use this flame to light the shavings, and then the toothpicks, pencils, and finally thumb-sized wood.  
Getting ready to ignite the scrapings. Make a tall, loose pile. Notice the prop stick. This is used to support the weight of the shavings and other wood so the pile stays airy and the fire is not smothered out.  
Igniting the scrapings using fire steel.  
Carefully adding shavings, and then larger sticks. The young flame is fragile. Be careful to use the prop stick to support the fuel so you don’t smother the flame.  
Finally adding the thumb-sized sticks. Almost ready to cook!  
The 180 Stove is placed over the fire, and more wood can be added as needed through the open end (facing away from the camera). Ready to cook, even when all the fuel was wet.

RESPONSIBLE AND SAFE FIRES

Knowing how to be responsible with fire in the wilderness is a critical prerequisite for anyone who wants to camp, hike, or live in the woods. Fire can be friend or foe. Responsibility does not only include fire safety to prevent forest fires and personal injury. Abusing the wilderness with fire proves one is immature and has little understanding of, or respect for nature. This type of abuse is all too common and includes such things as making over-sized fires, creating multiple fire rings in one locale, scorching trees or other plants, using a fire pit as a trash can, melting cans, bottles, and plastics and leaving them, failing to put out fires completely, leaving a fire unattended, building fires too close to surface water, and the list goes on and on.

When camping, use existing fire rings and scatter extra ones. Pack out trash left by others. Leave nature better than you found it. If you are in an area where there is no fire ring, then consider using fire practices that respect nature. One of the biggest mistakes is making the fire too large. Small fires use less wood, create less smoke, leave smaller scars, and are much easier to use for cooking. And small fires provide comforting heat and light that does not force campers to stand ten feet away.

Better yet, use a 180 Stove to contain your small fire and maximize your cooking. With the 180 Stove you can cook or boil water using only a handful of twigs. The cooking platform keeps the pan close to the flames and reflects the heat onto the pan. The stove is lighter than carrying a backpacking stove with fuel, and more compact as well. If you are not using the 180 Two-Piece Snow and Ash Pan, then scrape a little soil to the side, cook, douse, and then cover. This way no scars are left on the land. In more delicate areas or for cooking on snow, use the ash pan.

Curt Linville

Curt Linville

 

Hope and the Second Law of Thermodynamics

“All that is needed for evil to prevail is for good people to do nothing.” –From Edmund Burke’s writings. “In all energy exchanges, if no energy enters or leaves the system, the potential energy of the state will always be less than that of the initial state.” –Second law of thermodynamics. “You may delay, but time will not, and lost time is never found again.” –Benjamin Franklin. Take a close look at this picture.  There are so many lessons we can learn from nature; from this one picture even.  One’s first impression might be that it is really pretty.  Many will feel a yearning to go there.  Other’s may yawn and remark on “yet another mountain shot”.  But put your analytical hat on.  What do you see when you look carefully? I see a paradigm for life, responsibility, and self-reliance.  I also remember the taste of roasted trout, but that is off the subject.  Where are the hidden lessons? Let’s start with the second law of thermodynamics.  This law is crumbling the mountains.  It is this law that formed the lake and will also destroy the lake.  And the living things like the trees show scars of battling against it. Another way to paraphrase the second law of thermodynamics is that energy does not like to be concentrated.  High energy systems release their energy over time to lower energy systems until all systems have the same energy.  So those mountains will crumble and slide and erode and fill the lake.  Millions of tons of rock will eventually lie flat; averaged by the effects of time.  The lake was formed as snow and ice—seeking a lower energy state—carved out a basin in the valley below and then filled it with water.  This trapped water continues to seek a lower energy state as it slowly carves away the natural dam.  In time there will be a meadow where the lake was with a deep stream bed on the lower end.  But the trees are a little different.  The trees are moving energy from a lower state to a higher, more concentrated state.  In other words, they are using energy to do work, pushing and stretching for the sky while storing vast amounts of energy from the sun in the form of sugars and cellulose and other hydrocarbons.  But the trees show dead limbs that succumbed to the second law.  And there are thousands of rotting logs in this forest; trees that have lost the battle.  Their concentrated energy is returning to the earth.  Even the trout in the lake are in a constant struggle to concentrate enough energy to grow rather than to starve. Life battles against the second law.  That is a definition of life.  Life concentrates the energy of the environment to do work and affect change.  Life organizes and builds and struggles against the second law to overcome it—if only for a season.  Life creates hope in the midst of deterioration. The second law of thermodynamics is also known as the law of entropy.  Since energy flows from concentrated states to less concentrated states, matter also flows from order to disorder.  That is because disorder is a lower energy state.  This is true for a bedroom and true for a nation.  It takes living things (humans) doing work to keep a bedroom organized.  Likewise, it takes people doing work to maintain order.  That is why Burke’s famous statement is true.  If good people don’t take action, then societies crumble into greater and greater disorder. Tolkien riddled another point about entropy in The Hobbit: This thing all things devours; Birds, beasts, trees, flowers; Gnaws iron, bites steel; Grinds hard stones to meal; Slays king, ruins town, And beats mountain down.   What is it?  In The Hobbit, the answer is time.  But a more precise answer might be entropy over time.  If time stopped, so would entropy.  But since time flows on, entropy does too; never ceasing, always reducing.  All we have to do to see our lives get worse is nothing!  If we, like the trees, are not working to organize, concentrate, and store energy, then we will fall and return; ashes to ashes and dust to dust. But the picture is of Middle Lake and not Middle Earth.  How do these lessons apply to self-reliance here in the real world? Benjamin Franklin’s contribution to this article makes another point about time, “You may delay, but time will not, and lost time is never found again.” Thankfully, we are all given the same amount of time and it is given in a steady stream.  We do get second chances, and thirds, and so on—up to a point.  But with time, entropy marches on.   It is tireless, relentless, and never satisfied.  Eventually entropy can build up so great a state of disorder that we don’t have the strength left to overcome it. That is why people of responsibility must act.  The trees and the trout are diligently working.  Sure they pause at times to rest, as so should we, but they know that if they are not productive, they will lose the battle with entropy.  We must also work.  People of responsibility must act or lose. This is true from the simple effort of eating healthy food to caring for tools, maintaining homes, teaching and learning, raising children, and taking responsibility for the wellbeing of ourselves, our families, our communities, and—yes—even our nation. How do you spend your precious time?  I encourage you to rest when you need to rest.  Recharge your physical and emotional batteries so you will have the strength to act.  But once rested, realize that entropy never pauses.  All that is necessary for your life to get worse is for you to do nothing. How would you like work for yourself doing business that provides wealth, self-respect, and empowerment?  How would you like to get paid for the good you do, rather than for the hours you spend bringing order to someone else’s resources while yours slowly decay?  How would you like to eat healthy foods knowing where each meal came from; celebrating the fruit of your labor?  How would you like to know that you are prepared to weather the tough times without depending on a crippled government for support?  How would you like to know that your children are responsible, loving, productive, and knowledgeable? Why would anyone give away these blessings by sitting hour after hour, day after day, year after year in front of a TV screen?!  Are people so ill at ease with their own lives that they must feed on the fictitious lives of others like vampires trying to suck life out of the living? I hope that you cannot relate to this paragraph.  I wish you all the blessings and fulfillment that life can bring.  But….  I just had my small dog do several rather ridiculous tricks for a little scrap of roast.  I don’t blame her.  She is a dog after all and really cute!  But what ridiculous tricks do you do for your master to get your scraps?  Seriously.  Think about it.  Working a dead-end job is a lower energy state.  It may take less effort to sacrifice your time in exchange for scraps.  But what if you acted like a living thing—the trees and the trout— and looked after your own business and responsibilities?  You could be feasting at the table!  It is all about personal responsibility.  It is about overcoming the second law. A great man of wisdom once wrote: I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding. And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down. Then I saw, and considered it well: I looked upon it, and received instruction. Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep:  So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth; and thy want as an armed man. I think these days we should paraphrase the last lines, “Just one more show, entertain my numbness:   Poverty from spinning my wheels--not getting anywhere--will be the result; and starvation will bully me, making me do things that I hate. “ If you have read this far, then you care.  If you care, then your walls are either strong and sturdy, or being rebuilt.  Your vineyards are productive.  You are alive.  That means you are changing your corner of the world by storing up energy and organizing resources.  You are providing for your needs and the needs of your family.  You are discovering what it means to have liberty.  You are empowering yourself and others.  If you care, then you are overcoming entropy, using your time wisely, and you are a good person doing something! This is what being alive really is.  The mountains are crumbling because they have no living mechanism to order and preserve them.  But the trees are growing because they are doing the necessary stuff. Are you alive?  No, I am not asking if you are breathing; sitting like a lump watching your world crumble.  Are you really alive celebrating the good work that you do; making a positive difference?  Time marches on and we do not have as much time left as we once did.  So DO SOMETHING!  Do something and be the person you can look up to. The new year is upon us.  We don’t really know what 2014 will bring.  But we do know that we can make a difference and start pushing back the onslaught of entropy.  Remember that freedom, liberty, and the opportunities they bring are higher energy states.  The entropy of laziness and politics erode at these ideals.  Do something to organize and build up your own personal liberty this year.  Empower yourself.  Lead by example.  Make a difference.  Build up HOPE and LOVE. Get off your butt.  Entropy never sleeps. We at 180 Tack wish you all the best in the new year!  180 Tack is the something that we are doing to make a difference.  You can share the fruit of our labors too, at www.180tack.com. 

Curt Linville

Curt Linville

Colorado Trout Quest - A Close Call

Trip report: Our middle son, Dan, is an avid fly fisherman.  He has been dreaming of the mountain lake packed full of trout that can only be found by hiking where others fear to tread.  Dan is 11.   Luke, our youngest, has been aching to go on a “real” backpacking trip for a few years.  He is 9.   Caleb, 16, is a hard core backpacker, wilderness survivalist, mountain biker, downhill ski racer, and experienced mountain man.  He was game.   The problem:   To get to the “easy” access to our wonder lake, we had to drive over a 12,000 foot high mountain pass.  This particular pass has a snow cornice on top that does not melt very often.  2013?  Not melted.  Will not melt.  Snow all year around.   So, we drove to the snow Friday evening.  We were at 12,400 feet above sea level in early August.  We did not get there until fairly late.  The weather was stable.  But light was fading fast.  We had only a couple of miles to hike to get down to our lake at 11,000 feet, but there is no trail to get there and the slopes are steep.  No, I mean really steep.  But hey, I am the wilderness survival guy, right?  What’s more, I had made the hike before, so I knew where we were headed.   We strapped on our packs and made a run for it.  An hour later, we were on the steeps.  The sun was gone, and there was no moon.  Our headlamps were not adequate to do any route finding.  We could see a few steps ahead of ourselves, but….    Is this starting to sound like a Reader’s Digest Drama in Real Life?  You know, the story where that dad and the kids get stuck on high mountain ledge for three days eating lichen and drinking urine until the helicopter picks them off the precipice?  Yes, I read too many of those stories as a kid too. I was determined not to make the local news.  Determined.   So, when the slope rolled steeper into the void and we could barely keep our footing and we had no idea what cliffs were below or how high those cliffs might be, I called it.  No sense in becoming a statistic, right?  We were nearly down, but I did not want to get there airborne.  So, we climbed.  Up.  More up.  Up on scree and rotten granite outcroppings.  Up into the night, in the pitch black.  Up with heavy packs while the wind blew and the temperature dropped.  Did I mention my boys were 9 & 11?  Caleb took it all in stride, but I knew this was a new challenge even for him.    Luke asked how long until we could stop climbing and the obvious answer was, “Until we are safe.  Until we are off this slope.  All night if we have to.”    But it was not all night.  Finally around midnight we made our goal.  There was a spire of rock I dubbed “the guardian” that acted as an earth dam.  It moderated the slope from “way lose too steep to sit on”  to “we won’t roll off the mountain as long as we stake our sleeping bags down”.  12,200 feet.   Windy.  Temperatures to drop WAY down.  Bivouac.    Now before you call social services on me, please know that we were prepared.  We all had zero degree bags and all the other gear to enjoy a crazy night at 12,200 feet no matter the weather.  And I did stake the boys down, even though we were not on a precipice.  Soon they were happily snoring while I stared in awe at the stars.    I have seen the Milky Way thousands of times before, but this was the first time that I could see the shape of the curved arm on which our solar system orbits the galactic center.  This was the first time that the 10s of thousands of stars were millions.  I was amazed.  It made it hard to sleep.  Never mind the 35 degree, 15 MPH winds.  Never mind that I was lying on lumpy ground high above tree line.  Never mind the mountain goat whose sleep we disturbed who was tramping around.  Never mind the pica that scampered around to see what we were all about.  It was the stars that kept me awake while my cozy boys slumbered.     Not my picture... From Steve Jurvetson via Wikimedia Commons The morning dawned with a crisp crescent moon.  45 minutes later we were at the lake.  An hour later we had a breakfast of fresh trout.  Yes, Dan caught his fish.  After eating a few, we turned to catch and release and lost count of how many lovely cut throats went for Dan’s hand-tied dry flies.     The site of our bivouac   Nice catch!   The 180 Stove used for roasting We stayed that night at the lake and enjoyed a lovely rainstorm--a magnificent living canvas of light and shadow, breezes and aromas.  The mountains speak a language all their own.  Until you have heard it and lived it, it cannot be described to you.  This is why we go.       Get out there!          

Curt Linville

Curt Linville

Weathering Economic Collapse (Part 2) – More on Local Group Economies

In part one, the thinking about our unpredictable economic future was laid out.  We discussed how the centralization of production has created dangerous vulnerabilities in our society; how all our eggs are in a few fragile baskets.  The weakness of and our dependency on long complex supply chains for food, energy, and other goods and services were highlighted.  The point was made that no one family can prepare enough to thrive and to meet all their own needs if these supply chains fail.  The proposed solution is to start--right now--building local group economies that will help participants now and in the uncertain future. In this article, we will again define local group economies and flesh out the details and advantages they provide for families and individuals not just to survive, but to thrive in times of hardship.  More specifics will be provided about how to build up your own local group economy.  We will touch on how multiple local group economies can begin to work with each other to form a robust economic network.  And while local group economies offer many life-saving benefits, we will discuss some of the limitations to this model. Local group economies - groups of local people who organize symbiotically to leverage their diversification of skills and production for the enrichment of the group today and in the unpredictable future. In plain English, local group economies are composed of people who agree to do business with each other now and in the future to assure a local source for goods and services. An example:  One person has a few goats and enjoys working with them to create milk, meat and cheese but detests working on cars. Another person loves mechanical work, and yet another really enjoys chickens.  If the mechanic and the chicken farmer agree to get milk and cheese from the goat farmer, then the goat farmer has a reason to raise more goats.  In return the goat farmer agrees that the mechanic will be his/her go to repair person when things break down.  The chicken farmer is glad to focus more on chickens and less on needs provided by the goat farmer and mechanic and provides eggs, meat, and feathers to the group.  Three families that had three hobbies now each have a small business, and just as importantly, they have friendships that will grow as they purchase or trade goods with each other.  Add in more local people who work to provide other resources, and a local group economy grows and begins to be a robust resource for enjoying enhanced community now and weathering tough times in the future. There are countless advantages to this system.  On the macro level, those in the local group economy now have a source of goods and services that does not depend on the long, centralized and fragile supply chains.  If the three-day supply of food at the grocery store runs out, then they can still go to each other.  And while local group economies use dollars now to trade their goods and services, if high inflation rates render the dollar less and less valuable, those in local group economies can still trade with each other without using dollars.  This defense against inflation will provide enormous benefits in a weakening economy.  Again, on the macro level, these community businesses create jobs and robust, smaller scale economies that do not depend on corporations, the government, or large banking systems to thrive.  For more information on this, see my articles on the corporate and economic challenges of our day. On the micro level, local group economies allow people to leverage doing the things they already enjoy to provide for a larger group.  As already pointed out, this can provide the resources to allow for scaling up one’s hobby to a more efficient level.  But more importantly, since the people in the group have committed to sourcing their needs from each other whenever it is reasonable, they have planted the seeds of friendship and local community.  Rather than going to the supermarket to mingle with strangers to buy low-quality foods from unknown sources, now people go to those they know in the community and develop friendships, get food or services at inflation resistant prices, and from people and farms that they know something about.  This also creates accountability.  If the chicken farmer starts providing eggs using non-sustainable or unhealthy practices, the mechanic can offer some encouragement to stick to practices that are best for people, chickens, and the environment.   If the chicken farmer refuses, then the group can opt to find a more responsible source for their poultry products.  And on the other side of the coin, because people interact periodically, they will find opportunities to help out with other needs.  These needs can be met out of friendship or can become the beginnings of new micro-businesses. The community that develops out of local group economies brings us back to what it means to be human.  Entire books could be written on the benefits of this community.  Think briefly on the joy, accountability, protection, support provided during tough times, culture, and encouragement such a community provides.  There is strength in numbers and diversity. In Part 1, I presented initial steps to take to start forming your own local group economy.  The first step is to make a list of needs.  The next step is to find people in the local community that are already in a position to start meeting those needs.  Meet together and discuss the concept of local group economies to this initial group.  No need to talk doom and gloom.  Rather, present the advantages of local produce and services.  You will find that some attach to the idea readily.  Those who do not may come around when they see the advantages developing in the local group economy over time.  No high-pressure sales pitch or coercion should ever be used.  Once the group starts developing, others and newcomers to the group will know new people who can meet needs not already being addressed.  By inviting these people to make a moderate commitment to the group, the local group economy grows and becomes more robust. The below is a short list of local group economy “positions” to address.  Prioritize this list for your needs and your area, and add to it as other requirements become obvious. Food categories: Dairy – milk, cheese, butter, cream, sour cream, cottage cheese, ice cream Poultry -- eggs, chicken, feathers, fertilizer Meat – beef, sheep, goat, etc. Fruit & vegetables Grains – corn, millet, sorghum, wheat Fish Wild game Sweeteners –Honey, molasses, maple syrup, sugar Toiletries – soap, TP, shampoo, etc. Feed for livestock & pets Beer & wine Services: Bakery Butcher Medical care Dentist Midwifery Veterinarian Mechanic Machine shop Delivery Fuel – ethanol, solar, wind, firewood, etc. Construction Home repair Musicians Teachers Writers Cobblers Tailors   The local group also needs to address the dynamics that naturally develop when people start doing business with each other.  For instance, just because a group of people have agreed to provide for each other does not justify local group monopolies.  Allegiance to a provider of goods or services is something that is earned by quality products and fair pricing.  While it may be difficult initially to “beat” the supermarket prices in your local group, for economics to work people have to know they have the liberty to choose where they shop.  This means that the people in the group have to realize the advantages to doing business in their local group that reach beyond mere price.  Quality and community must be paramount.  So when people commit to a local group economy, they are not committing to exclusive monopolies but rather they are committing to community, quality, safety, sustainability, and the subtle accountability these groups provide. Disagreements will of course develop, too.  And it is unlikely that firm rules governing the group will settle such issues in a way that benefits the group long term.  People must be respectful of one another and realize that their rights to live how they want go only so far as they are not infringing on the rights of others to do the same.  And strong friendships and sense of community will be the glue that will help get the group through the times of disagreement.  People should always have the right to vote with their feet.  If the goals for liberty, community, and independence from fragile supply chains remain the focus, then disagreements should be readily resolved.  Clearly, a spirit of forgiveness and love must be a part of any healthy community.  If people are causing any sort of harm to others, then it is only decent that other people take their business elsewhere. What about competition inside of a local group economy?  What if there are five chicken farmers and no one wants to milk goats?  In such cases, one would argue that the group was not well planned.  But competition in the group will be healthy once the group has critical mass.  If there are two chicken farmers, then they will naturally compete to provide the best products at the best prices using the best methods.  They can also cooperate to learn better ideas from each other.  And at this scale, it is likely that one chicken farmer will not be able to keep up with the needs of a local group economy.  Keep in mind that people will always continue to sell their products outside of the group.  The groups are simply commitments that the members will go to each other for goods and services whenever possible and reasonable.  Again, they are not little monopoly contracts. This may sound a little too utopian.  I admit that I have packaged it tending in that direction.  So here is a dose of reality.  People, you will need to be adults for this to work.  Selfish, childish people are not qualified to be a part of this.  If you tend toward discord, if you prefer to disparage others, if you are prone to gossip and slander, then you are not cut out to participate in local group economies.  It is time for you to get over yourself.  Really.  If you think you have to rule over others to be complete, then you have failed to attain to what it means to be truly human.  I applaud people who are willing to work hard to achieve their dreams.  I root for those that succeed financially and more so those who succeed in the truer riches of joy and happiness.  But if you think that your success will come at the expense of others through dishonesty, theft, taxation, control, usury, or discrimination, then you have no part in local group economies.  Go find out what it means to be the man or woman that you can look up to.  It is time to grow up.   How can local group economies work together? Every local group economy will develop based on the skills, interests and needs of the people involved.  As a result, every local group economy is somewhat unique.  There will be times when it makes more sense for groups to cooperate to meet needs.  These overlapping groups have advantages of opening up new markets for the products provided by individuals or families in the groups.  The key is to keep the groups local enough that long supply chains DO NOT develop.  Remember the advantages of local group economies are that they can function, as much as is possible, independently from these supply chains and that they foster a strong sense of community.  For these reasons, keeping local group economies local is essential. That said, as long as a local group does not begin to depend on a fragile supply chain, there will be advantages to doing business with other groups.  One of the key players in your local group may be the person that brings these outside resources into the group.  And if your group has an over-supply of one type of good, then this person may be in a position to make those goods available to other groups.  But the key initially is to keep your group local. Limitations to local group economies There are some limitations to local group economies.  It is not likely that a local group economy will provide electricity to its members.  But it is possible for members to help each other with wind and solar power generation.  It is even less likely that a local group will pump crude oil out of the ground and manufacture gasoline, diesel, tar and plastics.  But the local group may have a farmer who makes ethanol or a person who manufactures bio-diesel.  The local group cannot provide for national defense, but there can be local defense against criminal factions.  And the resulting economic growth and opportunity that are fostered by local group economies can reduce crime.  Just knowing the people in your community reduces crime.  And local group economies will not likely provide socialized medicine.  But they can provide affordable doctors, nurses, dentists, chiropractors, nutritionists, optometrists, midwives, and caring friends that help out in the tough times. The goal of a local group economy is not to provide for every need.  But the goal should be to provide for enough needs that participants can grow great community and thrive during economic hardships. And now for the biggest limitation of local group economies….  Our current laws of the land regarding food, taxes, environmental protection, and property zoning (to name a few) can make providing for each other in local group economies rather difficult.  I make no attempt here of explaining how to participate in accordance with federal, state, county, and city regulations.  I am not a lawyer.  Nor do I work for the state or federal departments of revenue.  There are even laws about how to pay taxes on bartered gains.  These rules and regulations make it very challenging to independently care for one’s family and for one’s community.  You will need to know what rules govern your production.  Each individual will need to be comfortable with how he/she addresses the current regulations that apply to his/her craft.  I offer no advice other than to avoid making a target out of your community.  And participating in a local group economy, building community, and contributing to the economic stability of our nation will certainly make people aware of the undue oppression that is enforced in our society.  Awareness can be a positive thing. I urge you to start your local group economy right away.  Prioritize the list of needs provided above and add your own to the list.  Explore what you might contribute.  Then reach out to others with the concept.  As local group economies grow in popularity and number, so does our security, our community, our stability, our resourcefulness, our sustainability, our tenacity, our ability to weather tough times, and most importantly, our understanding of what it means to be human. Oh, and don’t forget your 180 Stove for your bug out bag (www.180tack.com).  That is one item I can provide for my local group economy!  Ha!  

Curt Linville

Curt Linville

Weathering Economic Collapse - Local Group Economies

What is proposed in this article is not a new idea.  Matter of fact, it is quite an old one.  But the subject of this article is worth the reminding.  How can we best weather very difficult economic times?  As I mentioned in my article, The Economic Challenge, we don’t really know when the next major economic correction will come, but we do know with a high degree of certainty that it will come.  The dishonest and scandalous economic practices of our day guarantee this.  So this begs the question, “What do we do now to make life better then?” No one can predict exactly how the coming economic correction will play out.  We don’t know if it will take the form of another great recession or depression, or if it might take on the more extreme form of total economic collapse with the loss of the dollar as our currency.  We don’t know all the ramifications of such an event, nor will we until we live it. I, for one, am a peace maker.  I believe in community.  I believe in love.  I believe in the human drive to innovate, cooperate, and thrive.  We may see some violent times.  But I believe that the violence, the looting, the squabbling, the crime, and the panic can be mitigated by actions that we can take today to make life better now and in the unpredictable future.  Yes, it is possible that we could experience even worse situations, but preparing a position of strength now prepares us for a future of peace or whatever else may come. It is valuable to take individual steps to ready for difficult times.  But this article assumes that each reader is already prepping.  This article assumes that the readers are preparing financially, storing up extra food and supplies, learning how to grow their own food, and putting together all those contingency plans that will guide families through possible evacuation scenarios. That said, what else is absolutely essential for weathering tough economic times?  I assert that individuals and individual families will not have what it takes to thrive during an extended emergency, no matter how prepared they may be.  It takes more than a family to thrive.  It takes a community.  No, I am not talking about social circles (although those matter too).  I am talking about extended groups of individuals with a diversity of skills and resources who can form their own sustaining local economies when the economies of the nation and/or the world fail. Consider for a moment that our current economy depends on goods and services that are supplied from around the world. Production of goods has been centralized through corporate and government actions to the point that we have all become increasingly dependent on ever fewer and more-fragile supply chains. The three-day supply of food in our grocery stores travels thousands of miles by boat, rail, and truck to get to the local shelves.  What if the trucks cannot be depended on?  What if the failure of the dollar results in a period with no means of exchange?  Without money, how will the local store order groceries?  How will trucks buy fuel?  And if the food somehow makes it to the grocery store shelves against all odds, then how will you purchase it if there is no dollar?  Yikes!  Another example of our dependence on long supply chains is our dependence on the electrical grid.  This vast, interconnected web of power transmission and distribution lines is far too vulnerable to failure.  We have all heard about the terrifying EMP strike scenarios.  While a successful EMP strike on the US is highly unlikely, it is possible.  But consider for a moment the thousands of miles of lines that stand undefended against simple acts of vandalism, terrorism, or the violence of nature.  Long term loss of electricity is a very real possibility.  How will you buy food and supplies if the debit card scanner is down?  What if the dollar has no value left either? We have similar, long-distance dependencies on our clothing, fuel for our cars, replacement parts for vehicles and machines, communications, shoes, tools, medications, vitamin supplements, as well as the supply chains for manufacturing.  What happens when the supplies fail to arrive? If every home generated all of its own electricity, then our vulnerability to the loss of the power grid would be vastly reduced.  If every community grew and raised its own food, then the three day supply of groceries at the grocery store would no longer be such a threat.  If there were a local shoe factory, then we would not depend on container ships, trains, and trucks to get our footwear.  What is the main point? If the centralization of production of food, goods and services has created these vulnerabilities, then decentralization and diversification of the same can reduce our exposure.  As I have expressed in previous posts, I am not proposing that we declare war on the major corporations that currently provide the vast majority of our goods.  We need those corporations.  We need the efficiencies created by the scales on which they operate.  But we need vibrant, local production too.  We need this local production to create jobs, to establish the REAL economy, to decentralize power, diversify production, and reduce the risk of the loss of our supply chains. One family cannot do all this.  One family cannot store up enough food, clothing, and other supplies to thrive during a long emergency.  Sure we can scrape by for a while, and those with adequate farms may last a bit longer.  But what do you do when your work boots are worn out and the centralized supply chains for boots are still not restored?  What do you do when your work gloves wear through and your hoe snaps?  What do you do when your well pump fails (assuming your generator has lasted that long)?   The Solution The solution both now and during times of crises is to have a strong local economy with a diverse production of goods and services.  Self-reliance is fantastic but limited.  We must build local communities that we can rely on.  We need local group economies to make our lives better now and in times of emergencies. Local group economies - groups of local people who organize symbiotically to leverage their diversification of skills and production for the enrichment of the group today and in the unpredictable future. I propose that forward thinking people start moving their preparations away from isolation and toward community.  You may be a skilled mechanic.  That will be a very useful skill during times of supply chain interruption.  But that does not make you a skilled gardener, dentist, doctor, veterinarian, cheese maker, beef farmer, or teacher.  One person cannot do it all.  That is why we need local group economies. Let’s get specific.  Fostering community is not some nebulous “I ought to know the folks in my town” sort of dynamic.  Rather, we need to start with small groups of individuals and families that can work together strategically.  And then groups of these groups can form larger community units, and so on.  How do we accomplish this? 1)      Make a list of goods and services that you feel are important to your way of life now.  Where are your interests and talents?  Which of these needs can you address for yourself and others? 2)      Now, make a list of people that you know that have skills that will allow them to address other needs on your list.  These people might be preppers or they might not be.  What matters is that they can bypass the long-distance supply chain to provide goods or services locally that will benefit others.  Don’t worry if you don’t know a person to address every need on your list. 3)      Have some folks over for dinner who are on your short list to discuss this idea.  You don’t need to convince them that there is an economic collapse coming.  Rather, offer to establish cooperation between your hobbies, businesses, or interests.  For instance, if you raise chickens for meat and eggs, then offer to provide these resources to the family who has a dairy.  By doing business with each other locally, the local economy benefits and the local community grows stronger.  But more importantly, relationships are developed between people who can help each other now and in the uncertain future. 4)      Your skills do not have to be prepper specific.  Perhaps you make greeting cards.  Offer to trade some greeting cards for a few dozen eggs from time to time.  Do you play an instrument?  Offer to entertain for a gathering at the dairy in exchange for some milk.  What matters is that people start exchanging what they do to grow local relationships and local communities. 5)      Once the short list of people is somewhat established, ask this group who else they may know who could provide other goods or services.  People know people and the local group economy will grow.  6)      This point is key.  Each person in the group should commit to doing business with each other when it is possible and reasonable to do so.  This commitment will be the driver that encourages people in their specific areas of production.  It also provides a reason right now—a benefit right now—for the group working together. My family and I live in the mountains in Colorado.  When the floods destroyed our canyon highway several weeks ago, we realized that we depended on the city more than we might have thought.  Suddenly local provision started to matter.  But this little bedroom community of mountain folks has people from all industries.  We have mechanics, teachers, gardeners, doctors, lawyers, dentists, truckers, heavy equipment operators, pastors, and liquor store owners.  We have hunters, fishers, nurses, and construction workers.  We have electricians, roofers, framers, and plumbers.  But this community did not really depend on each other for these services.  Now we have more motivation to sort out who can provide what and to take advantage of the local services.  But think of the advantages of building those relationships even if a crisis were never to come?          Listen, if the whole world’s economy goes belly up but you have built a strong local group economy, then you can continue to meet each other’s needs whether the dollar continues to exist or not.  Your local group economy can barter for your needs.  While the rest of the world is in a panic, you will know that your local group has what it takes to weather the storm.  And it will be natural to take care of each other first, since you have built strong business and community relationships before a crisis starts.  And by taking care of your local group economy, your group will be better suited to help others in times of need. In my next article, I will get into the nitty gritty of what types of goods and services should be a priority as you build your local group economy, and how local group economies can begin to cooperate with each other to form larger economies with even more independence and security.  Until then, make a list of the goods and services you find important to you and your family today.  Start putting together names of people who could provide these assets locally.  Start thinking about everything you do in a local-first way.  Consider formalizing a group to build your own local group economy.

Curt Linville

Curt Linville

Wilderness Survival – Snow Caves

Wilderness survival my not be the top priority of skills to learn on your prepper transcript, but it should be on your list.  After all, being prepared means being prepared to thrive in most any environment you encounter.  Clearly, the best place to weather disruptive times is at home.  But, if it is no longer safe there, you may find yourself out in the woods.  Learning how to be safe, comfortable, and well provided for in nature is not only worth the effort, it is a ton of fun!  With that in mind, let’s delve into some wilderness survival! Second to maintaining the right attitude, shelter is the most critical element of wilderness survival.  Entire Books could be written on natural shelters.  Rubbish huts, wigwams, rock shelters, lean-tos, dug outs, various log huts, thatched and grass shelters, snow caves, and on and on.  Many of these shelters take quite a lot of time to construct.  For longer term living in the wilderness, these are great.  But for emergency shelters, one needs something that can be thrown together quickly in poor conditions.  When it comes to survival, think small, dry, insulated and quick. Since it is nearly winter with fresh snow on the high Colorado peaks, a discussion of snow caves seems timely.  Snow is a wonderful construction medium.  From it one can build shelters as simple as a hole in a drift through mound caves, a-frames, and igloos all the way to ice castles.  These shelters can be surprisingly warm.  But which of these work when time is limited, darkness is falling and a blizzard is moving in?  How can an overdue adventurer create a life-saving shelter in a minimum of time to get through a surprise night in the wilderness?  Most snow shelters take a lot of time to make and they are all dependent on snow conditions. For winter adventures, one should plan to spend a minimum of a couple of hours building a snow shelter, and they often take longer than that.  But when time is minimal and shelter is critical, we need a faster solution. Perhaps the fastest is a simple hole in a snow drift.  This solution may save your life, but it can be cramped, wet, and quite cool.  On the other extreme might be igloos which can take many hours to build, but can last for months and provide plenty of room and stability. The Snow Mound Cave For a medium-fast solution, a snow mound cave may suffice.  I have spent many a winter’s night is these shelters, and have found them warm, quiet, and spooky.  These caves depend on snow conditions for stability and some adventurers have died when their poorly built cave collapsed and buried them in their mummy bags.  Not a nice way to go.  When snow conditions are good and there is enough time to make sure the cave is stable, then snow mound caves do provide excellent shelter.  Let’s explore this one in a little more detail. Snow mound caves can be dug in a snow drift or in a mound piled up for this purpose.  They can only be trusted when the snow is of the right nature to consolidate.  I have had multiple caves collapse on me while under construction because the snow was either too cold and fluffy or had already morphed into sugar snow (hard ice crystals that act more like marbles than snowballs).  If you cannot easily form a quick snowball from the snow, then it will be a challenge to use for a snow mound cave.  For best success, a mound should be built out of non-sugar snow, packed thoroughly layer on layer and then allowed to sit to consolidate for at least an hour before being hollowed out.  This takes a lot of time and only works in emergencies when that time is available.  After hollowing out a cave, heating the cave on the inside and then allowing it to re-freeze will help its stability significantly.  Keep in mind that if you use a drift, you will not know how well packed the snow is.  It might sag down on you or worse during the night. Critical components of a mound cave are: A door a bit lower than your sleeping level.  This allows a pocket of warm air to build up above the door where you will be sleeping. An air vent the size of your arm at the peak of the cave.  This air vent will keep the air fresh and literally save your life.  People can suffocate in snow caves.  This is critical! Walls and ceiling a couple of feet thick or thicker to provide insulation and stability. Room enough to sit up, crawl around, and stretch out for sleeping A door that opens sideways to the dominant winds.  If it is pointed toward the wind, it will act like a wind tunnel and steal your heat.  If it is pointed away from the wind, it could drift completely closed and provide challenges in getting back out.  By pointing the door perpendicular to the wind (or just slightly downwind), the door should not catch the wind nor drift up. The floor of the cave must have a dry tarp or plenty of leaves or pine boughs to keep you from getting soaked by the snow floor.  You will need an insulated sleeping pad to stay warm unless you have a thick pile of leaves or limbs. I usually use a backpack to “close the door” and a candle can be really nice for light and also for heat. Even on frigid, stormy nights, a properly built snow shelter will maintain temperatures in the 50s just heated by body heat alone.  This may not seem like the tropics, but it is warmer than a tent, and downright cozy with a winter sleeping bag. After being warmed all night by body heat, your cave will support many times your body weight, and should last for weeks. A shortcut to building a mound cave is to dig down into the snow, pile up your packs, and then cover them with about four feet of snow.  Pack the snow as you cover the packs.  Then leave the mound to consolidate for an hour or so.  When you come back, dig a low door, and pull the packs out.  This will provide a head start on hollowing out the cave. Another tip is to bring a complete change of clothes all the way down to the undies.  You will likely get quite wet from sweat and snow while digging out the cave.  Changing into dry clothes is critical for staying warm.    The A-Frame Snow Cave The A-frame cave offers some advantages over a mound snow cave, but it is more dependent on the right snow conditions and is not as roomy, making only enough space for one or maybe two people in the best of conditions.  Advantages include being able to build one of these caves without a shovel.  These can be built using only a stick or snow ski for cutting snow.  Also, these caves are lighter, not likely to collapse, and not seriously dangerous if they do.  This shelter is faster to build than a mound cave, and therefore better in emergencies—IF snow conditions allow for it. To build an A-Frame Snow Shelter, start by packing down a trench of snow about twice as wide as you are and more than twice as long.  Then leave the trench to allow the snow to consolidate.  Even well stomped Champaign powder might consolidate given enough time and the right temperatures.  Warmer snows should pack nicely.  Sugar snow is nearly hopeless for attempting this type of shelter.  Once the trench is firm, cut snow blocks with a stick or ski as long as the width of the trench and at least a foot thick and wide.  Once you have cut two, place them on end on opposite sides of the top of the trench and lean them together to form an “A” shaped roof.  Continue making rows of these “A”s until your roof is about a third longer than you are tall.  Then pack any holes in the blocks with plenty of snow and cap the upper end.  Cover the floor of the cave with a tarp and/or pine boughs or leaves.  Make a couple of large blocks for a door.  Be sure to have an arm-sized air hole in the peak of the roof.  The same rules about orienting the door to the wind apply. I have used this style of cave a few times, but have found it difficult to build if the snow is too cold to pack well. The Tarp Trench Snow Shelter This type of snow shelter is fast and easy to build.  It requires cordage, a tarp, and anchors to hold the tarp in place.  These shelters are warmer than a tent, but not as warm as other snow shelters, and they depend on having enough snow depth to work.  To build one of these, tie cord or rope tightly between two trees a couple of feet above the snow.  Then dig a trench about ½ the width of your tarp and a bit longer than you are tall.  The trench should be about three feet deep.  Cover the trench with the tarp over the rope, and anchor the tarp edges in the snow using cord, long sticks or snow anchors.  Then shovel a significant amount of snow on the lower edges of the tarp to seal it up and hold it down.  Use snow blocks to close the head of the tarp and to make a door for the foot.  Again, line the trench with another tarp and insulating materials and make sure you have an air hole. The Tarp Trench Snow shelter is more susceptible to wind noise and wind failure.  However, there is no real concern about collapse, and they can be built in minutes rather than hours.  If time is of the essence, and you have a tarp on hand (after all, it is winter and you would never head into the wilderness without a tarp in the winter, right?), then this life-saving shelter might be your best bet. All of these shelters depend in degree on the snow conditions.  If there is not enough snow to build a snow shelter, then opt for a rubbish hut.  In all cases, the key is to start your shelter early – before you need it.  Don’t wait until you are battling hypothermia to get started.  Build the shelter while you are still warm then relax knowing that the night will pass safely if not comfortably. With all of these options, choose a location that is sheltered from the wind and has plenty of snow. As always, don’t forget your 180 Stove!  The ash pan is recommended for cooking on snow.  www.180tack.com. These snow caves are a lot of fun to build, and if built correctly, a lot of fun to sleep in.  Try making some without planning on spending the night, and experiment with different types of designs to accommodate varying snow depths and types.  Get out there with your kids teach them these basic skills.  Nature provides.  Enjoy it! Please comment with your own snow cave tips.  Do you have any funny snow cave anecdotes to share?  

Curt Linville

Curt Linville

A Completely Biased Review of the BEST Emergency Cook Stove

What is the BEST emergency cook stove for your bug out bag? The best stove should: Be compact. Be light-weight. NOT require fuel purchase and storage. Be flexible to work with a variety of fuels. Be dependable to last a long, long time. Be free of needs such as electricity or batteries or fuel canisters. Be elegantly simple.  It just needs to work dependably. Be affordable. Make your life better or more fun today as well as in an emergency. It should NOT: Be dangerous. Keep costing more and more money to keep using it. Take up a lot of space in your bug out bag. Be heavy or bulky. Depend on unique or specific fuel types. Break in the field. Have a lot of potential failure points. Be made of corrosive metals. Be difficult to use. Risk spilling your survival food. Yes, Curt Linville here.  This is an unashamed, completely biased review of the emergency and reliable cook stoves invented by my friend Travis and me.  This article is not about corporations, or the government, or economics.  This article is about what Travis and I have done to contribute to preparedness for our families and for all who want to have a reliable way to cook or sterilize water.  It is also about my attempts to practice what I preach.  We have a young company called 180 Tack that invents and brings to market useful and dependable products for the outdoors and prepping industries.  We are doing what we can to make some very useful products available for times of fun and times of need.  Our stoves are made in America.  Our stoves are dependable.  Our company is all about moving away from the problems of corporate America and toward people helping people to live a better way.  That is why we named our company 180 Tack.  We are all about going in a new direction and running with the wind! Back to cook stoves.  Every stove has a niche that it fills.  Our stoves are not for every application.  We designed our stoves to be light, dependable, versatile, easy to use, and fun.  We have tested our stoves in all kinds of weather and conditions, indoors and outdoors, and with a variety of fuels.  Our stoves are designed perfectly to work in a backpack for a picnic or a month-long backpacking trek.  But more than that, they are designed to work for years if necessary with NO NEED TO BUY OR STORE FUEL.  Really?  Really. The 180 Stove and the 180-VL are not big, heavy stoves.  While I have cooked for 10 on these stoves, they were never intended for preparing Thanksgiving dinner.  That said, they are about the most versatile, compact, light-weight stoves you can find.  Why? The reason is because our stoves are designed to cook with natural fuels.  All you need to boil water or cook your dinner is a handful of twigs.  That said, the stove also works great with gel fuels for indoor cooking, with charcoal for grilling, as a wind break and stable platform for alcohol burners, and (although we feel this defeats the purpose of the stove) some people use our stove as a stable cooking platform for their toxic-fueled micro-stoves to keep from spilling their dinner.  I suppose some folks don’t want to learn how to start a twig fire. But let’s cut to the chase.  Here are the stoves.  Below I will go over the pros and the cons.  We want our customers to know exactly what they will and won’t get with our products.   180 Stove:  Our favorite and most versatile stove.                         Weighs 10.1 ounces – lighter than micro-stoves and one small fuel canister. Made of 304, .024 stainless steel. Made in the USA. 6 x 7 inch cooking surface is the size of a burner on your range at home. No hinges, rivets, welds, bolts, nuts or screws that might fail in the field. Environmentally friendly.  No toxic fuels to spill.  No canisters for the landfill. Lighter than the competition. Very compact.  Stows in its own 3.25 x .6 x 7 inch self-forming case with all the smoky parts on the inside.  Small enough to fit in your pocket. Much more stable than other backpacking stoves.  Can securely hold even the largest cooking hardware and supports dozens of pounds. Generous, easy to load firebox to maximize performance and safety.                         Weighs 5.8 ounces. Made in the USA. Nests around the stowed stoves to maintain compact form factor. The ash pan is an optional accessory designed to work with either stove that provides a necessary surface for cooking on snow or on sensitive soils that should not be disturbed.  It also provides extra protection for your counter top when cooking indoors with gel fuels.  In most areas, I simply scrape a little soil to the side, cook, douse, and cover the small amount of ashes.  That way, I leave no scars on the land.  But in some sensitive areas or on snow, I use the ash pan. 180-VL:  VL stands for Very Light.  For those who don’t mind a smaller firebox and do want to save weight.                  Weighs 5.9 ounces – lighter than micro-stoves and one small fuel canister. Made of 304, .024 stainless steel. Made in the USA. The triangular cooking surface is generously sized with a 7.25-inch base and 5.75-inch height. No hinges, rivets, welds, bolts, nuts or screws that might fail in the field. Environmentally friendly.  No toxic fuels to spill.  No canisters for the landfill. Very, very light. Stows in its own 3.25 x .6 x 6.75 inch self-forming case with all the smoky parts on the inside.  Small enough to fit in your pocket. Very compact. Much more stable than other backpacking stoves.  Can securely hold even the largest cooking hardware and supports dozens of pounds. Easy to load firebox.   I have been using these stoves for over two years now both at home and while backpacking in all seasons and weather conditions here in the Colorado Rockies.  These stoves have never let me down.  As a backpacker, I really appreciate the light weight of the stoves as well as not needing to buy expensive, toxic fuels for each trip.  It is also very nice to know that I do not ever need worry about running out of fuel.  As a prepper, I like knowing that I can cook food safely, dependably, and conveniently with a large variety of fuels, and I don’t need to store fuel to do so.  These stoves easily go with me anywhere. I love the windscreens the stoves form and how close to the flame the stoves keep my pans.  This makes for very efficient cooking with very little fuel.  I have given up trying to cook on fire grates over camp fires.  The heat is too uneven, too far from the pan, and it takes far too much fuel.  Besides, I like to keep my eyebrows and hair!  In my opinion, cooking over a campfire with a grate is inefficient at best, frustrating, risky, and dangerous at worst.  What’s more, the grate weighs much more and takes more space than our stoves! I really do believe that these are the best bug out bag stoves you will find.  There are other wood burning stoves on the market.  However, they are either too heavy, bulky in format, require breaking fuel into little nuggets, difficult to start fires in, fed from the top requiring one to set the cooking pot in the mud to refuel, too tall and narrow to be stable, made of corrosive metals, have failure points like hinges and rivets, or use gadgets like batteries and fans to keep the fire going.  Our stoves have none of these problems. Now, I promised to go over the cons of our stoves as well. To use natural fuels, you will need to learn how to build and maintain small fires in all weather conditions.  As a prepper or a naturalist, this is one of the most basic skills required.  Whether you use a natural fuel stove or not, you need to learn these skills!  It is not difficult to build reliable fires in all weather conditions.  We have videos on our site that teach how to do this.  The huge advantage that our stoves have over others is that one can feed the fire without disturbing the cooking and without needing to break the fuel into tiny little nuggets.  This makes maintaining the fire much simpler. Natural fuels create smoke.  Learning to make hotter, low-smoke fires helps a lot with this problem.  But natural fuels will smoke up your pot.  I carry a small, light rag that not only allows me to safely handle hot cooking utensils, but it also allows me to dry wipe down the stove parts as I put them into their self-forming case.  This is all the cleaning that the stove requires, and keeps my hands and pack clean.  As for the pot, I don’t mind a smoky pot for cooking in the woods.  When cooking with gel fuels at home, this is not a problem. Don’t stomp our stoves.  Our stoves will last for many years with proper care.  Matter of fact, on level ground we have had over 180 pounds on top of our stoves.  But I stomped one sideways in the dark on one camping trip and it did not fare well.  That will happen with lighter gauge metals.  But here is the good news.  I really smashed this stove up, but I was able to bend it back into shape and use it the next morning for breakfast with no problems.  So even if you smash your stove, you can still depend on it. It is possible in some conditions to slightly warp the ash pan or side walls of the stove.  This seems to happen only with VERY, VERY hot fires or uneven heating of the metal when cooking on snow or ice.  Again, this is light-weight stainless steel.  After two years of use and abuse, my stoves have not warped, but it can happen.  But again, this in no way reduces the functionality of the stove.  We would rather have the rare, slight warping than produce heavy stoves that don’t work in a pack or a bug out bag. You will be cooking on the ground most of the time.  Of course, this is standard when backpacking and camping away from campgrounds.  I have used an ash pan and cooked on higher surfaces, but safe surfaces are not always available.  Cooking on the ground is the safest and most environmentally correct way to cook.  But the ground is low, as you know.  Sometimes you may want to blow the flames to kick up the heat.  A two-foot piece of flexible tubing makes this much easier.  But I don’t carry tubing. Our stoves are NOT full-sized campfire grates.  Yep, just as advertised, they are compact.  They are intended for cooking with inch-sized and smaller sticks.  They are very stable for large pans, but they are not designed to be fire pits.  They are roughly the size of a burner on your cooking range at home.  Really.  That is the size.  They provide the largest, most stable cooking surface of any compact, light-weight cooking stove I know.  But if you want a fire pit, then go buy 50 pounds of cast iron. The stainless steel will take on a bronze color.  This in no way reduces the functionality of the stove.  But stainless, when it gets really hot will lose a little of its shine.  The heat of natural fuels is not hot enough to re-temper or melt the metal, but it will change color a bit. Our stoves are not cheap little, fall-apart emergency stoves.  Our products are made of solid, dependable materials.  Our stoves are made by American workers in the USA.  I would love to sell our stoves for less, but frankly, stoves of this quality cost more to manufacture.  We know that we are competing with flimsy, foreign-made products.  There are plenty of small, flimsy stoves on the market.  They may not be dependable, but they are available.  But we are investing in our own country and economy and building innovative, sustainable, and dependable products. One more point.  I don’t see this as a disadvantage, but I should mention it here.  Our stoves are not tall, precarious, stovepipe-shaped towers of tipsy danger.  They are low to the ground, stable, and compact.  But that means that our stoves are not wood gas stoves.  I suppose that one might get a hotter fire going with a tall, precarious stovepipe-shaped tower of tipsy danger, but it is not necessary.  I boil a pint of ice water in the winter in under seven minutes with our stoves.  And, I have boiled water much faster.  A tall, precarious, stovepipe-shaped tower of tipsy danger might boil water faster.  I suppose I am just not in that much of a hurry.  I prefer keeping my dinner in the pot rather than on the dirt and not scorching my eggs.  The 180 Stove and 180-VL keep the flame on the cooking surface, provide a wind break, and reflect the majority of the heat onto the cooking surface.  They cook safely and efficiently.  What’s more, you can grill with our stove.  Will a tall, precarious, stovepipe-shaped tower of tipsy danger do that? So, there you have it folks.  We love these stoves.  We believe they will save lives.  But we also get a real kick out of using natural fuels and polishing our fire building skills.  These stoves are just plain fun to play with.  Whether boiling water, grilling trout, frying up your eggs, or roasting marshmallows, these stoves are dependable, and fun.  Elegant simplicity. Learn more at www.180stove.com.  Our stoves are available on our website or at Amazon as well as other stores around the world.  If you are a retailer who would like to carry a dependable emergency stove, then please contact us at info@180tack.com.                   

Curt Linville

Curt Linville

The Economic Challenge

In parts one and two we discussed the corporate and governmental challenges of our day.  The economic challenges that we face in the United States today are more immediately threatening than either of the other two challenges discussed.  In the previous two articles in this trilogy, I suggested practical things that “We the People” must do to meet these challenges.  That is a bit more difficult when it comes to the economic challenge.  Here we face a colossal problem—a problem that could be fixed, but only by aligning the vast majority of the people of the earth, governments, corporations, and even the oligarchy behind a common path toward vast economic reform.  Most every cog in the machine would need to work in unison under a new economic paradigm.  What’s more, the reform would be painful.  The cancer in our global economy would have to be removed and the treatment would be intense.  And there are extremely wealthy people--people with the resources to manipulate the global economy--who benefit enormously from our poor economic conditions.  They are the ones who stand to lose the most by fixing the economy, and they are the ones that would have to be committed to the reform. I may be a dreamer, but I am not that big of a dreamer. But hold on.  Rewind.  What is the economy anyway?  Why is our current economy bad?  What can “We the People” do in response to this economic challenge? (First, stop.  Take a breath.  If you have not read my article “No Fear”, then now would be a really good time to read it.  The news that follows is really tough to digest.)   What is the economy? Let’s start with what it is not.  The economy is not too complex to understand.  The economy is not some super-human mysterious force that governs our lives.  The economy is NOT the government, NOT the banks, and NOT the stock market, NOT the Federal Reserve.  The economy is not our god.  In simple terms, the economy is simply the production, exchange, and consumption of goods and services.  I want to drive home the idea that the economy is far simpler than we are led to believe.  One does not have to be a genius to understand or influence an economy. Certainly, economic theory can get about as complex and outrageous as any other soft science that people develop as an intellectual pursuit of grandeur.  But it need not be that hard to understand.  By convincing the people of a society that the economy is out of reach, above our understanding, too big and complex for the common person to appreciate, the leaders and the oligarchy have deified the economy as a god that must be served and obeyed.  But it is not so.  I assert that the economy is accessible to all of us.  We can understand it.  We can recognize when our leaders are taking steps that will strengthen or damage economic opportunity.  We can know when we are being manipulated to make the oligarchy increasingly rich. A healthy economy is one in which people work, produce goods and services deemed of value to others, earn money or something else of exchangeable value, and then purchase or barter for goods and services that benefit them.  A healthy economy does this at a sustainable level such that all who are willing to contribute to the good of themselves and others will earn enough to afford the goods and services that he or she needs.  In a healthy economy, the goods and services needed by society are created by and available to that society adequately so people are not forced to suffer shortages. Notice that no mention was made here of the health of the economy as a reflection of the DOW or NASDAQ.  No mention was made of the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund.  The Federal Reserve was not mentioned as a part of a healthy economy.  No mention was made of the consumer price index, key economic indicators, quantitative easement, the productivity index, money supply, inflation rates, short or long-term interest rates, or even Freddie or Fannie.  I left these things out not because they do not influence the economy, but because they are NOT NECESSARY to understand what economics is all about.  Indeed a healthy economy can exist without any of these things. What is the point?  The point is that economics can be simple.  By understanding the basics of economics “We the People” become empowered.  We learn to discern between truth and fiction, between beneficial financial mechanisms and Ponzi schemes.  And we can begin to see the warning signs of an unhealthy economy.   Why is our current economy bad? Let’s suppose a fellow starts a business.  The business earns a meager profit the first year.  Our business owner wants more out of the business than it is providing, so he decides to borrow money using his reputation and the business as collateral. He somehow convinces people to buy “I Owe You” scraps of paper.  They pay $10 for each IOU and the business owner promises to buy the IOUs back the next year for $11. The business owner uses most of the money to enjoy things that don’t really benefit the business that much.  He buys lots of shiny new office furniture, enjoys extravagant “business trips”, and wins the “friendship” of others by throwing extravagant parties and even giving substantial sums of money to people “in need”. A fun year goes by and then people start turning in the IOUs.  The business did not earn enough money to buy back the IOUs, so our clever fellow starts a campaign.  He advertises how well all the “investors” did buying his IOUs.  After all, they got a 10% return on their investments.  More people want in on the action, so he sells far more IOUs than he did the previous year, buys back a few but convinces most people to re-invest. Fantastic!  Now he has more money than ever.  He throws more parties, buys a fleet of company cars, and donates even more to organizations “in need”.  His popularity grows. This works so well that he no longer attends to his core business, but instead puts his efforts into an elaborate public relations program.  Investors are happy.  They promise to continue to buy his IOUs as long as he continues to donate to their pet “needy” organizations.  Each year he has to sell more IOUs than the previous year to pay the debts from previous year and to keep the party barge afloat!  But what fun! So what happens when there are no longer enough investors to buy enough IOUs to pay for the IOUs that are due?  What happens if the investors lose confidence in the business?  What if our fellow can no longer keep up with all the “donations” required to win more investors? Clearly this is a Ponzi scheme.  Our fellow is in trouble.  His fake business will soon collapse. But if his business were a country, then he would have so many more options.  He could start printing currency to pay off the investors.  He could go to war with anyone who threatens his Ponzi scheme.  He could tax the people of his nation.  He could create a false economy by starting programs that employ people to make things he can use to build the reputation of his country.  He could control other nations by tricking them into borrowing huge amounts of money from him that they cannot repay.  He could start a currency exchange that will compare his currency to those of other Ponzi schemes which will make his worthless currency look good in comparison to other more worthless currencies.  He could even collaborate with other Ponzi-scheme nations to assure that no one threatens the system they have established.  He could use this collective power to keep competing interests from succeeding.  He could suppress technologies, declare nebulous wars on undefinable enemies (which he can appoint at need), and manipulate his citizens into thinking they are dependent on him for their wellbeing rather than depending on their own hard work, ambition, and productivity.  If he were a nation, he could do a lot of things to keep the party barge afloat. If our fellow were a nation, he could make economics seem too complex for anyone to actually blame him for their suffering.  If he were a nation…. But how long will his nation survive?  How many layers of complexity can be added onto his Ponzi scheme to give it the appearance of legitimacy?  As long as he can keep getting investors, he can pretend.  Even if the investors blackmail him with threats of stopping the investments, he can keep pretending as long as they invest and as long as his currency is believable. “Oh what a tangled web we weave, when we first we practice to deceive.” ~ Walter Scott. This is what makes economics look complex; the tangled web.   Layer after layer of schemes have been put in place to keep the sinking ship afloat.  But the ship is sinking.  The schemes cannot last forever. The United States does have a wonderful resource that our fellow did not.  That resource is “We the People” and the production and hard work of “We the People”.  But there comes a time when the productivity of the people can no longer keep up with the debts of their nation.  There comes a time when the investors stop investing.  There comes a time when the fiat current gets so diluted by the printing presses (read quantitative easing), that the scheme collapses. That there will be a major economic correction is beyond debate.  It does not matter what the stock market is doing.  It does not matter if taxes are cut or raised.  It does not matter if the Federal Reserve gives 80 billion dollars a month to the banksters.  It does not matter if the Federal Reserve prints electronic fiat currency and props up the T-bills through buying them by the billions.  These tricks will only last for so long.  Perhaps the world will continue to prop up our economy out of fear that their ship will go down with ours.  I cannot predict when the economic correction will come, but the rules of economic forces will eventually bring our economy to its knees. The only real solution is for the entire planet to take part in massive debt forgiveness.  But the balance of power will be disrupted in so doing, and what’s more, the oligarchy will be threatened with the loss of their power; something they are not likely to tolerate.  Following debt elimination, new economic laws must be established to put an end to the Ponzi schemes.  Real people will need to produce real products in the real economy.  “Too big to fail”, must be replaced with if it fails it fails.  The centralization of money and power must be decentralized.  A broad diversity of new smaller businesses must rise up.  The free market economy must be restored, but with integrity and laws that allow no margin for people to scam and cheat others out of their wealth.   What can “We the People” do in response to this economic challenge? The best thing that we can do is to prepare.  We prepare by getting out of debt.  We prepare by developing alternative sources for food.  We prepare by storing items that will help weather hard times.  We prepare by putting into practice the growth of our local economies as I described in the first two articles in this series.  But most of all, we prepare by turning off our television sets and getting to know each other.  We prepare by restoring true community to our neighborhoods and towns.  We prepare by celebrating the great American spirit of innovation and hard work that helped to make this nation strong once.  We prepare by fostering courage.  We prepare by standing strong as individuals, families, and neighborhoods.  We prepare by sending strong messages that corruption will no longer be tolerated.  We prepare by understanding economics, and standing strong against the lies being fed to us by our government, banks, and Federal Reserve.  Wake up, America.  Wake up and be strong. Remember, the economy is not the banks, the stock market, the government, or the Fed.  The true economy is “We the People” and what we produce for ourselves and our communities.  That is how we will rebuild.  That is how we will weather the coming storm.  

Curt Linville

Curt Linville

 

The Government Challenge

This is part 2 in the series on challenges of our days and solutions.  In part 1, The Corporate America Challenge, we discussed the challenges that corporate America presents to our society and some straight forward solutions that “We the People” can implement.  In this article, we will look into some of the more obtuse challenges we face from our Government and we will explore some basis for real solutions that we the people can implement for real change. There may not be a more talked about subject in the media today than this one.  We constantly hear the banter, hyperbole, and whitewash presented regarding problems with our government and all the wonderful solutions proposed by our leaders.  Clearly, this subject is too vast to wrap up in a single article or a hundred articles.  But perhaps this commentary will plant some seeds; present some basis for thought and discussion that will help us to step back and consider reasonable things that can be done to make a difference. I will not pretend to have all the solutions to our government challenges.  But I will propose that real, effective, and lasting solutions really do exist.  These solutions may not always be easy.  But they can be truly effective.  Where do we find such real change solutions?  They exist in the simple, heartfelt realms where wrong and right, integrity, and sensibility reign. Remember the book, Everything I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten?  In this book, Robert Fulghum takes the reader through a delightful series of essays on common thought; simple ideas that are paramount to getting along, enjoying life, and living well.  Mr. Fulghum did not provide explicit solutions in the book, but he appeals to what it means to be human and to be part of a world much bigger than our individual selves.  I believe that he was on to something powerful.  The answers are far simpler than the problems.  When we strip away all the debates, the rhetoric, the party jockeying for supremacy, and just look at our government problems with simplicity and honesty, there exist real and practical solutions that just make sense. I have been accused of being a utopian idealist.  My friends remind me that the vices of human nature—greed for money and power—foil the attempts of the dreamers.  Could the solutions really be simple?  Will that simplicity work when confronted with villainy? Nothing except for the simplest of solutions will ever be truly effective.  If a solution is not very simple, then it will most always lead to bigger problems given time.  Come with me.  Let’s put a lid on Pandora’s box.  Let’s explore a couple simple concepts that lead to simple solutions. #1 Representative government has been compromised. Our republic stood as a beacon of hope to humanity for centuries.  People from all lands, tribes, and tongues journeyed to the land of the free and the home of the brave to be a part of the great American beacon of opportunity.  Reasonable people understood that liberty provided the greatest avenue toward chasing their dreams.  People wanted to live in a land free of tyranny where they could own land, raise their families without oppression, and elect like-minded folks to serve (yes, as in servant and not ruler) to protect these liberties.  The great United States of America had created the best system of governance the world had ever seen for maintaining individual freedom and opportunity. Why do I speak in past tense?  Throughout history, there have been those who believe they are not like the rest of humanity.  They had been taught that there exist a few people like them and then all the lesser others.  This mentality, put into practice, led to the feudal systems of Europe, for example, as well as hundreds of similar social structures in cultures all around the planet.  Those who operate according to these ideas have found ways to rule over others throughout history regardless of the type of government in place.  The United States system of government was architected to keep this oligarchy at bay.  And it did so fairly successfully for much of its history. But it seems that true representation has been replaced by a behind-the-scenes vetting process conducted by both major political parties to assure that few come to power who are not supporters of the oligarchy.  Lobbying, the high cost of political campaigns, and career politicians who serve the oligarchy rather than the people complete the compromise of representative government. But “We the People” can quit depending on big government by creating the types of businesses and jobs described in part 1, The Corporate America Challenge.  We can begin to care for each other and support each other through local organizations.  By doing business locally, creating jobs, eliminating the need for federal programs assisting the under- or nonemployed, we win back liberty.  And perhaps more importantly, we give back the rewarding sense of responsibility that makes communities strong.  People who are struggling now under the inadequate federal system will begin to grow the seeds of hope. “We the People” can also vote for individuals rather than parties.  We can promote grassroots change that breaks the yoke.  We can participate in local government at the city and county levels and, in time, start making impacts at the state level. “We the People” can even create alternatives to some of the federal social programs in ways that empower people toward self-reliance and self-respect.  “We the People” can become strong again and in so doing, we will make the nation stronger.  We can restore the land of the free and the home of the brave.  All we need do is start.  Get involved.  Do local business.  Get to know your community.  Be a part of the new grassroots economies!  In so doing, you will bless your community and our nation. #2 The left versus right paradigm is. It is true that the “left” and the “right” adopt different political platforms.  It is true that we all identify more or less with one side or the other.  But this polarization of political, social, religious, and economic viewpoints traps us into thinking that there are only two options:  the left or the right.  This is NOT TRUE.  And I would argue that the most effective answers to the challenges we face in our communities, states, and nation are NOT EVEN ON THE LEFT/RIGHT CONTINUUM. If we swallow the lie that we have only two options, then we will continue to vote for, rely on, and support one of the two camps.  That is a very effective system for the two camps.  It is also an effective system for the oligarchy.  After all, they purposefully support BOTH camps.  Interesting, isn’t it, when one takes the time to consider the ramifications of this…. “We the People” have a very diverse collection of viewpoints.  No two people agree completely on any belief.  We should not be divided into two camps.  We should not live under the threat of the wrong camp taking charge.  We should be generous enough to allow people the personal liberty to seek truth on their own terms as long as it does not infringe on the rights of others to do the same.  By obeying this simple rule, we can then encourage each other to share ideas in love and in unity.  We cannot all be right.  But we do not all need to be right.  As we grow in the strength of friendship and community, we will be better equipped to understand each other and make wise community decisions that benefit all of us.  This provides greater opportunity for all of us to grow in wisdom and truth. “We the People” do not need to be left or right.  We can instead reflect the full spectrum of human potential and convictions and from this practice of creativity and reflection, great new ideas will be born that can grow into life-giving solutions to major social problems. Listen, I have strong convictions about what is right and what is wrong.  I also believe that truth cannot consist of multiple conflicting ideas.  But I know that I am not the keeper of all truth.  I know that I am growing and learning and being corrected as a part of my journey toward greater understanding.  I also respect the rights of others to do the same.  Divided we fall.  Can’t we agree to disagree and embrace the true liberty to think for ourselves and give others the respect to listen to their ideas too! There are not two camps.  There are thousands.  And value can be found in the majority of them.  Life is not binary.  Humans are not binary.  Politics can NEVER BE BINARY.  We must wake up to this reality and start behaving accordingly.  Otherwise, we will lose our nation.  It is as simple as that. As a nation, we cannot continue on our present course.  We are living now on borrowed time.  We must do what we can now to grow strong communities of competent people who are not dependent on the oligarchy.  I did not present a single solution to a single federal program in this post.  But I did present a couple of ways of understanding our times that can give birth to thousands of simple solutions.  I have ideas about how to fix deficit spending, the national economic threats, the Social Security problems, illegal immigration, the failures of our health care system, poverty, destruction of the environment, world hunger, and even tyranny.  But I purposely did not discuss those here.  To solve these problems we must first understand where we are today and what is really getting in the way of resolving these issues.  Yes, there are other root causes and blockades to real change.  But “We the People” can begin today to create real change right here, right now, right where we are.  We can shape real change in our families, neighborhoods, communities, cities, counties and beyond.

Curt Linville

Curt Linville

Special Report from the Colorado Floods

Today’s article was intended to be a discussion of current challenges with our government.  But it seems timely to report on the flooding here in the Front Range of Colorado. As you may know, Colorado has been suffering from dry—even drought—conditions for the last several years.  Forest fires have destroyed many hundreds of homes and tens of thousands of acres of forest.  Wells have failed to provide water, water rationing in the cities has been necessary, and fire bans have been the norm during the summers.  The ski areas have fought to keep decent snow on the mountains by making their own. But drought is not our current concern.  The second half of the summer brought the afternoon rains to the Front Range reliably.  It was so refreshing to watch the mountains green up and the fire bans canceling across the state.  The Colorado Rockies returned to the lush, green world that longtime residents remembered from twenty plus years ago.  As we began to look forward to a record ski season, something totally unexpected happened this week. On Monday, the afternoon storms got bigger.  They continued through Wednesday when it rained in earnest.  The rains were substantial; however, we frequently have heavier rains.  But the ground was saturated.  And the rain did not quit.  Steady, moderate rain just kept on falling.  Those of you who have experienced the monster, flood-producing thunderstorms of the south would have yawned and looked forward to a nice night’s rest listening to the soft rain on the roof.  When my wife returned from town reporting water running over the road in our mountain canyon, I was surprised.  But the real surprise was what happened the rest of the night, Thursday, Friday, and continuing tonight, tomorrow, and perhaps even on into Monday. Floods.  Floods the likes of which have not been seen in Colorado.  The saturated ground could not hold more water.  Yet, the water kept coming.  Not from monster storms, but from persistent rain.  First the canyons in the mountain foothills flooded.  Then the water flooded the cities below.  Roads washed out all over the Northern Front Range.  At first it was landslides, rock slides, and water on the roads; then the raging creeks started undermining the roads which collapsed.  Then the culverts and bridges were ripped out and went tumbling down the raging torrents.                 The police scanner revealed shocking stories of houses collapsing.  People were trapped outside in the rain at night with temperatures in the forties, and emergency response crews could not get to them due to the washed out roads.  Cars have been washed off bridges and tumbled down canyons.  Many areas were evacuated but some communities could not evacuate because there were no remaining roads.  Indeed, as of this morning, there are four confirmed deaths with nearly 200 people unaccounted for.  Virtually every road in the northern Front Range was flooded. We live in the Coal Creek Canyon area.  Our canyon is not a major watershed.  Coal Creek, which has flowed gently beside the road for hundreds of years, is usually no more than a gentle trickle, if not completely dry.  No one would expect what happened on Wednesday and Thursday.  We have never had issues with flooding.  Everything around here was built on granite.  The roads are solid and have withstood nature’s fury with blizzards, baking sun, and heavy traffic for decades. As I write this, the roads all around the area are closed; indeed they are not passable.  Our community, in and above Coal Creek Canyon, has multiple roads that connect us with Boulder, Arvada, Golden, Nederland, Central City, and Idaho Springs.  Every single road was washed out and impassable.  Crews managed to shore up one road at 4 AM this morning that will allow limited access to and from our area, but this road is normally not heavily travelled as it adds an hour to the drive to the metro area. What’s more, many homes in our area rely on culverts where their driveways meet their road.  Gullies many feet deep and wide gape open where their driveways used to be.  Self-reliance has become a reality.  There is no grocery store that can be accessed.  There are no gas stations working.  Emergency crews cannot drive to many areas.  Some are without power.  The natural gas service has been compromised and turned off, leaving many without heat or the ability to cook food.  Some have no water.  Many houses are flooded.  We are blessed that it is not colder, but still temperatures have been in the forties and lower fifties at night at this altitude.  The high tomorrow is forecast to be 58 degrees down in the plains; that translates to a high of around 45 degrees in our community.  Lows will approach freezing. The water is still raging.  The rains have subsided, but thunderstorms are forecast for the next several days.  It could be a long time before access to groceries and other services is restored.  This is an unexpected challenge in our area.  We are accustomed to blizzards and forest fires, but we have little experience with floods.  It just goes to show that people need to be prepared for the surprise emergencies. Our family is blessed.  We are high and dry.  We have plenty of food and water, as well as water filters.  We have wood heat.  We are healthy and strong.  We have everything we need to be happy at home for the coming days (weeks?) until normal access to services will be restored.  We still have electrical power, but we are prepared to go without that too, if need be.  We have made sure that our neighbors have what they need as well.  We are prepared to share food and emergency cook stoves (www.180tack.com) for sterilizing water and cooking.  We are enjoying the benefits of being prepared for the unexpected.  Pray for the people of Colorado this weekend.  The crisis is not over yet.  There are many who are not prepared.  Hundreds, if not thousands, of people have been forced out of their homes.  Emergency crews are being pushed to their limits.  The flooding is likely to continue and may even get much worse over the next few days.  Thousands are without access to grocery stores, gasoline, and even clean drinking water.  This may not be an EOTWAWKI scenario, but what a surprise!

Curt Linville

Curt Linville

The Corporate America Challenge

A friend and I were reflecting on the challenges of our current time this week.  As I pondered the adverse climate on three fronts—corporate America, the government, and the economy—I also reflected on what may be the most effective response from “We the People” to these camps.  How might we, the majority, act now to effect the most positive change in these days of adversity? First, perhaps at least some explanation of the adversity needs to be presented.  After all, doesn’t corporate America promise us prosperity and efficiency loaded with lots of new technologies and toys?  Isn’t a strong corporate economy a necessity?  And the government continuously elaborates on making our world a better place for each and every citizen.  What is wrong there?  And the economy?  Well, we all want a better economy.  Yet the prognosticators preach that it is getting better and better.  The stock market is strong, unemployment is decreasing, housing starts are up, and inflation is low.  The economy is just grand!  Is it? This is the first post in a series of three that will discuss possible real solutions—things that “We the People” can do to make a real difference.  These posts are intended to create hope and action.  This is the good news; the encouragement. But first, the bad…Why is corporate America a problem and what should “We the People” do about it?  First, corporate America is necessary.  A strong economy depends on the goods and services that corporate America provides.  It would be easy to sling mud at the very corporations that provide us with energy, phone service, entertainment, and even food.  But I am not going to do that here.  To be clear, we need the corporations.  What I will do though is point out some failures in our general corporate systems that are creating national challenges for “We the People”. Corporations have leveraged volumes of scale that have allowed them to provide goods and services at affordable prices.  On the surface this has advantages.  We can buy more stuff at better relative prices than in times past.  But corporations’ super competitive mass production methods have made it increasingly difficult for small, local businesses to make their required margins to keep the doors open.  So, the smaller, local businesses have struggled or closed shop in droves.  This means that towns all across the US have seen a real economic drain on Main Street.  The big corporate chains have replaced the mom and pop shops, and now the money spent on goods and services in these towns does not stay in the local economy.  Rather it feeds the often gluttonous corporate headquarters and investors.  This creates a centralized economy that reduces the personal liberty of “We the People” and increases the powers of the few. This has further reaching impacts than just the loss of local economies and personal liberty.  Once the small businesses close, where two people work?  For the corporations, of course.  Please take a moment to understand what I am about to say.  The rules of profit and loss create pressure—even a momentum—to keep costs low and productivity high.  This rule of profitability is neither good nor evil, but just a mathematical reality.  Now bring in human nature.  We like profit.  We also like to care for others we know.  In a small company where the owner knows all the workers on a personal level, there is a natural accountability.  The owner will feel the pressure of the rule of profitability and he or she will also feel the pressure of caring for the workers, his/her friends.  This accountability tends toward integrity. Now the corporate model does not have this natural balance.  Rather the executives govern from a distance, often living in another state, and may never meet the majority of the employees.  These executives have the same pressure of the rule of profitability with the additional pressure from the board of directors to keep the stock prices high and the investors happy.  Matter of fact, it is the primary job of the executives to do just that.  But where is the balancing force of relationship with the workers?  Hmmm…. The executives don’t know the workers.  The workers don’t know the executives.  The balance is broken. Most corporations have kept pay raises below the inflation rate for decades now.  As a result, workers who get a small raise each year find they are actually earning less in real dollars than the year before.  Inflation, while low, is still the cancer that has allowed the corporations to decrease the compensation of the employees while the revenue from their products has kept pace with the inflation rate.  This increases top-level profitability.  It also creates a real pinch for “We the People”. The natural “check and balance” that would keep this dynamic from getting too extreme is that in the USA we have the right to quit our jobs and work for someone else.  Companies then have to compete for productive employees, so they have a pressure to keep salaries competitive.  But wait, where are all these other companies?  They used to be on Main Street.  Now, these jobs are held by a much less diverse group of corporations who also feel the same pressure to maximize profit.  It has become the employer’s market.  Great employees have less leverage now to successfully vote with their feet.  Matter of fact, they have become expendable. To make matters worse, the corporate world has another rule of business.  It is most profitable to create systems that will allow the least skilled (read least expensive) employees to accomplish the required tasks.  Advances in technology and other business systems have made this more possible.  So there is an additional pressure that increases the profit of a corporation by replacing great, experienced employees with less expensive ones. These are just a few of the dynamics in our current system of business that reduced liberty and opportunity for “We the People”.  But there are real benefits that come from this system, too.  These large corporations really do have the resources to achieve great things.  Not many mom and pop shops would ever afford the exorbitant research and development costs associated with creating complex products and getting them to market.  Corporations have made it possible for amazing and otherwise too expensive products to be available to the common people. To be clear, before we criticize the corporate world too heavily, we must take the time to recognize the many benefits that we enjoy due to these corporations.  We do not need to declare battle against corporate America.  Such an effort would be rather futile and largely unsuccessful.  What’s more, attacking corporate America could easily damage our fragile economy making matters much worse. So, now for the good news.  What can “We the People” do to improve the situation?  Well, there are a few hundred million of us that can make little choices each day that helps to return liberty and opportunity to the people.  We can create grassroots, Main Street economies--not to attack the corporations, but rather to create hundreds of thousands of alternatives.  It is a challenge to start a new business in this corporate climate, but that is our necessary mission.  And it then follows that these businesses that pump new life blood into communities, that provide local jobs, and invigorate local economies are deserving of our business.  Know the owner of the shoe store where you buy your Nikes.  Know the farmer who grows your vegetables.  Know the rancher that raises the cattle for your steaks. And the new business owners then must take concrete, effective actions to grow and advance employees; to train and empower them to advance their own careers not because it is the most profitable approach for the short term, but because it is the most profitable long term methodology to foster robust local economies and work forces.  This, in turn, creates more market for the goods and services the new businesses produce and provide.  And it rejuvenates a system that maximizes personal opportunity and liberty.  This is what “We the People” must do.  Bring some business home.  Regrow small town America. And as we do, we need to take another step.  Successful businesses need to form consortiums where resources are provided to help others start new businesses.  Start-ups need financial, logistical, and educational support.  These consortiums can provide for these needs and more.  And as more businesses gain a foothold and begin to flourish, the local economy again grows; providing more cash flow and more revenue for all the businesses. Accountability is restored.  Local economies become the energy that empowers “We the People”.  Liberty is reclaimed.  Opportunity is enlarged.  The job market becomes robust.  Jobs come home.  America is rejuvenated.  And all this because “We the People” wake up, take action, and support our own.  Remember, our nation is not the government.  Our nation is not the corporations.  Our nation is not the bankers.  Our nation is “We the People”.  It is time for us to take personal responsibility and get to work.  Are you ready?  Roll up your sleeves and prove to the world that you have what it takes to make a difference.  Real change. As a side note, we at 180 Tack, LLC have committed to these principles.  As our business grows we are dedicated to creating an opportunity for our workers.  We are committed to keeping our manufacturing and jobs here in the USA.  We create and market products of elegant simplicity that not only help people in the tough times but provide for really fun times now too.  Sustainability.  Reliability.  Dependability.  Fun.  That is 180 Tack.  Need a natural fuel emergency stove?  Go to www.180tack.com.  We are doing our part for “We the People”. My next post will be about challenges we see in government today, and what “We the People” can do to turn this ship around.

Curt Linville

Curt Linville

No Fear

Are smoke detectors installed to scare people?  Is that their purpose and design?  The detector alarm can certainly give one quite a start, but that loud noise is there to tell us to take action.  It is not designed to create fear, but to give us the information we can act on.  There is smoke in the house.  Do something. Actually, that is the purpose of fear.  Wake up.  Become aware of a threat.  Do something. Fear should not be a constant emotional state; rather, it is a call to action.  Once the action is taken, then the fear is no longer useful.  As a matter of fact, prolonged fear is very unhealthy and damaging.  Health care practitioners are waking up to the fact that most diseases—while they have specific causes—are the result of too much stress on the body.  Sure, the common cold is generated by a virus proliferating in one’s system, but we are exposed to billions of viruses every day.  Our immune systems are designed to deal with these threats.  So when we get sick it, is not so much because we “caught” a virus as it is that our immune system was overwhelmed.  This happens when we are weakened by prolonged stress, bad diet, lack of adequate rest, etc.  Prolonged fear is dangerous.  It can make us sick.  When the smoke detector goes off in your house, do you sit there in your chair suffering from the noise?  Do you worry about whether or not the alarm is real?  Do you stress out while the siren is screaming, while you sit in your chair and hope that a real fire is not consuming your home?  Of course not.  When that alarm starts, we find the source of the smoke, we evacuate, or we open the windows because we burned the eggs.  Our fear meter returns to normal and we are thankful that the smoke detector is working.  Our modern world has a plethora of threats.  When we wake up to the fact that life may not always be as it is now, then it is a lot like that smoke detector going off.  It can deliver quite the start.  There is no way that we can remove the threats of our day.  But we can prepare for them and we can alleviate the fear.  For those who are still sleeping and have not heard the alarm yet, choose your poison.  Everything in the list below is a possible, real threat.  However, I would like to point out that most of the items are not probable threats.  Before you laugh at the items on the top of the list, consider the very real impact of the items on the bottom. A giant asteroid slams into the earth. An X-flare from the sun wipes out our electrical grid. The Earth’s magnetic field weakens, allowing gamma radiation to destroy living things. The ozone layer thins or gets holes in it, allowing UV radiation to give us instant, 3rd-degree burns. A new superbug causes a global pandemic, wiping out half of the world’s population. The nations go nuts and full-scale nuclear war breaks out. Some rogue nation sets off an atomic bomb high in our atmosphere, causing an electro-magnetic pulse that fries all our electronics and wipes out the grid. The Yellowstone volcano erupts, destroying most of the US and plunging the world into an ice age. Commercial bankers drive the derivative markets to volatile levels, triggering a world-wide recession. Airplanes are used as missiles to attack our nation. We give up our privacy and liberty in exchange for false promises of safety and security. You lose your job. A big storm or forest fire damages your home severely. You are in a car wreck and can’t work for several weeks. The cost of food increases and eats away your ability to pay your bills. The price of gasoline doubles. The food supply is threatened by drought. Your health deteriorates from eating poor quality food. Your car breaks down. And the list continues.  Yikes!  The smoke alarm is going off!  Are you sitting in the chair wondering what the problem may be?  Are you taking action?  Have you started?  Are you afraid? Do you know fear or are you living with no fear?  Let me be frank.  There are too many people living today in fear and this fear can cause them to be vulnerable to manipulation, vulnerable to crooks who market to fear, and vulnerable to diminished life or even illness. Okay, take a deep breath!!!  We do not need to live in fear.  First, most of the items at the top of the list are highly unlikely.  Yes, they do happen, but the odds of them happening in our generation or in the next several generations are quite low.  But what about the items at the bottom of the list?  Some of them happen to nearly everyone at one time or another.  Are you prepared to deal with these lesser, likely threats?  By being prepared for the lesser threats, we position ourselves to do much better in dealing with the bigger ones too. I encourage you NOT to live with a spirit of fear.  A fear-based life is no way to live.  We cannot live healthy lives waiting for the sky to fall.  We can prepare and then rest and enjoy each moment of this life. Many difficult situations lead us to better lives, eventually.   Perhaps one loses a job at the factory.  Oh no! But then the factory explodes.  Wow, it sure was good that I lost my job! The local economy suffers from the loss of the factory.  Oh no! But a new industry develops when people, out of necessity, innovate.  Wow, we really needed to move on from that old local economy.   We don’t know how the future will turn out; whether today’s challenges will result in good or in harm.  But we can have faith.  Humanity is resilient.  We do bounce back from tragedy and hard times.  We rebuild.  The wise prepare for the ebb and flow of life.  They prepare and they celebrate.  They pull together in times of need and rejoice in times of blessing.  The wise do not live in fear.  They use fear as a wake-up call, and then look forward to the challenges and opportunities of the future. This life is to be lived.  So get out there and thrive!  Prepare reasonably and enjoy life!    

Curt Linville

Curt Linville

We the People

The US Constitution has been the glue that has held our nation together.  It is considered one of the greatest documents ever penned by humans for defining the roles of nations and government. However, if it were written today, it might have been a little more confusing to get started.... Let's see... We the leaders... NO. Hummm....  We the president...?  Nope. We the bankers!  No way. We the congress?  Nah. We the rich elite? We the 1%, we the privileged, we the lobbyists, we the corporations, the unions, the entitled, the educated, or the government? Who put this great nation together? We the PEOPLE.  We are the nation.
Why do we think that the government is the nation and the bankers are the economy?  Lies.  LIES! We the PEOPLE are the nation.  We are not the incapable ones waiting for a government handout. We are the STRONG, the SMART, the INNOVATORS, the SUCCESSFUL, the CARING, the BUILDERS, the DEDICATED, the FIXERS.  We the PEOPLE are the nation. All the constitution miss-starts above have been getting far too much attention. We the People.  My contributions to Brink of Freedom will be people-focused.  What does it mean to be the people of a community, a town, a state, or a nation?  No, my contribution will not be about politics.  Rather, I will be focusing on what we can do to work together to live richer lives together, in the good times and in the bad. Additionally, we will visit several topics related to growing in our personal abilities to care for ourselves both at home, as well as in the wild places.   Wilderness survival skills provide great confidence and freedom when it comes to surviving and thriving at home during challenging times, too.  So we will visit wilderness survival skill topics which will open up discussions on philosophies of survival and self-reliance. We are going to have a lot of fun exploring what Brink of Freedom means on many levels.

Curt Linville

Curt Linville

Curt Linville Interview - The Survival Podcast

Just a quick mention that I was interviewed on The Survival Podcast.  The podcast airs today.  Jack Spirko and I discussed the importance of love and community for being prepared for emergencies or challenging times.  Special thanks to Jack for having me on the show.  It was great fun.     The conversation focused on the community in which I grew up.  The reason is that this community had grown out of WWI, The Great Depression, WWII, and a forced relocation that happened as part of the US preparedness efforts before the US entered WWII.  These challenges to this community helped to shape it into a loving community of gardeners and hunters who really pulled together to face individual and community challenges.   This love-based approach to helping each other grew largely around the kitchen table where food grown in the community was shared and laughter and stories were swapped.    The goal of this podcast is that by sharing what a community was we can provide hope for what communities can be today.  And these vibrant communities provide meaning, hope, and security for their people.  At the very least, there should be some entertainment value for those interested in gardening, wild food gathering, localized history, and communities banding together to weather the hard times and celebrate the good times.   To hear the show, go to www.thesurvivalpodcast.com .  Hint:  There is a special 180 Stove offer for listeners!   I hope you Independence Day weekend was spectacular!   Curt Linville    

Curt Linville

Curt Linville

Wilderness Survival Part 7 – Fire

I love fire.  Fire is so useful and fun!  But…. If you go back to the beginning of this wilderness survival series, you will see that I chose to address survival subjects in the order of importance to survival (in my opinion).  So many of you may be wondering why I have written about six survival “musts” before getting to fire.  After all, isn’t building a fire one of the first things survival schools teach one to do?  When people are lost, aren’t they supposed to build a fire to stay warm and to help rescuers find them?  This is where I part company with many survival philosophies.    A Quick Review:   I believe that nature is our nurture.  If one is skilled and works with nature rather than against nature, then the whole survival experience changes.  Remember that nature is not the enemy.  Nature is the source of many good things.  Second, if you know how to find what you need in nature, then you will not normally need to be rescued.  Third, one is not lost if one is in his/her home.  Nature is our home.  We leave the hustle and bustle of modern life to go back to our home, the wild and free places.  This approach takes skill development and the right attitude.  By learning nature’s rhythms we gain a new perspective; one that does not require us to get found or be rescued very often. What are the two reasons most survival schools teach building a fire?  First, to stay warm.  However, if you have ever tried to stay warm on a cold night by feeding a fire, you know that one side roasts while the other freezes.  You also know that you are going to lose a LOT of sleep trying to keep the fire going.  Unless there is a shelter in place that the fire can heat, fire really is a poor solution to the cold.  Certainly for long-term survival, huddling by a fire is not a reasonable survival strategy.  Instead, build a warm shelter.  See my blog on shelterfor more information.  The second reason many teach the “lost” to build a fire to get found more easily.  If getting found is the goal, then by all means, build that fire.  Review my blog on getting found for more information on this.   Proper Uses for Fire:   There is a third “survival” reason to build a fire which I agree with.  Fire provides light and comfort.  Fire can help to drive away dark feelings and fears.  But if one is at home in nature, then this is normally not necessary.  However, if you find yourself shaking in your boots and you need an attitude adjustment, then BUILD A FIRE.  See my blog on attitude for more information on how critical the right attitude is for survival.   Why else would we build a fire?  Fire is a wonderful tool that we can use to melt snow, sterilize water, cook food, harden wood, dry clothing, and preserve foods by smoking.  And there is nothing quite like a hot drink and a warm meal after spending several hours in the cold.  It is not critical for short term survival, but it is one of the most useful tools for extended stays in the wilderness.  I love fire!    Knowing how to be responsible with fire in the wilderness is a critical prerequisite for anyone who wants to camp, hike, or live in the woods.  Fire can be friend or foe.  Responsibility does not only include fire safety to prevent forest fires and personal injury.  Abusing the wilderness with fire proves one is immature and has little understanding of or respect for nature.  This type of abuse is all too common and includes such things as making oversized fires, creating multiple fire rings in one locale, scorching trees or other plants, using a fire pit as a trash can, melting cans, bottles, and plastics and leaving them, failing to put out fires completely, leaving a fire unattended, building fires too close to surface water, and the list goes on and on.     YIKES!!!!   When camping, use existing fire rings and scatter extra ones.  Pack out trash left by others.  Leave nature better than you found it.  If you are in an area where there is no fire ring, then consider using fire practices that respect nature.  One of the biggest mistakes is making the fire too large.  Small fires use less wood, create less smoke, leave smaller scars, and are much easier to use for cooking.  And small fires provide comforting heat and light that does not force campers to stand ten feet away.   Better yet, use a 180 Stove to contain your small fire and maximize your cooking.  With the 180 Stove you can cook or boil water using only a handful of twigs.  The cooking platform keeps the pan close to the flames and reflects the heat onto the pan.  The stove is lighter than carrying a backpacking stove with fuel, and more compact as well.  If you are not using the 180 Two-Piece Snow and Ash Pan, then scrape a little soil to the side, cook, douse, and then cover.  This way no scars are left on the land.  In more delicate areas or for cooking on snow, use the ash pan.   If you want to REALLY minimize the weight, then cook with the 180-VL.  At less than 6 ounces, the 180-VL allows one to cook efficiently with a minimum of weight to carry.  This stove is a bit smaller than the 180 Stove, but still does a fine job.  The ash pans are designed to work with either stove.  These stoves are small enough to fit in a back pocket, but assemble to form large and stable cooking platforms similar in size to a burner on your range at home.     Using the 180 Stove or the 180-VL greatly reduces the amount of fuel you will need to cook your food, protects nature from fire scars, and provides a much safer cooking method than trying to balance your dinner on rocks or micro-stoves.  Using these stoves also respects nature on deeper levels.  No toxic fuels are pumped out of the ground, hauled around the world, and forced into wasteful canisters.  No fuel spills into the ground water.  No canisters go to the landfill.   What’s more, learning how to make and sustain efficient fires using natural fuels calls us back to working with nature rather than against her.  And there are no valves, welds, screws, leaky O-rings, or hoses that often break in the woods.  These stoves just make sense and fit the respectful approach to living in nature.   They make a wonderful compliment to your fire skills.   In summary, fire can be a great friend on a lonely night and is a very useful tool for a variety of wilderness tasks.  While fire is not a top priority for short-term wilderness survival, it is a necessary survival tool for the long term.    In future posts, we will discuss various fire-making techniques.  

Curt Linville

Curt Linville

Wilderness Survival Part 6 – Food

Food and eating are central to what it means to be alive.  We eat several times a day and one only needs to go a few hours without food before hunger provides a powerful reminder that we need to eat.  For those new to wilderness survival, “What will I eat?” seems to be one of the first questions asked.  Just watch children playing “living in the wild” and one of the first things they will do is start collecting “food” in little piles and pretend to eat.   The reality is that food is not nearly as critical to short term survival as one might think.  Most healthy people can go several days without food with few ill effects.  Certainly attitude, shelter, and water are much more critical to survival than food.  That said, food goes a long way toward helping to maintain that good attitude!  And as hunger intensifies, it makes it increasingly hard to perform strenuous tasks.  Few people enjoy going hungry, but by slowing down a bit and staying hydrated, most people can function well after skipping a few meals.   This posting will focus on wild edible plants.  Hunting, fishing, and trapping will be touched on in future posts.     Foraging for wild foods takes a lot more time than running to the fridge or fast food restaurant.  The reality is that in long term living off the land, one may spend more time searching for food than doing any other necessary activity.  While there is a LOT of food in the woods, it is NOT convenient to gather or to prepare.  Significant skills are required to live off the land long term, and even after many years of study and experience there will be much left to learn about edible wild foods.    But there are many simple “nibble foods” that can be plucked and chewed while hiking, building shelter, etc.  By nibbling on these foods, hunger can be abated until there is time to spend on a more exhaustive food gathering effort.  I recommend everyone who spends time in the woods build familiarity with local edible plants so he or she can snack along the trail.  These nibble foods will often be enough to sustain one through a short term survival situation.  The type of foods available is heavily dependent on the local environment.  In the Rockies, nibble foods might include fireweed, pine tree growth buds or succulent pollen buds, wax currants, rose hips and flowers, grass seeds, dock, dandelion flowers and greens, and thistle stalks.  In the Appalachians, add to these foods many more types of flowers and berries, persimmons, and leafy shrubs.  Don’t forget about prickly pear fruit which you will find in most ecosystems in the U.S.     How many edible plants are in the picture above?     These nibble foods, like most wild foods, will have a strong and often bitter flavor.  It takes an open mind and a few attempts to appreciate some of the powerful flavors of wild foods.  We have trained our palates to enjoy foods with most of the flavor cooked out, and then foreign flavors of salts, sugars, and other spices added back in.  Be assured though that given time you will appreciate these foods more, and will develop your personal favorites.   You will also find that these foods are seasonal.  A pine tree growth bud in the spring is sweet, juicy, and tart with a notable pine flavor.  Later in the year, they are bitter, tough, and taste like turpentine.  If you have even bit into a green persimmon, then you know beyond a doubt that they are seasonal fruits!  If you have not had that experience, then it is worth a try.  Everyone should know what a green persimmon feels like.  Feels?  Yes, feels.  It will not be a pleasant experience.  Ha!  The point is that it takes some trial and error to know which foods will be best at various times of the year.    The foods listed above are great for getting through an active and hungry day, but our goal is not to simply get by for the short term.  The real goal is to be comfortable living in harmony with nature indefinitely.  This goal does require much more practice and skill.  The truth is that most wild plants are edible if one knows which parts to harvest and how to prepare them.  However, there are plenty of poisonous plants growing in the woods too.  It is critical to learn each plant thoroughly and to learn any dangerous “look alikes” and how to discern between the two.   Wilderness food is a rather vast subject.  Scores of books have been written on wild edible plants.  I strongly recommend that you purchase some field guides and spend time identifying and carefully sampling wild foods.  BEWARE!  Not all field guides will cover the plants adequately to discern between the good and the imposter.  There are some real killers out there, so make sure you know a plant very well before attempting to eat it, and then follow some practical rules of caution.   It is the goal of this post to introduce the reader to the vast and fun world of wild edible plants, but this is only an introduction.  Years can (and should) be spent learning and practicing wild plants skills.   ----DANGER----   The process below is not fool proof and can lead to DEATH.  The intention is to provide some information that might save a life, but this information can in NO WAY guarantee your safety.  Using the below edibility test should be a last resort.  It is far better to learn wild edible foods from an experienced person!!!   Testing just one part of a plant takes a full day.  But if you must, to test to see if a plant is edible, start when you have had nothing to eat for eight hours.  You also should not eat other foods while you are testing a plant.  Start by smashing it up a bit and rub it on the inside of your arm.  Wait for a quarter hour or more to see if it causes any irritation.  If there is no irritation, then rub a little of the plant on your lips.  Wait several minutes to see if there are any ill effects.  Next place a piece of the plant on your tongue.  Hold it there for 15 minutes but do not swallow.  If all is well, then chew a pinch of the food thoroughly and again, do not swallow.  Hold the food in your mouth for 15 minutes.  At this point, if you have not experienced any burning, or stinging, or numbing, or itching, then you can swallow ONE BITE of the food.  Wait eight hours to see what happens.  If all is well, then attempt eating ten bites or so of the food, and again wait eight hours.  NOTE!  Just because one part of a plant is edible does not mean that other parts are.  Each part of a plant has to be tested by itself.  Roots, leaves, stems, flowers, fruit, and seeds all need to be tested individually.  It can take days to prove even one plant is edible.   Again, the above testing method is not perfect.  Rather than using this method, it is far better to use multiple field guides and learn from one who has years of experience eating wild foods.  It is also recommended that you start by studying poisonous wild plants so as to avoid anything that remotely resembles them.   Why go to all the trouble of studying wild edible plants?  It makes a great hobby that could save your life someday.  It is also fun to supplement one’s backpacking diet with fresh foods at hand.  But perhaps the best reason to learn these skills is that they will provide you with a far greater appreciation of nature.  By learning where various plants grow and what factors influence their flavor and usefulness, one transitions from just being a visitor in the wilderness to being a part of the natural order.  This is a major part of learning to harmonize with the natural flow and to work with nature rather than against it.   To that end, watch how the animals forage for food.  Observe how the deer will move through an area taking a sampling of several difference species of plants, and especially how they do not eat all of a plant in an area.  By taking a bit here and a bit there, they preserve the plants to continue to grow and flourish.  We should harvest our foods in the same way.  Never destroy a species in an area.  Harvest with concern for the health of the ecosystem.   Watch a squirrel as it gathers nuts.  Squirrels bury nuts to be stored for winter.  Sure they eat a lot of them, but they also successfully plant thousands of new trees.  We too can give to an ecosystem that gives to us.  Matter of fact, it is a wise practice to give to the ecosystem beforeharvesting anything from it.  This reminds us of the value of the natural world and will keep us from wasting and destroying, as  many humans have selfish tendency to do.           By following the examples of these animals, you can even make the plants in an area thrive more than they would have if left untouched.  That should always be our goal, to leave this world a little better than we found it.  Help nurture the nature that nurtures you.    

Curt Linville

Curt Linville

Wilderness Survival - Part 5.5: Wilderness Water

Safe Water in the Wild   In our previous post we visited many fascinating aspects of water with the intent of increasing our appreciation for clean, natural water and all that it means to us.  Water is critical for life, mysterious in its properties, and poetic in its several forms.  Protecting water should be a high priority for all of us.  Whether you are in an area with plenty of water or an arid locale where water is scarce really should not change your view of this life-giving liquid.  Water should be cherished and efforts taken to keep the water as pure as we reasonably can.  Water really matters.  
  So what makes water safe to drink or dangerous?  How can we make dangerous water safe?  Where should we look for water in the wilderness?   Pure water is safe to drink.  Water full of minerals and other contaminants can also be safe, but that depends on many factors.  In brief, what makes water dangerous is not necessarily how “dirty” is seems but what kind of contaminants are in it.  Bacteria, viruses, giardia, protozoa, heavy metals, poisonous chemicals, parasites, cryptosporidium, and even radioactive isotopes can be present in water and turn a nice wilderness adventure into long-term misery or even death.  Our eyes cannot see these threats and sometimes our noses cannot smell them.  To stay safe, one should select conservative sources for drinking water and one should always take measures to assure water safety before drinking it.   Safer water sources:   As a rule, water will be more pure at its source.  Rain water is safer than river water.  Spring water is safer than streams or creeks.  Snow melt is safer than pond water.  When in doubt, go to the source.  The closer to the source that you get your water, the cleaner it will likely be.  That does NOT mean that all snowmelt, rainwater, or spring water is reliably safe.   But these sources are much more likely to be safe.  When choosing water to drink, ask yourself the following questions:       1)   How close to the source am I?     2)   Are there any dead animals near the water or upstream?     3)   Is the water full life such as fish and aquatic insects?  Are the plants growing near the water healthy?     4)   Are the rocks in the stream discolored?  If so there is likely high mineral content in the water which could be a hazard.     5)   Does the water have an odor?     6)   Is the water flowing or stagnant?     7)   Are there industries, mines, dumps, or septic systems that may contaminate this water?

  Answering these questions will lead explorers to cleaner water sources.  I have risked drinking untreated water from excellent sources when necessary and I have experienced no ill effects.  It is not a good idea, however!  And keep in mind that water that is clean one day can be deadly the next depending on runoff conditions.  Also note that in a survival situation, when you get seriously thirsty, you will drink stagnant mud.  I did not say you should drink mud, but you willif you are thirsty enough.  So it is critical to find water before your thirst is extreme and to take steps to make the water as pure as possible before drinking it.   Water purification:   Water can be made much safer with just a few simple precautions.  Obviously, find the best source of water that you can, then treat the water to make it safer.  There are scores of good camping water filters that can be used to clean up the water.  Some filter out dirt, parasites, protozoa, bacteria and cryptosporidium.  Others will have activated carbon that will also remove much of the minerals and radioactive isotopes.  Few can remove viruses due to their extremely small size.  The good news is that viruses are DNA specific.  What that means is that a virus that will make a deer sick will rarely make a human sick.  So even if we ingest viruses, they will cause no harm unless they are adapted to humans.   I will not take the time and space here to go into manufactured water filters except to say that you should take one into the wilderness with you, and I have found the bag style gravity feed filters are much easier to use than the hand pump varieties.   But what happens when there is no filter?  Then what?  Water can be chemically sterilized or sterilized by boiling.  Using chemicals, such as chlorine or iodine, to purify water will usually kill most of the viruses, protozoa and bacteria, but if the water is too dirty, then these critters can hide in the solid particles and escape the chemical bath.  What’s more, the concentration of chlorine required to kill cryptosporidium is also dangerous for humans.  Again, chemically treating water will not remove heavy metals and the chemicals used to sterilize the water can combine with other chemicals in the water to make even more dangerous toxins.  And remember that if you chemically treat the water, you will generally be drinking the chemicals used.   (As a side note, why is cryptosporidium so hard to kill?  Cryptosporidium are parasitic protozoa that travel via the fecal-oral routes as oocysts.   These oocysts are extremely robust little packages of genetic material that are not easily defeated.  These hard packets protect the material inside under some very extreme conditions.  Matter of fact, it is theorized that cryptosporidium may have been blown to the upper atmosphere and may have actually scattered from Earth throughout the solar system.  Someday we may find these protozoa on Mars for instance.  Wild, huh?)   Boiling water will kill viruses, bacteria, protozoa, and even cryptosporidium, but it will not remove heavy metals nor many dangerous chemicals.  Water needs to be boiled for one minute at low elevations to wipe out the bugs, but as one’s elevation increases, the boiling point of water decreases, so longer boiling times are needed.  Add roughly one minute for every thousand feet of elevation, or just plan on ten minutes of boiling.   Since neither chemically treating water nor boiling water will get rid of heavy metals and chemicals, neither stand alone as 100 percent effective.  This is why selecting water from a “safe” source is important.  It is also why filtering the water before other treatments is also recommended.  It is not difficult to make a filter in the wilderness that will remove sediments and chemicals from water.  These filters should not be trusted to remove germs, so the water should still be boiled or chemically treated.   How to make a water filter in the woods:   To make a filter in the woods, it is best to have some sort of cylinder on hand.  This can be a challenge.  A water bottle, two liter bottle, milk jug, coffee can or bucket will all work.  If none of these can be found, then you have finally found a true wilderness area to enjoy.  Good for you.  But then finding the cylinder will be a bit tougher.  A hollow log can be used.  There are several “filter” designs, but all depend on a series of gravel and sand packed into a tube with a charcoal stage in the middle.  Cloth or grass can be used as a first stage to pull out the larger material in the water.  The increasingly finer particles screen all but the really tiny stuff out of the water.  The charcoal will absorb many of the chemicals in the water, too.  Be sure that the sand and charcoal are packed tightly so water does not just run around the outside edges.  
  When using a filter like this, it is best to continue to run water through the filter until the water starts running clear.  At first the water will be washing the sand and rocks.  Once the water runs clear, then it is ready for use.  Again, water from the filter should still be boiled before drinking.   Less obvious water sources:   Dew collected with a rag or bandanna Rainwater Solar still Steam collected from boiled salt water Liquids squeezed or drained from vegetation:  vines, cacti, tubers, coconuts.  (Local knowledge of plants is critical for safety before attempting to get water from plants.) Use tubing to gather water from difficult to access places like cracks in rock.   How to make a solar still:   To make a solar still, tubing, a large sheet of plastic, and a container are needed.  Dig a hole around three feet deep and three feet wide.  Place green and/or wet vegetation in the bottom of the hole.  Place the container in the center on the bottom of the hole, and brace it so it will not fall over.  Run tubing from the container up and out of the hole.  Cover the hole with the plastic, and trap the edges down with rocks or dirt.  Place a stone in the middle of the plastic centered over the container.  The sun will evaporate moisture from the plants and soils in the hole.  The cooler plastic will cause the water vapor to condense and run down the plastic into the container.  You can collect or drink the water directly by using the tubing.  The water in the container will be clean to drink as long as the container and plastic are clean.  This method can also be used to distill urine or non-potable water into pure drinking water.  Depending on the conditions, multiple stills may be required to distill enough water to keep up with hydration demands   Planning ahead:   Most tasks take longer in the woods.  In our society we are accustomed to heating food in a microwave oven, getting water from a tap, and heating our homes at the twist of a dial.  When we return to the wilderness, we find that basic things like shelter, food, water, and fire all take considerable amounts of time.  We have to adopt a different rhythm in nature, and a big part of that rhythm is planning ahead.  Since it may well take an hour to purify some drinking water, start solving the water challenges early.  And finding a clean source of water can take much longer.  If you find yourself in a survival situation, prioritize water right behind proper shelter.  Solve the water challenges early.   And enjoy the new rhythms that nature encourages.  Don’t make the mistake of expecting the wilderness to be convenient and then stressing when simple tasks take a lot longer.  Seek to enjoy the processes of wilderness living.  Don’t fixate on only getting the end result.  Find peace in each activity and harmonize with nature’s song.  Take time to truly appreciate simple, life-giving resources.  Celebrate water.  Protect it.  Respect it.  

Curt Linville

Curt Linville

 

Wilderness Survival - Part 5: Water

Water.  What could be more plain than water?  No color.  No real flavor.  Just a couple hydrogens and an oxygen doing a molecular dance.  These days, even in the desert, with the twist of a knob we get water.  It is like a genie at our beck and call.  Water cleanses our homes, washes our bodies, sweeps away all manner of nastiness; out of sight and out of mind.  Do you suppose we take water for granted?   Water.  We often hear that the surface of the earth is two thirds water.  And we hear that our bodies are up to 60% water.  Funny to realize that we are all large water bags sloshing around.  So now this gets a little more personal.  Water is a part of us.  Without water, life on this Earth would not exist.  Water is not just our servant, then.  Water is us.  It is a component of life.  Just a couple of hydrogens and an oxygen doing a molecular dance…, with all the billions of life cells in your body.    And water carries information.  While this might not yet be considered scientific fact, I am convinced it is so.  No two snowflakes are alike.  Why not?  How many crystal designs can two hydrogens and an oxygen make?  How is that possible?  There must be a nearly infinite number of ways that two water molecules can cling to each other when they slow down enough to grab hold.  And this foundation is built on to form a snowflake governed by the form of these first two molecules.  Our digital age is based on just 1s and 0s.  Two things.  Our DNA is also digital, but it has four digits that define the vast, VAST warehouses of information that govern how the elements come together to form our bodies.  But what about this water thing?  Just two hydrogens and an oxygen but their relative positions result in a nearly infinite number of snowflake shapes.  How much information could we store in that mechanism?     From http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/02/photogalleries/snowflakes/index.html   But what is more interesting, is that there has been shown a correlation between the structures water crystals form and influences to the water before freezing.  Anger and violent music directed toward water result in chaotic crystal patterns, while love and harmonious music result in ordered  and symmetrical patterns.  Really?   Similarly, homeopathy, though not the usual focus of modern medicine, still gets impressive results.  How does that work?  A substance that creates similar symptoms to an illness is put into solution, and then the solution is diluted.  It is diluted to the point that odds are there is NONE of the original substance left in final product, remedy pills.  But those pills trigger amazing results.  How?  Information, that’s how.  The water used to dilute the substance to form the remedy seems to capture instructions from the original substance.  That information is read by our bodies, and the homeopathic remedy actually reprograms how our bodies behave.  This information programs our immune systems.  We do not know exactly how this works, but it does.  What is amazing is that the more diluted the substance—the more water is used—the more potent the remedy.  That is counter intuitive!  But then water is often counter intuitive. Consider for a moment that when free flowing liquids freeze, the general rule is that these busy molecules or atoms quit bouncing around so much and become denser.  They lock into a solid that is smaller than the space taken up by the liquid it came from.  Makes sense.  This is intuitive.  But not so with water.  Water gets larger—less dense—when it gives up energy and freezes into ice.    So why the science lesson?   If water did not get less dense (a very abnormal behavior) when it freezes, then life as we know it may not be possible.  The mountains would not be weathered by water.  Rivers and streams and ponds would freeze from the bottom up trapping all the aquatic life on top of the ice.  Can you imagine all those wiggly and squiggly things flopping around on top of the ice until they died?  And there would be no polar ice floating around on the arctic sea.  Ocean currents would not flow as they do now, and the entire biosphere of this planet would be shaped by vastly different weather systems and even climates.   Water is special.  It is not like other substances.  There is a mystery there in that simple molecular dance. Though water is a very plain molecule, we really have only just begun to learn how it really works.   As I type this, this morning, I have watched a sunrise followed immediately by a snow storm.  This water has filled the air with trillions of individual snowflakes, all formed with the unique information of those first two molecules that grabbed hold of each other. If we could decode all the information, what would it tell us?   Would water tell the story of the creation of life?  Would it tell us the secrets of the stars?  Does water store information in it from the very formation of hydrogen at the big bang, or from the formation of oxygen as the plasma of stars ran out of fuel and collapsed into heavier elements?   Water.  It is the lifeblood of the Earth.  Without it, plants could not grow.  The mountains would not crumble into minerals that the plants use to form structure and nutrition.  If water did not adhere and cohere as it does, then plants could not pull water up from their roots to supply the leaves and flowers.  There are dozens of characteristics of water that make life possible. Dozens that govern our weather. Dozens that shape our biosphere.  And I presume that there are thousands of yet undiscovered aspects of water that shape our existence in ways we do not yet imagine.  Water is not just water.   If you want to know if you are sick, then go get a blood sample taken.  Doctors will analyze that bit of blood, and tell you what kinds of diseases you have.   If you want to know if the Earth is sick, take a sample of water.  Is it clean?  What disease does it carry?  Does the water carry life-giving information that brings health and strength to an environment, or is that water carrying the stories of poisons and toxins and the abuse of the Earth.  Interesting, isn’t it that a little rain water causes a garden to flourish.  More tap water irrigated to the same garden does not have the same effect.  Why is that?  Not all water is the same.   We need to understand water is more than we have understood.  We need to respect water as a substance that allows for life.  Water.  It cleanses.  It nurtures.  It shapes.  It informs.  It matters.   But let’s push all that aside for a moment.  When it comes to survival in the woods, we can only live a few days without water.  But more importantly, when we get dehydrated we lose energy, our performance level drops, we start losing the ability to stay warm, we can’t digest our food properly, our blood gets thick and acidic, the chances of stroke and heart attack increase markedly, and we begin to store toxins in our fat reserves and other tissues.  Nice, huh?  When it comes to wilderness survival, water REALLY matters.   Now that I have built the case for the importance of water, perhaps we will approach water differently than before.  We can now better protect and respect this life blood of the planet.  We can enjoy the mystery of water and perhaps even unlock some of the secrets of life and the creation of the universe.  And especially, when we are in the wilderness, we can understand and utilize water better.    In my next post, we will explore how to find pure water where there seems to be none.  We will talk about ways to make water clean enough to drink without causing illness.  We will introduce simple practices that keep wilderness water pure and life giving.  So check in soon for the tricks to wilderness water.        

Curt Linville

Curt Linville

 

Wilderness Survival Part 4 – Getting Found…, or Not?

There are a lot of philosophies regarding wilderness survival.  Most follow the modern orthodoxy of staying put and surviving until help can find you.  This orthodoxy is the reason why we should always tell someone where we are going and when we plan to be back before heading into the wilderness.  This simple precaution does save life and limb.  This is also the reason why many trail head signs now ask that hikers sign in and out as they enter and leave the wilderness.  These are great precautions.  After all, accidents do happen and some people over estimate their wilderness abilities or under estimate the vastness and power of nature.  Challenging situations can arise.     But I am going to part from orthodoxy just a bit.  While I strongly recommend telling someone where you are going and how long you will be gone, my approach to wilderness survival—my philosophy—mandates that people know enough about living in the wilderness that they will not need to be found.  This requires skill, experience, and plenty of knowledge about the natural world.  The more we know about nature, the more nature becomes our home and our towns, roads, and houses become the other place we go to when we can’t be at home in the wild.  So, is one lost when at home?  Is one lost when he or she has everything needed to stay safely and comfortably in the woods for weeks or even months?  Clearly, we cannot carry months’ worth of food into the woods, and we may need shelter besides the tents we lug in with us.  We may need medicines.  We will need clean water and basic tools.  All of these things are provided by nature.  All that is really needed then is the skill and knowledge to know how to live in and with nature.    The skills required to live indefinitely in the wilderness are not gained by only reading a blog or a book.  They don’t come from wishful desire to commune with nature.  These skills come from dedication and practice actually living in the woods.  But once these skills are gained, then is one ever lost in the woods?  Granted, accidents can and do happen.  But the more we understand nurturing nature, the less dangerous she becomes.    So, what does this have to do with getting found?  In brief, you likely will not need to get found if your skill set is adequate not to only deal with challenges in the wild, but to thrive in the wild.  This is no Man vs. Wild or Survivorman episode.  Rather this is an approach that will help you to avoid getting into the situations they create for those shows.  I promote humans harmonizing with nature.  If the situations get too tough, the fellows in those survivor shows either get help or hike out to their pick up location.  Show over.  Disaster averted.  You may not have those options.  A wilderness expert will need to avoid life-threatening situations when at all possible, and understand that there is no film crew or safety team to fall back on.    But what if you need to get found?    Don’t think that help will find you in time.  If the weather is harsh, the odds are not great.  You must be able to create reliable shelter to use while you wait, and even be able to do so when injured.  If you are not injured, then you likely will not need to be found anyway! Understand that natural shelters all share the same challenge of being excellent camouflage since they are made from the natural materials at hand.  They not only blend in, but they hide people effectively from search efforts. If you need to be found, then you will need to first create your shelter, and then take action to help search parties find you.     Ways to help others find you:     Place brightly colored items like clothing or a piece of tarp in open areas near your shelter where they can be seen from the air and from a great horizontal distance.  Use a sapling or a stick to make a flag. Use logs or stones to spell out a giant SOS in a meadow near your shelter. Build a fire and then create LOTS of smoke by adding wet leaves or pine needles to the fire.  Use a blanket to create “smoke signals”.  Simple puffs of interrupted smoke indicate the need for help. Make a lot of noise.  Whistles are good.  Three gun shots can be heard for miles.  Bang on a log with a large stick.  Morse code for SOS is three shorts, three longs, and three shorts (. . . - - - . . .).  And if you spell it backwards, searchers will forgive you for misspelling and still get the message!  Make noise every few minutes. Try to be in a place where you will be seen and heard.  Movement attracts attention.  Wave your flag. Use a shiny surface to reflect sunlight in the direction of help.  You can use Morse code and SOS this way too.  Reflected sunlight can be spotted for many miles in open country.  That cell phone may not have service, but it does have a shiny screen! Stay put.  If you really need to be found, then don’t wander around.  Get yourself to a prominent, open spot, make a shelter, and create plenty of signals for searchers to find. Teach these skills to your children.  Small kids especially tend to hide from searchers.  They hear yelling from strangers, and that is a fearful thing when lost and worried about getting in trouble!  Tell your kids how to get found and be sure they understand that they will not be in trouble for being found!     But prevention is the best solution.  Make wise decisions in the wilderness.  Know how to thrive with nature.  Avoid situations where you will need to be found.  The real fun is learning how NOT to be found when living in the woods.    Let me be frank.  You should not get yourself into situations you can’t get out of.  Build your skill set.  Know what you are doing.  Learn the integrity of true self-reliance.  Keep in mind that if you need to be rescued, you will be placing the safety and well-being of many others at risk.  This is selfish and short-sighted.  Don’t be nuisance.  Learn to thrive in nature and don’t be stupid.  Believe me.  You don’t want to ever NEED to be found.  But if you do, then make a reliable shelter and take steps to make the search party’s work as simple as possible.  

Curt Linville

Curt Linville

 

Wilderness Survival - Part 3.5: Snow Caves!

More on Shelter – Snow Caves 


Entire books could be written about natural shelters.  Rubbish huts, wigwams, rock shelters, lean-tos, dug outs, various log huts, thatched and grass shelters, snow caves, and on and on.  Many of these shelters take quite a lot of time to construct.  For long term living in the wilderness, these are great.  But for emergency shelters, one needs something that can be thrown together quickly in poor conditions.  These are the types of shelters we will focus on for our wilderness survival series.  Again, when it comes to survival, think small, dry, insulated and quick.
Since it is winter (or will be in four days), a discussion of snow caves seems timely.  Snow is a wonderful construction medium.  From it one can build shelters as simple as a hole in a drift through mound caves, a-frames, and igloos all the way to ice castles.  These shelters can be surprisingly warm.  But which of these work when time is limited, darkness is falling and a blizzard is moving in?  How can an overdue adventurer create a life-saving shelter in a minimum of time to get through a surprise night in the wilderness?  Most snow shelters take a lot of time to make and they are all dependent on snow conditions.
For winter adventures, one should plan to spend a minimum of a couple of hours building a snow shelter, and they often take longer than that.  But when time is minimal and shelter is critical, we need a faster solution.
Perhaps the fastest is a simple hole in a snow drift.  This solution may save your life, but it can be cramped, wet, and quite cool.  On the other extreme might be igloos which can take several hours to build, but can last for months and provide plenty of room and stability. 
The Snow Mound Cave
For a medium-fast solution, a snow mound cave may suffice.  I have spent many a winter’s night in these shelters, and have found them warm, quiet, and a little spooky.  These caves depend on snow conditions for stability and some adventurers have died when their poorly built cave collapsed and buried them in their mummy bags.  Not a nice way to go.  When snow conditions are good and there is enough time to make sure the cave is stable, then snow mound caves do provide excellent shelter.  Let’s explore this one in a little more detail.
Snow mound caves can be dug in a snow drift or in a mound piled up for this purpose.  They can only be trusted when the snow is of the right nature to consolidate.  I have had multiple caves collapse on me while under construction because the snow was either too cold and fluffy or had already morphed into sugar snow (hard ice crystals that act more like marbles than snowballs).  If you cannot easily form a quick snowball from the snow, then it will be a challenge to use for a snow mound cave.  For best success, a mound should be built out of non-sugar snow, packed thoroughly layer on layer and then allowed to sit to consolidate for at least an hour before being hollowed out.  This takes a lot of time and only works in emergencies when that time is available.  After hollowing out a cave, heating the cave on the inside and then allowing it to re-freeze will help its stability significantly.  Keep in mind that if you use a drift, you will not know how well packed the snow is.  It might sag down on you or worse during the night.  Also, drifts form in high-wind areas, which are not the best places to build any sort of shelter.



Critical components of a mound cave are:
A door a bit lower than your sleeping level.  This allows a pocket of warm air to build up above the door where you will be sleeping. An air vent the size of your arm at the peak of the cave.  This air vent will keep the air fresh and literally save your life.  People can suffocate in snow caves.  This is critical! Walls and ceiling a couple of feet thick or thicker to provide insulation and stability. Room enough to sit up, crawl around, and stretch out for sleeping A door that opens sideways to the dominant winds.  If it is pointed toward the wind, it will act like a wind tunnel and steal your heat.  If it is pointed away from the wind, it could drift completely closed and provide challenges in getting back out.  By pointing the door perpendicular to the wind (or just slightly downwind), the door should not catch the wind nor drift up. The floor of the cave must have a dry tarp or plenty of leaves or pine boughs to keep you from getting soaked by the snow floor.  You will need an insulated sleeping pad to stay warm unless you have a thick pile of leaves or limbs. I usually use a backpack to “close the door” and a candle can be really nice for light and also for heat.


Even on frigid, stormy nights, a properly built snow shelter will maintain temperatures in the 50's just from body heat alone.  This may not seem like the tropics, but it is warmer than a tent, and downright cozy with a winter sleeping bag.
After being warmed all night by body heat, your cave will support many times your body weight, and should last for weeks.     A shortcut to building a mound cave is to dig down into the snow, pile up your packs, and then cover them with about four feet of snow.  Pack the snow as you cover the packs.  Leave the mound to consolidate for an hour or so.  When you come back, dig a low door, and pull the packs out.  This will provide a head start on hollowing out the cave.
Another tip is to bring a complete change of clothes all the way down to the undies.  You will likely get quite wet from sweat and snow while digging out the cave.  Changing into dry clothes is critical for staying warm.
 The A-Frame Snow Cave
The A-frame cave offers some advantages over a mound snow cave, but it is more dependent on the right snow conditions and is not as roomy, making only enough space for one or maybe two people in the best of conditions.  Advantages include being able to build one of these caves without a shovel.  These can be built using only a stick or snow ski for cutting snow.  Also, these caves are lighter, not likely to collapse, and not seriously dangerous if they do.  This shelter is faster to build than a mound cave, and therefore better in emergencies—IF snow conditions allow for it.
To build an A-Frame Snow Shelter, start by packing down a trench of snow about twice as wide as you are and more than twice as long.  Then leave the trench to allow the snow to consolidate.  Even well stomped Champaign powder might consolidate given enough time and the right temperatures.  Warmer snows should pack nicely.  Sugar snow is nearly hopeless for attempting this type of shelter.  Once the trench is firm, cut snow blocks out of the packed floor of the trench using a stick or ski as long as the width of the trench and at least a foot thick and wide.  Once you have cut two, place them on end on opposite sides of the top of the trench and lean them together to form an “A” shaped roof.  Continue making rows of these “A”s until your roof is about a third longer than you are tall.  Then pack any holes in the blocks with plenty of snow and cap the upper end.  Cover the floor of the cave with a tarp and/or pine boughs or leaves.  Make a couple of large blocks for a door.  Be sure to have an arm-sized air hole in the peak of the roof.  The same rules about orienting the door to the wind apply. 
I have used this style of cave a few times, but have found it difficult to build if the snow is too cold to pack well.
The Tarp Trench Snow Shelter
This type of snow shelter is fast and easy to build.  It requires cordage, a tarp, and anchors to hold the tarp in place.  These shelters are warmer than a tent, but not as warm as other snow shelters, and they depend on having enough snow depth to work.  To build one of these, tie cord or rope taut between two trees a couple of feet above the snow.  Then dig a trench about ½ the width of your tarp and a bit longer than you are tall.  The trench should be about three feet deep.  Cover the trench with the tarp over the rope, and anchor the tarp edges in the snow using cord and long sticks or snow anchors.  Then shovel a significant amount of snow on the lower edges of the tarp to seal it up and hold it down.  Use snow blocks to close the head of the tarp and to make a door for the foot.  Again, line the trench with another tarp and insulating materials.
The Tarp Trench Snow shelter is more susceptible to wind noise and wind failure.  However, there is no real concern about collapse, and they can be built in minutes rather than hours.  If time is of the essence, and you have a tarp on hand (after all, it is winter and you would never head into the wilderness without a tarp in the winter, right?), then this life-saving shelter might be your best bet. 
All of these shelters depend in degree on the snow conditions.  If there is not enough snow to build a snow shelter, then opt for a rubbish hut.  In all cases, the key is to start your shelter early – before you need it.  Don’t wait until you are battling hypothermia to get started.  Build the shelter while you are still warm, then relax knowing that the night will pass safely if not comfortably.
With all of these options, choose a location that is sheltered from the wind to build, and one that has plenty of snow.
These snow caves are a lot of fun to build, and if built correctly, a lot of fun to sleep in.  Try making some without planning on spending the night and experiment with different types of designs to accommodate varying snow depths and types.  Get out there with your kids teach them these basic skills.  Nature provides.  Enjoy it!
Please comment with your own snow cave tips.  Do you have any funny snow cave anecdotes to share?





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Curt Linville

Curt Linville

Wilderness Survival - Part 3, Shelter

Once one has calmed one’s nerves and relaxed (see part 2 of this series), the next imperative for wilderness survival is shelter.  The reality is that hypothermia kills quickly.  Hypothermia in simple terms is just a cold body.  I am not talking about cool skin or a mild case of the shivers.  Hypothermia means that heat is leaving your body faster than your body can replace it.  If this goes on for very long at all, weird things start to happen.    According to Wikipedia, these are the stages of hypothermia.
  Mild   Symptoms of mild hypothermia may be vague[13] with sympathetic nervous system excitation (shivering, hypertension, tachycardia, tachypnea, and vasoconstriction). These are all physiological responses to preserve heat.[14] Cold diuresis, mental confusion, as well as hepatic dysfunction may also be present.[15] Hyperglycemia may be present, as glucose consumption by cells and insulin secretion both decrease, and tissue sensitivity to insulin may be blunted.[16] Sympathetic activation also releases glucose from the liver. In many cases, however, especially in alcoholic patients, hypoglycemia appears to be a more common presentation.[16] Hypoglycemia is also found in many hypothermic patients because hypothermia often is a result of hypoglycemia.[17]     Moderate   Low body temperature results in shivering becoming more violent. Muscle mis-coordination becomes apparent.[18][19][20] Movements are slow and labored, accompanied by a stumbling pace and mild confusion, although the victim may appear alert. Surface blood vessels contract further as the body focuses its remaining resources on keeping the vital organs warm. The victim becomes pale. Lips, ears, fingers and toes may become blue.     Severe   As the temperature decreases further physiological systems falter and heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure all decreases. This results in an expected HR in the 30s with a temperature of 28 °C (82 °F).[15] Difficulty in speaking, sluggish thinking, and amnesia start to appear; inability to use hands and stumbling is also usually present. Cellular metabolic processes shut down. Below 30 °C (86 °F), the exposed skin becomes blue and puffy, muscle coordination becomes very poor, walking becomes almost impossible, and the person exhibits incoherent/irrational behavior including terminal burrowing or even a stupor. Pulse and respiration rates decrease significantly, but fast heart rates (ventricular tachycardia, atrial fibrillation) can occur. Major organs fail. Clinical death occurs. Because of decreased cellular activity in stage 3 hypothermia, the body will actually take longer to undergo brain death.[citation needed]     Paradoxical undressing   Twenty to fifty percent of hypothermia deaths are associated with paradoxical undressing. This typically occurs during moderate to severe hypothermia, as the person becomes disoriented, confused, and combative. They may begin discarding their clothing, which, in turn, increases the rate of heat loss.[21][22] Rescuers who are trained in mountain survival techniques are taught to expect this; however, some may assume incorrectly that urban victims of hypothermia have been subjected to a sexual assault.[23] One explanation for the effect is a cold-induced malfunction of the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that regulates body temperature. Another explanation is that the muscles contracting peripheral blood vessels become exhausted (known as a loss of vasomotor tone) and relax, leading to a sudden surge of blood (and heat) to the extremities, fooling the person into feeling overheated.[23]     Terminal burrowing   An apparent self-protective behaviour known as terminal burrowing, or hide-and-die syndrome,[24] occurs in the final stages of hypothermia. The afflicted will enter small, enclosed spaces, such as underneath beds or behind wardrobes. It is often associated with paradoxical undressing.[25]

I told you it was weird.  So, first you shiver, then you get disoriented, then you stumble, your lips turn blue, you start slurring your words, and then you can’t think straight.  You start to walk like a zombie, and then you start thinking that the solution is to take off all your clothes.  Huh?  Take off your clothes because you are freezing to death.  Ugh.  Next comes the terminal burrowing.  Wait! Rewind!  Terminal burrowing?!!  How about live-saving burrowing!  That needs to start way, way back in the “I might not get to the car in time so I think I will build a shelter” phase.  This will eliminate the rest of the symptoms.   I had a friend who died outside of her half built snow cave.  Terminal burrowing.  This is no joke.  What is shelter, really?  What does it look like in the wilderness?  If people would just burrow BEFORE they are freezing to death, then they would not freeze!   The simplest shelter does not seem like shelter at all.  The first shelter is simply insulation.  The animals have fur and feathers that they fluff up to stay warm.  Being the nearly hairless human kind, we can’t fluff up our hair.  Oh we try.  That is what goose bumps are for.  But with our limited hair follicles, goose bumps don’t quite cut the bill.  We need to use our gray matter rather than our fur.  If you don’t have enough layers on (you should have planned for that with a fleece and shell in the pack), then it is time to stuff it.  Stuff your clothes with lots and lots of light, DRY, fluffy stuff.  Tuck your shirt into your pants.  Tuck your pants into your socks.  Fill up your clothes with dry fine grass, or cattail fuzz, or dry leaves, or whatever is available.  This will create a very warm cocoon for you.  But don’t stop there.  If you doubt getting to the car in time, then build a shelter early.  Right away!  Don’t wait until it is too late.    I suppose I should mention that of course, you have a nice warm sleeping bag in your pack, and the dry body heat of two people will keep them much warmer than one.  Get off the cold wet stuff, and get in that bag together.  Don't be shy.  Get rid of anything that is wet and save a life; skin to skin.  Alright guys, I know what you are thinking.  Don't get your girlfriend hypothermic just to use this solution.  You need to be a bit more suave and a little less reckless if you want the relationship to grow!   But lets assume you may not have that bag.  You might need to depend on nature to survive.  Even with the bag, how can you stay dry?  Now what?   Take the time to learn about rubbish huts, lean-to shelters, snow caves, and the like.  They all are similar in that they turn water or snow and create insulating walls.  It takes longer to make these shelters than one would think.  That is why it is imperative to start early--right after you have stuffed your clothes with lots of dry, itchy stuff.   The key is to create a dry, insulated space, and fill it with dry, light stuff, like leaves.  Crawl into that pile of leaves and pull the door closed.  One can survive and even be warm in rather crude piles of leaves and sticks in incredibly cold weather.  Just a note….  Lean-to shelters are great for warm rainy nights and not a lot else.  If it is cooler than warm, you will need a shelter that is more substantial.   We will expound more on shelters in future blogs.  But in short, think small, dry, insulating, light, and breeze-proof.  A stack of pine boughs against a log covered and stuffed with leaves will save your life.  Really.  When it is critical, don’t try to build a palace.  Make a small shelter that will stop the wind and turn the rain.  Fancier shelters can be made in the sunshine.    And the number one rule is to be DRY.  Moisture sucks away body heat.  If you are soaked, then you will have to get dry clothes, even if those clothes are just a scratchy, THICK pile of leaves.  Stay dry.  Get dry.  Nude and dry is better than wet.  Number two rule for staying warm is to drink plenty of water and eat high energy foods.  Staying warm burns a lot of fuel.  But if you don't have these at hand, get dry and sheltered and worry about the food in the morning.  The cold will get you before hunger or thirst.   Okay, okay, I can hear you asking, “What about fire?!”  I leave fire out of the survival equation.  Unless you have a shelter to catch and keep the heat from a fire, it really offers little value for staying warm.  Sure, you can roast one side while freezing the other, getting soaked to the bone, struggling to keep the fire going all night long with wet and wetter wood.  What is the point of that?  Make a shelter rather than a fire, and stay dry and insulated.  You can build a fire for fun in the morning.  Use it to signal for help or cook up a trout, but don’t depend on fire to keep you warm.    Wilderness survival:  Attitude Shelter Getting found Water Food Comfort   There is more to come as the series continues.  One unmentioned key to wilderness survival is to get out there in the woods and practice skills when the weather is fine and all is fun and games.  Build several types of shelters.  Be familiar with materials that can be used for insulation.  Be accustomed to the time it takes to build a shelter.  Learn to plan ahead and work with nature’s bounty.   Do any of you have a survival shelter idea or experience to share?  Please post a comment.  You might save a life!  

Curt Linville

Curt Linville

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