A couple of weeks ago I updated the gear in my Bug Out Bag (BOB). Expired medicines and hygiene supplies had to be replaced, my jumper was too small (thanks to my efforts at the gym), my multi-tool and knife appreciated a light resharpening and reoiling, and my non-perishable food needed to be replaced. As I checked the equipment in my backpack, I took the opportunity to review the practicality and durability of each item. I was still happy with my initial choices.
This review also included the food I had in my pack. I'd only packed protein bars, packets of trail mix, chocolate bars, and tinned food (such as baked beans, processed meat, salmon, and tuna). I know conventional wisdom emphasises the inclusion of dehydrated food, and MREs (Meals Ready to Eat), but this isn't always practical choice. "How can this be? Why would you ignore conversation wisdom?", I hear you ask.
Where I live, prepping is seen as an unhealthy obsession by many people. For some reason, people believe they will have plenty of time to prepare for an emergency when a flood or bush fire is tearing its way toward their house.
These same people have given rise to the attitude that camping is meant to include as many luxuries as possible. This philosophy does not include low-brow foods such as MREs. As such, there is no financial incentive for camping stores to stock MREs. However, they do stock dehydrated meals. Unfortunately, these become expensive bin-fillers if you don’t use them before their expiry date.
To keep my prepping costs to a minimum I restrict my emergency supplies to the same food I have in my pantry. The food in my BOB is kept fresh by regularly swapping it with newer items from my pantry (food rotation).
In addition to trail mix, protein bars and chocolate bars, the choice comes down tinned food versus dehydrated food. Logically, dehydrated food weighs a lot less than canned food, but you must also carry enough additional water to rehydrate the dehydrated food (negating any initial weight difference). You must carry this water in addition to the water you will already be carrying for drinking. If you try to use your meagre supply of drinking water for cooking, you will quickly run out of water. Contrary to what you may have seen in movies, the Australian countryside is not littered with freshwater creeks. Fresh water is not easy to find. Even if you find fresh water, unseen pollutants are a serious concern. Freshwater creeks can become temporarily polluted by flood water, or permanently polluted by human interference.
The best reason to carry canned food is it can be eaten straight from of the can, without any preparation. Dehydrated food requires cooking utensils and a fire to boil your water. You can’t guarantee you’ll find firewood along your route, so you will need to include a small pot, cutlery, a hexi-stove, and a supply of hexamine tablets in your BOB. This additional gear will take up space in your backpack, adds weight to your load, and needs to be cleaned when you’ve finished eating.
Security is a huge problem when you are away from home. If you are in a group with people who have failed to prepare, and information about your supplies become public knowledge, it is likely the group will demand that you "share" your supplies with them. Immediately. This is not a good position to be in.
Natural disaster or not, criminals still see the world in terms of predator and prey. And not just criminals. The average person can do unforgivable things if they are desperate. Be realistic; if they see you as a victim, and they have you outnumbered, there won't be a lot you can do to stop them. Especially in the absence of law enforcement.
Remember; if you carry more gear, you’ll need a bigger backpack. Be conservative when packing. There is a limit to the amount of weight you can carry. You must be able pick your BOB up from the ground and put it on your back, without any help. There are no exceptions to this rule. Also, think about how far you'll have to walk, the terrain you'll be crossing, and how many hours you'll be walking. Unless you are in the military, or an experienced hiker, it is unlikely you are used to this sort of activity. You will struggle if your backpack weighs more than 10-15% of your body weight.
If you have lapsed in your preparations, now is the time to correct that oversight. For the same amount of time it takes to watch a movie, you can organise and pack your Bug Out Bag. Trust me; you’ll sleep a lot easier at night knowing you have done your best to prepare for disaster. As a child, I grew up hearing the expression “Failure to prepare is preparing to fail”.
By this Sunday I hope your Bug Out Bag will be up to date and stored in an easily accessible place. As always, please share this information with your friends and family on social media.
Knives are tools. Yes, they can be used as weapons, but their primary function is to be used as a tool. Owning them doesn’t make you a monster, or mean you’ll go on a killing spree (but I don’t recommend carrying them in public; and I’m sure your local law enforcement agency would agree with me). Owning good quality knives is an essential part of life. Think about the knives you own and have owned over the years. A good quality knife should serve you for many years. How many knives have you thrown away (or put into permanent storage) because they couldn’t do the job you bought them for? A cheap or poor-quality knife is a waste of money.
A good quality knife is an essential tool for the outdoors. In a survival situation, having a knife can get you out of a lot of trouble. There are two categories of knives: Fixed Blade and Folding Blade. A folding blade (ie: pocket knife) is a compact tool that fits into your pocket. It is good for lightweight, basic jobs, but the section where the blade folds is weak, and can break if you apply too much downward pressure on the blade. A fixed blade is the best choice for heavy duty cutting, and general-purpose field work.
The length of your knife is very important. This breaks down into three categories: the overall length (from the tip of the blade to the pommel/butt), the length of the blade, and the length of the handle. A knife that is too big to store in your pack, or comfortably carry on your belt, is no good to you. I know people who won’t use a knife that is less than 14-16 inches in length. I know others who won’t use anything bigger than a fruit knife. I prefer something in-between. I’ve found a knife with an overall length of 12 inches works well in most situations.
Anatomy of a Knife
1. The Tip/Point: A knife with a rounded tip has no capacity to penetrate the material you are working with (such as gutting a fish). But; a pointy tip will snap if it is subjected to too much pressure. You should select the tip based on the type of work you will be doing with your knife. There are many different types of tip available; most of them are designed for specific purposes. I could write a whole blog on that subject alone. But, you’re not here for a lecture on minute details. From a practical stand-point, the three different tips I prefer to use are the Clip Point (as pictured above), Straight Back (like a cook’s knife), and the Drop Point (like the large blade in a standard pocket knife). These three tips are similar in design, and are the most suited to all-round field work.
2. The Back/Spine: The unsharpened edge of the blade.
3. Edge: The edge does most of the work. Blades can be smooth or serrated. I prefer using a smooth edge, because it is less likely to get lodged in material such as wood (while making tent pegs).
4. Guard: This stops your hand from slipping down the handle, and onto the blade. Not all knives have a guard. I do not like using knives that don’t have a guard. Accidents do happen. Surgery and physiotherapy aren’t as fun as they sound.
5. Handle: First and foremost, the knife has to sit properly in your hand. You won’t be able to work for very long with a knife if the handle is too big or too small for your hand. The handle needs to be made from a non-slip material that won’t rub and cause blisters. Blisters reduce your capacity to work, and can get infected. You don’t need me to tell you the sorts of problems this can lead to out in the field.
6. Pommel/Butt: Can be used as a hammer for minor hammering tasks (but only as a last resort. I do not recommend doing this, as it can damage your knife).
7. Tang (this knife has one, but it is not able to be seen in this photo): A good quality knife is made from a single piece of metal that extends from the tip of the blade, to the butt/pommel (you can clearly see the tang in many good quality chef’s knives). If you apply pressure to a knife while cutting, it is the tang, not the cosmetic outer layer of the handle that takes the pressure of the load. Half tang knives have a tang that only goes halfway into the handle. A half tang knife is likely to split or break the handle if too much downward force is applied while cutting (such as whittling wood). You don’t require much imagination to understand the fragility of hollow handled survival knives. Their blade is bolted onto the end of a thin, plastic tube that serves as the handle. (I received one as a teenager; it didn’t last very long). Experience has taught me never purchase a fixed blade knife without a full tang.
Knife blades can be made from a variety of different materials; but carbon steel and stainless steel are the most common. Both of these metals are suitable choices for field work.
Before heading out to your local camping goods store I advise you to sit down and make a list of the things you expect to be doing with your knife. Under no circumstances should you go to the store and expect the shop assistant to make your decisions for you. People with a sound knowledge of knives aren’t very common. A disinterested shop assistant will sell you whatever they are standing closest to, or stock they have been told to get rid of by management (ie: “the latest in-store promotion, for today only”). A dishonest shop assistant will sell you any piece of crap they can’t trick anyone else into buying.
Price isn’t always an indicator of quality, but I can guarantee you a $5 knife isn’t what you’re looking for. In Australia, you can expect to spend $120-150 on a good quality knife; but think twice before spending any more than this. A larger price tag doesn’t mean the knife will be any better quality, (the store just has a higher mark-up price on their stock).
This blog is only an introduction to the subject, and I strongly encourage you to do some research so you can find a brand and model that will suit your requirements. I hope I have reduced some of the anxiety you might have had about selecting a suitable knife for your kit.
Knowledge is only useful if it is shared. I’ve shared my knowledge with you, so now it’s up to you to share it with your friends and family on your social media page.
Yes, you read that correctly; Mexican Lasagne. They say necessity is the mother of invention, and this story certainly qualifies.
Many years ago, we used to have friends over once a week for dinner. A select number of recipes formed the regular rotation of dishes we enjoyed. One night, our friends decided to break with tradition, announcing they would bring dinner to us. Ninety minutes after placing their order at the Mexican restaurant they arrived at our place with four take-away containers of Mexican lasagne. As we peeled the lids from our meals, their pride turned to raw fury. Instead of some exotic lasagne dish, each container contained a scoop of ‘brown’, a scoop of ‘green’, a scoop of sour cream, a half dozen corn chips, and a scattering of yellow rice. To add insult to injury, top dollar was paid for these questionable culinary delights.
Over the years I’ve known some interesting characters with colourful vocabularies, but they couldn’t hold a candle to the unstoppable tirade. Most of the conversation that followed implied the restaurateurs were born out of wedlock, and should perform sordid acts on themselves that would require the talents of a double-jointed contortionist. To avert World War 3 (or an expletive riddled phone call that would probably result in a visit from the local constabulary), I asked everyone to calm down, promising that this fiasco could be turned around. When asked how, I told them next week they would dine on Mexican lasagne, and they would love it. At the end of the night as I bid our guests farewell, I realised the clock was ticking, I had one week to make good on my promise.
And make good I did. Mexican lasagne is a dish that is enjoyed regularly in our house.
- Minced beef 750g
- Onion: diced x 2
- Taco seasoning – 35g packet
- Cheese – grated
- Sour cream 250g
- Tomato salsa: chunky – 375g jar
- Tortilla wraps: jumbo – 450g packet
- Corn Chips – 1 packet
- Olive oil
- Preheat oven to 180° C.
- Grease a deep ovenproof dish with butter (not cooking spray, it tastes awful).
- Cut tortilla wraps to size (these replace lasagne sheets).
- Heat olive oil in frying pan.
- Brown onion in frying pan, place into bowl.
- Brown mince in frying pan.
- Mix onion and taco seasoning through mince. (Add water as needed, to allow seasoning to mix evenly through mince).
- Remove frying pan from heat.
- Layer ingredients into oven dish: tortilla sheets, mince, salsa, grated cheese, and sour cream. Repeat until you run out of ingredients or space in the dish.
- Spread sour cream on top of the final layer, then cover with shredded cheese and crushed corn chips.
- Cook in oven for 45 minutes.
- Allow to stand for 5 minutes before serving.
Are you looking for a new dish to add to your menu plan? Why not try Mexican lasagne? Go on, you know you want to.
As always, please share this blog with your friends and family on your social media page. Recipes are only useful if they are used, and shared.