Thursday 05/10/17

As we all know, duct tape is an essential item in every toolbox and Bug Out Bag. You can use it for everything from strapping a broken shoe together through to repairing holes in tents. If you’re desperate, you can use it to splint a broken leg (but only over jeans. I really don’t recommend sticking this stuff on your skin if you have hairy legs). Having said that, in a dire emergency where a first-aid kit cannot be located, duct tape can hold gauze padding or some other absorbent pad onto a wound.

If you don’t have a roll of duct tape in your Bug Out Bag, you need to remedy this ASAP. Add this to your list of things to do this weekend. Think of it as insurance. You probably won’t use any in your day-to day life, but you’ll be glad you own a roll when things go wrong (usually at night, and in the rain).

Good quality duct tape can be torn from the roll. The cheap rubbish stretches, usually rendering that piece unable to be used. This will quickly become a problem in an emergency if you don’t have a pair of scissors or a knife with you (think of this as a timely reminder – you get what you pay for). When applying the tape, you will get the best results if the surfaces being repaired are clean and dry. Unfortunately, this isn’t always possible, especially if you’re making repairs during a storm. You’ll just have to do your best.

Duct tape or gaffer tape; which one is right for you? I have a personal preference for gaffer tape, but other people swear by duct tape. It comes down to what task you intend to use it for. If you can’t decide, or your expected range of requirements is wide, buy a roll of each and experiment. Learn by trial-and-error.

Duct Tape


  • Waterproof and weatherproof.
  • Has a shiny surface, making the repairs easier to see by torchlight.


  • The adhesive is very susceptible to heat.
  • The tape difficult to remove after it is applied (it will pull paint from painted surfaces).
  • It leaves a lot of sticky residue behind when it is removed (which requires a lot of work to successfully clean off).

Gaffer Tape


  • Resilient to heat (including direct exposure to sunlight).
  • It is easy to remove when it is no longer required.
  • It doesn’t leave (much) sticky residue.


  • Water resistant (not waterproof).
  • More expensive than duct tape.

As an example of exposure to sunlight, have a look at the two photos below. Both samples were applied at the same time and subjected to identical environmental conditions (these repairs were made to a waterproof canvas advertising display). After several hours of exposure to the sun, the heat caused the adhesive of the duct tape to soften, causing the repair to fail and allowed the tape to contract and stick to itself. The gaffer tape was not affected by exposure to sunlight. Even after a week of exposure to the sun, the gaffer tape remained unaffected by environmental conditions. Both rolls of tape were made by reputable manufacturers.

duct  gaffer

Nowadays, I am far more conscious about environmental factors and length of time the repair is expected to last when choosing which tape to use. Hopefully, you will be too. If you found the information in tonight’s blog useful, please share it with your friends and family on social media.

Thursday 07/09/17

If you rely on public transport, the only things you have to worry about are remembering the timetable, and having a valid ticket. Occasionally, you may have to deal with snap-strikes by transport workers. However, if you rely on a motor vehicle to get around, your responsibilities and concerns are a little more detailed. Before commencing any journey, you need to make sure you have sufficient petrol in your tank to complete your journey (or at least make it as far as the nearest petrol station), and making sure your tyres are properly inflated.

Beyond the obvious, there are a few other essential you must attend to, which will reduce potential problems on the road.

  • Auto club membership: in Australia, $110 per year.
  • Jerrycan 20 litre: If a 20 litre can is too heavy for you to safely lift and accurately pour, purchase 2 x 10 litre cans.
  • Funnel: Makes pouring petrol into your fuel tank a lot easier.
  • Basic toolkit: A very basic kit costs around $100.
  • Spare tyre: This needs to be regularly inspected to ensure it is inflated, and never removed from your car (i.e. to make room for more luggage).
  • Jack: To be examined at regular intervals to make sure it is in good working order.
  • LED torch: A headlamp will keep both of your hands free.
  • Spare charging cable for your current mobile phone (this cord permanently lives in your glovebox). Your phone is useless if the battery is flat.

I’ll be blunt. If you can’t afford to purchase the items in the above list, you can’t afford to be on the road. Be honest with yourself; if you can afford to go out drinking with your mates, you can afford to buy the items on this list. If you doubt the value of any of these items, think of them as insurance. If your car breaks down, every one of these items will help you resume your journey. A new sound system, or personalised number plates, will not.

Many years ago, I had the misfortune of traveling in a gas-guzzler that ran out of petrol on the Pacific Highway, halfway between Sydney and Newcastle….. at sunset. This situation was completely avoidable; if only the driver had listened to the repeated requests to fill up at any of the numerous petrol stations we’d passed on the way out of the city. I had a mobile phone we could use to call for help; but he wasn't a member of the auto club. Nor did he own a jerrycan. It is safe to assume I was not impressed.

If you have to buy a gift for an irresponsible younger sibling or friend, this list provides great gift ideas for all budgets (and far better options for an 18th or 21st birthday present than video games, or bottles of alcohol).

If you found the information in tonight’s blog useful, please share it with your friends and family on social media. The better prepared you are, the safer you’ll be on the road.

Thursday 03/08/17

Sleeping bags are an important item to take with you when you travel. Strictly speaking, they aren’t essential (yes, you can live without one), but they do make sleeping outdoors a lot more comfortable. The market is flooded with so many different types, styles and materials, selecting the right one can be daunting if you don’t know where to begin.

I’ll start with the obvious; sleeping bags aren’t cheap. If you regularly enjoy the great outdoors, you will have many opportunities to make use of your sleeping bag, giving you excellent value for money. If you aren’t a camper, or are only purchasing one to supplement your Bug Out Bag (BOB), you might baulk at the price of a good quality sleeping bag.

To a degree, price will influence your selection, but it should not be your only criteria. Think of your sleeping bag as disaster insurance. If you have to leave your home, do you really want to be exposed to the elements while you sleep? No? Me neither. In Australia, you can expect to spend $100 to $200 on a decent sleeping bag. If you read through the catalogues that clutter your mailbox every week, or regularly check on-line, you should be able to save money by purchasing a good quality sleeping bag while it is on sale.

There are a number of factors to consider when selecting your sleeping bag.

  • Price: Set a budget. I am fairly confident you don’t need a $500 sleeping bag.
  • Material: Your sleeping bag must have a breathable lining, and a water resistant outer layer. Sleeping bags in transit have a horrible tendency to absorb any liquid they accidentally touch; providing you with a cold, wet, uncomfortable night’s sleep.
  • Temperature rating: Sleeping bags are rated from arctic through to tropical. You need to consider the climate of the area you will be sleeping in. A bag that is retains too much heat will be impossible to sleep in. But a bag with too little insulation will not keep you warm; you will shiver until sunrise (travel light, freeze all night, as the adults used to say). If you live in a subtropical area like I do, think carefully before purchasing a sleeping bag rated for arctic conditions.
  • Size: You need to be able to fit into the sleeping bag and zip it shut. Take the measurement around the largest part of your body (chest + shoulders + arms, or hips), and add a few inches. This is the smallest size sleeping bag you are permitted to buy. Anything smaller will fit like a sausage skin, or won’t zip up at all. A small sleeping bag is a useless sleeping bag. I am, and have always been, very broad across the chest and shoulders. In my youth I believed the advice of a lazy and unscrupulous sales assistant who told me all sleeping bags were the same size, and were designed to fit all adults. Unfortunately, when I took the sleeping bag on my next camping trip, it was a complete disaster. I could only do it up if my arms weren’t inside. Lesson learned.
  • Method of carry: Your sleeping bag needs some way of attaching to your backpack. During an evacuation, you need both hands free to work. Also, there is a risk you may put your sleeping bag down to do something then forget to pick it up again before you leave. Time consuming to backtrack and retrieve. Too expensive to leave behind.
  • Shape: This is a personal preference. Some people love the mummy shaped sleeping bags, but I am not one of them. I prefer the traditional rectangle shape. These allow freedom of movement while you sleep, and provide somewhere to stash small valuables.
  • Hoods: Some people like them, some don’t. I like them because they can be stuffed with a jumper and tied shut, turning them into a pillow.
  • Weight: As with all you gear, the physical weight of this item is an important consideration. Most sleeping bags weigh between 750 grams to 2 kilograms. Choose wisely; kilos are killers.

Just like any piece of equipment, you need to do your research before heading off to the camping store to part with your hard-earned cash. Make a list of your specific requirements, go on-line to find the brand and model that meets your needs, then find a local store that sells that particular sleeping bag. Never settle for “only what you see on the shelf”. If your local camping store doesn’t sell the item you are looking for, or won’t order it in for you, there are ­plenty of on-line stores that will cater to your needs. As I stated in the beginning; there are a plethora of different styles and types of sleeping bags available, hopefully this has made selecting the right one a little easier for you.

Knowledge is only useful if it is shared. Please share your newfound knowledge with your friends and family on your social media page.