This document also at:
First I want to say
I thought I would share some ideas I have collected from the web and from personal experience. The power goes out here a couple times a year. Usually it is on within 12 hours, but there were times when I could go 5 nights without power, and almost always it was during cold weather (like ice storms).
- I think it's a good idea to be prepared (it's one of the cub scout mottos I think)
- I'm not a "survivalist", an anarchist, or subscribe to The End Of The World As We Know It (TEOTWAWKI)
- I'm not a gun nut
- I'm not a knife knut
This guide is intended to give you pointers on how to prepare for emergencies. It's better to be prepared than not. Here in Michigan we periodically have power outages, even in the big cities like Grand Rapids (where I live). Just Friday (April 2003) we had a bad ice storm and the power was out for 48 hours. Temps got to 19F at night. I only had a gas fireplace to keep the whole house warm and keep the pipes from freezing.
- Heating and cooking
- Power and other utilities
- What to pack
- Reviews of products
- Local Kent County, MI resources
- Most useful camping items
WaterYou can only live without water for 7 days. I haven't seen any articles about how long you can be conscious, or walking around, or doing things for yourself, so this 7 days is probably a moot point. (Actually, some people say you should not go without water for more than 3-4 days.) You lose 2-3 quarts of water per day from body functions, and sweating. You need to drink a minimum of 2 quarts of water or liquids per day.
First, a note about water containers. You should ALWAYS designate one container for "dirty" unfiltered water, and another for "clean" filtered water. NEVER get dirty water inside a clean water container or from then on consider it a "dirty" container, and it must be decontaminated. Pathogens that can make you very sick can be in the tiny droplets of water left behind after you rinse a "clean" container which accidentally contained "dirty" water. Don't take the chance. Wash out the now dirty container with a bleach solution.
Get a 1 micron or smaller water filter to filter your own water from melted snow or a stream. Or store water for your family. A person needs a minimum of 2 quarts of water per day just for drinking. The best filters are NOT the pump kind. Think, if you're starving and you need to pump water for 20 minutes just to get a quart, it is not fun. (I've been there.) Get a gravity fed water filter, where the dirty water feeds down from the top, through a filter, into another container. That way, you dump water in the top, and go off and do other things while it filters itself. The better filters cost from $100-$300 and can filter 10,000-26,000 gallons of water before needing a new filter. (That's pretty cheap water!)
First, prefilter your water to get out the large junks of junk by passing it through a (clean) sock, nylon poncho, or coffee filter. This will greatly lengthen the life of your filter.
Some filters just filter out bacteria down to 1 micron (or whatever size your filter is). Others use iodine or some other technique of killing viruses and other smaller organisms. These are better filters. However, they will not filter out or neutralize chemically polluted water. This means you have to have a clean water source (not polluted with industrial chemicals) in the first place. Find one, or use fresh snow in the winter. Some filters last for 100 gallons, others last for 1000 gallons. Look at how long they last, and how much they cost. I.e. how much does it cost to filter one gallon of water?
Ex: a filter alone costs $50 and filters 500 gallons of water. So it costs $.10 to filter a gallon of water. Also, some filters will last much longer if they are cleanable. Some are not cleanable. Example 2: a Berkefeld filter costs $200 but filters 10,000 gallons of water. That's $.02 per gallon. Very cheap for gravity filtered water!
Another way to purify water is to bring it to a boil and boil for 10 minutes. This will kill bacteria and viruses, but it will not get rid of chemical contaminents. Pressure cookers can be used to speed the boiling process. Solar cookers can be used but these are only useful in sunny seasons or sunny climates. One solar cooker utilized black tubing with an automotive radiator valve at the "clean" end. The valve opened when the water was hot enough, and closed when cooler water got near the valve. (http://www.accessone.com/~sbcn/solarwat.htm, link seems dead now)
Yet another way is to use iodine tablets found in camping stores. 1 tablet will purify 1 quart of water usually. But this leaves a bad taste in the water.
UV Light. High doses of ultraviolet light energy at a wavelength of 254 nanometers destroys pathogenic microbes by disabling their reproductive process. Without the ability to reproduce, the microbe is harmless and considered dead. "Party" UV lights can be bought at larger general stores, but I don't know the wavelength of the light. (NOTE: "party" or blacklight lamps do not disable the germs because they do not use the correct wavelength. You must buy special lamps. These are also called "germicidal" UV lamps. Try hospital or barber shop supply houses.)
An activated charcoal filter can kill the bacteria, but not the spores (like Giardia) and not viruses. Activated charcoal can be bought at pet stores, if they sell fish supplies.
Bleach. To store water, add 5-8 drops of chlorine bleach per gallon of water. Use a container where the sun won't get in.
The treated water should be mixed thoroughly and allowed to stand for 30 minutes. The water should have a slight chlorine odor if it is ok to drink. If not, repeat the dosage and allow the water to stand for an additional 15 minutes. If the treated water has too strong a chlorine taste, it can be made more pleasing by allowing the water to stand exposed to the air for a few hours or by transferring it from one clean container to another several times.
Available Chlorine Drops per gallon of clear water 1% chlorine in bleach... 40 drops per gallon. 4 to 6% chlorine in bleach... 8 drops per gallon. 7 to 10% chlorine in bleach... 4 drops per gallon.
Granular Calcium Hypochlorite (chlorine treatment for pools). Add and dissolve one heaping teaspoon of high-test granular calcium hypochlorite (approximately 1/4 ounce) for each 2 gallons of water. The mixture will produce a stock chlorine solution of approximately 500 mg/L, since the calcium hypochlorite has an available chlorine equal to 70 percent of it's weight. To disinfect the water, add the chlorine solution in the ratio of one part of chlorine solution to each 100 parts of water to be treated. This is roughly equal to adding 1 pint (16 oz.) of stock chlorine to each 12.5 gallons of water to be disinfected. To remove any objectionable chlorine odor, aerate the water by transferring it from one clean container to another several times.
Chlorine Tablets. Chlorine Tablets containing the necessary dosage for drinking water disinfection can be purchased in a commercially prepared form. These tablets are available from drug and sporting goods stores and should be used as stated in the directions. When instructions are not available, use one tablet for each quart of water to be purified.
Prefiltering water. Be sure to prefilter your water before putting it through the water filter. This means using a fine mesh or cloth to filter out debris and sand. Then let the prefiltered water go through your good filter. This will make the good filter last longer and increase times between cleaning it. Items you can use for prefilters: nylon stockings, densly woven cotten cloth (tshirt or sweatshirt), coffee filter in a funnel.
Be careful of straw or bottle type water purifies. Make sure they say they kill or filter bacteria and virii. Some only take chlorine out of the water and do nothing for the bacteria.
For other drinkable water sources in your home in an emergency:
- Check your water heater. It has a spigot at the bottom. Attach a hose there and direct the water into a clean bucket.
- Also check your well tank (if you don't have city water). It should have a spigot at the bottom also. Some tanks are in the house, but some are outside in a pit. The ones outside are mostly older ones.
- You can also drain your house from the main line. Usually this is in the basement, near the water meter there is another spigot. Get your buckets ready! Put them under the spigot, open a spigot at the top floor of the house, and let 'er rip!
Transpiration. Trees and other plants naturally give off water vapor as part of their process of photosynthesis. By tying a clear or translucent plastic bag around a bunch of branches, you can trap and condense the water vapor. Tie off the open end on the branch, and make a low spot using a 1/2 inch rock placed inside the bag. Cut a slit in the bottom of the low spot, then tie with string, or rubber band, or twist tie. Open the bag and drink when you want to.
One article says that rainwater collected for drinking should not be collected from roofs with asphalt shingles or lead flashing. I suppose you could filter it and it would be fine to drink.
How will you store water? You can buy 5 gallon containers, or use lots of clean milk jugs. Water only stores this way for about 1 year, then you have to use it up. Will you have to lock it up from greedy or lazy neighbors who didn't prepare? Will you need to build a lockable storage area? Will you need to buy latches, locks? Water weighs 8.5 pounds per gallon in case you want to store some in your attic. Then just run a hose down to your kitchen area and you have a gravity fed water supply. Check with local building inspectors or builders to find out where in your attic the strongest point is, and how much water you can store up there! A general rule is, generally outside walls are load-bearing and are more sturdy, inside walls are not meant to bear loads of weight above them.
Sources of water filters
- H2Ofilters.com - Berkefeld gravity filter for only $99!
- http://www.jamesfilter.com/ - The Berkefeld for $129. And FREE SHIPPING on others!
- Google search for "Berkefeld water filter" -
- http://www.911water.com/bs_01_bb.html - Berkefeld water filters for $259+$10.
- Envirotech - stainless "Berkey" for $199.
- BA Products - gravity filters and more.
- Major Surplus and Survival - they have a Katadyn gravity filter for $275US. Go to Products page, then scroll down past Disaster Preparedness. Now has a Gravidyn for $75.
- Davnor - sells Biosand water filter for $150 CAN. Filters out bacteria, viruses, odors. Suitable for cottage use. Uses "slow sand" system, no moving parts, no chemicals. Filters 1/2 quart per minute, gravity fed. Phone: 403-219-3363.
- Nerox - has two .4 micron gravity filters which removes heavy metals and pesticides as well as bacteria and virii. No price available.
- REI - has pump filters. No gravity fed filters. Phone: 800-426-4840
- Sportsman's Guide - used to have a gravity fed water filter. I don't know if they still do.
- Steri-pen - sterilizes water in 30 seconds using UV light and is powered by batteries. Due in 1st quarter, 1999. No price yet. Phone: 207-374-5800
- Watertanks.com - 5 gal tank $4.65, spout but no spigot. 55 gal drum $37.90 ea.
- St. Paul Mercantile - solar powered stuff, water filters (including Berkefeld for $189), kerosene powered stuff, propane heaters for indoors, etc. I recommend this site for their great selection. WOW! A mini-Berkey for $79. Look under "Travel Water Filters" section. It uses the same Doulton ceramic filters as the big Berkeys.
Flushing toiletsThis is all fine for drinking water, but what if you have a power outage at home, how do you flush the toilets? In cities, water pressure is maintained by large water towers, but these are filled by electric pumps. When the pumps stop, eventually the pressure in these will run out. But in a city you will still have water pressure from the towers for 1-3 days, depending on usage. In rural areas, water pumps are run by electricity, so they are useless as soon as the power goes out.
If you know about a storm coming, fill up your bathtubs with water and put a 5 gal bucket in the room with the toilet. The bath water can be put into the bucket to flush a toilet. You will need 3-4 gallons to flush a typical US toilet. In the winter, get two 5gal buckets filled with snow and put them in the bathroom. The snow will eventually melt, and you can use one, then while the first is filled with snow, the 2nd can be used later. Try to conserve water and only flush if someone goes "#2".
In the summer you can catch rainwater from the roof (from gutters if you have them) or get water from a stream or lake. You will not be drinking this water so it will be fine for flushing.
Note: water is heavy, 9 pounds per gallon, so a full 5 gal bucket weighs 45 lbs. Only the big people will be able to haul this amount of weight. So be nice to the big, meaty people! They always get stuck with the hard work.
FoodA person can survive without food for about 2 weeks. Again, the info I've read didn't mention how long they would be conscious, walking about, or caring for themselves without food. Getting a supply of canned food is a good idea. Dried food is good too so get a good food dehydrator, perhaps 2. Use one for a backup. (NOTE: they usually use electricity and will be useless without it.) Dried food found at camping stores is very expensive ($3-10 for one meal for one person) so making your own dried food is a good alternative. Store dried food in heavy (freezer type) plastic bags, not the flimsy sandwich bags.
Food suggestions. Stock up on already dried foods like rice, pasta, raisins, dates, instant mashed potatoes and other dried foods. Food dryers work well -- if you have electricity. But they take 24-72 hours to dry one batch of food.
How will you cook your food or boil water if the electricity goes out? Do you have a gas stove and enough gas? Propane is easiest to use. "White gas" stoves can be difficult to start, especially outside on windy days.
Identifying wild food. Here is that general rule for identifying berries: red is usually ok, black/blue = maybe ok, white = POISONOUS, don't eat. Don't eat wintergreen berries, which are small round red berries on the ground found in the late fall and early winter. The leaves of the plant, about 1-2 inches high, smell like wintergreen when broken. Avoid all fungi and mushrooms, it is EXTREMELY hard to identify the edible ones. Do not eat fish or water animals (crayfish, mollusks) as they concentrate pollutants in their tissues.
If you are desperate, insects, grubs and worms are edible, except for spiders and other poisonous insects (fire ants, wasps, bees, etc.).
Again, is your family strong enough to survive rationing? Or will they break into food when you're not looking? Will you need to lock it up? I recommend storing 2 weeks of food per person.
Heating and cookingIf you lose power and possibly other utilities, it could be cold here for those in the northern hemisphere, like the US. And that means you need heat. Here are some ideas for making heat, and making your own stoves and heating devices. As with any device which burns a substance, it will generate fumes harmful to you. Be sure to vent these fumes outside somehow. My propane heater recommends 24 square inches of a vent opening to the outside, for example. These ideas are in no particular order, but I prefer heating with propane. I think it has fewer risks associated with the benefits and cost.
Ideas for tinder for building a fire.
- Frayed cotton material
- Milkweed fluff.
- Cotton ball or Q-tip (cotton swab) plain or with vaseline or wax.
- Tampons. Tampons are usually made out of cotton which is packed densly. The UK military puts one in every survival kit for USAF and special forces .
- Frayed wood stick. Use a knife to shave off thin shavings.
- Dried pine needles work great, because they are full of flammable pitch (sap).
- Dried moss or lichen (works great).
- Paper or cardboard. From anything, like newspaper, cartons, wrappers, labels, junk mail, books, etc.
- Pine bark (again, has flammable pitch) or any dry bark, like the papery birch.
- Dried leaves or grasses.
- Drier lint.
- Joke birthday candles that don't blow out. (Thanks Ranger Rick!)
Finding fuel for a fire. The better fuel to use for a fire is hardwood: oak, maple, birch, ash, walnut. But softwoods will also work: pine, cedar, spruce.
Starting a fire. You can start a fire with matches, a regular lighter with fuel. If you do not have fuel in the lighter, fray out some cotton ball, place it next to the flint, and spark away. When the cotton is lit, place it carefully under some tinder.
Waterproofing matches. To effectively waterproof matches, you must coat the whole stick with wax. You see, with waterproof matches where only the head is coated, when you strike the match, the head burns in about 2 seconds, then the fire goes out when it hits the wet wood. You can dip the whole match in wax once, twice for the head, to waterproof them. When using the match, hold the head level or pointing down so hot wax does not drip on your hands, or use pliers to hold it.
Flammable agents to help get a fire started.
- Hand sanitizer. It's a gel made from alcohol, it will burn slow and steady, just right for starting a fire.
- Gasoline (WARNING! gasoline does not burn REALLY fast, it EXLODES! Use with extreme caution! Use the longest possible match, and keep your body as far away from the gas as possible. Only use small amounts of gas at a time.)
- Wax. Can be from crayons, wax paper, or waxed candy wrappers, like Tootsie rolls.
- Olive oil (will start slowly so it takes patience)
- Hair spray
- Steel wool (yes really). You can use a match to start this or 2 wires connected to a 9v battery. Put one wire at one end of the steel wool, and another at the other end. The wool will immediately glow red and catch on fire. Make sure wool is below kindling when you do this. A 9v battery works well for this but auto batteries will also work.
- Road flare. This will run for 20-30 minutes, but once it's done, it's done.
- Propane or butane torch.
- Short candle. This will burn a while and help get the fire started. Place it under the kindling, then remove when the fire has started, so you can use it again.
- Acetone (nail polish remover).
See also these links:
- Pop can alcohol stove returns! These alcohol stoves burn quite cleanly, though they are not perfect. Use methanol or denatured alcohol in these stores. Do not use anything else. Search for more alcohol stoves on Yahoo here. Use denatured alcohol or methanol (bought at a hardware store as a solvent for shellac, also called HEET in automotive section). Rubbing alcohol that is >=91% can work in a pinch. Anything less is not worth it. Notes on this here. More alcohol stoves follow.
I could not get my pop can stove to work, even after I used rubbing alcohol (70% isopropyl) and methanol, which I bought from a paint store.
- Shane Graber's stove
- From a tunacan
- Another version here.
- http://www.geocities.com/Yosemite/3481/ - a coke can stove with wire stand.
- Another one here
- The Ron Fallingwater Stove - this is just links to other alcohol and solid fuel stoves you can make yourself.
- More links to homemade stoves - this is an archive with local copies of directions. Some of the links at fallingwater.com no longer work. I recommend this site instead.
- See also Alpaca kerosene cookstove.
- Making tunacan firestarters/stoves. You can take an empty tuna can, cut a length of corrugated cardboard the same height as the tuna can. Roll the cardboard up and put it in the tuna can. Make a wick by cutting a strip of cardboard about 1/2 inch by 3 inches. Place in the center of the tuna can with the cardboard. Fill the can with paraffin (wax). The wick makes this easier to light. These can be used to cook on but leave a nasty black soot on your pans. Caution: makes lots of soot when it burns.
- Along the same idea, mix sawdust with paraffin. Shape into small blocks, like in an ice cube tray, and let cool.
- Some people swear by the dried inner bark of the willow tree. Peel off the crusty outer bark of a willow. Use a knife to cut a rectangle around the tree in the inner bark. Dry this bark by hanging in a dry place. To use, cut a strip, roll it, and light it under kindling.
- Buy a kerosene heater. (Caution! Only a few kerosene heaters are made for indoors. Read the ad carefully!) Easy to start, but don't tip it over. You could have a mess, or a fire. Some people say kerosene heaters are safe to use indoors, some say you must crack open a window. Actually these are the only non-electric heaters rated for indoor use. They are actually your best bet. Kerosene heaters and stoves can be found at the following sites:
- Manning Service Inc.
- http://www.stpaulmercantile.com/ - solar powered stuff, water filters (including Berkefeld for $189), kerosene powered stuff, propane heaters for indoors, etc. I recommend this site for their great selection.
Here, the state of Maine issues a CO warning which includes kerosene heaters.
Some models of indoor kerosene heaters:
- Sengoku/Heat Mate: 1.9gal capacity, 12 hour run time, easy on electric start, model HMHC2230, heats 900 sq. ft.
- Sengoku/Heat Mate No. HMHR1101 & RF1140. 12 hour run time, heats 400 sq ft.
- Buy a propane heater that you can hook up to your BBQ propane tank. I got one that generates 30,000 BTUs (a measure of heat) for $36. It will heat for about 9-10 hours on a 20lb propane tank. My garage is about 35 x 35 feet, about 10 feet high. That's 12,250 cubic feet of air to be heated. It takes a good half hour to heat it from 30 degrees F to about 60 F using the High setting. So it would seem this heater would heat a 10 x 10' room (8 feet high) easily. And would take a little longer to heat a 20' x 20' room. I got mine at a chain home supply store. (This can be a problem. You should not use it indoors or in an unventilated room as it creates harmful gasses. Crack open a door or window to vent gasses. The vent opening size should be 12-24 square inches.)
- Use a fireplace, if you have one. Note: you cannot burn wood in gas fireplaces. They are not vented properly to let the smoke out. And they will build up creosote, which could catch on fire.
- Buy a propane camping stove. These are economical, and work even better if you buy an adaptor to hook it up to your 20lb BBQ propane tank. They heat fast and propane is relatively inexpensive. Here is an example commercial propane heater for homes.
- Charcoal grills are also useful. Get extra charcoal and lighter fluid. Again, do not use indoors because they create harmful fumes and gasses.
- Do not use white gas stoves indoors, like the Coleman Gas Stove. It makes nasty smelling vapors plus carbon monoxide, which is odorless.
- Have sleeping bags for each person in your house, plus one extra. Also have extra blankets on hand. Don't sleep on the floor if you can avoid it, it tends to be cooler there. Sleep on a couch or cot instead. If necessary, wear a hat and/or socks to bed. Most of your body heat is lost through your head. Do not sleep close to a concrete floor, concrete leeches out much of your body warmth. Instead, put as many layers of blankets and padding between you and the concrete.
- Set up your tent in a small room (like your bedroom) and sleep in it. The additional layer of the tent will help conserve your body heat. If you wear a hat and socks to bed, you will be plenty warm.
- Patches of rubber inner tube work well to start a fire. They burn hot for a few minutes to light your tinder. However they create lots of black sooty smoke which stains the surrounding walls, fireplace, etc.
- Dryer lint is also great tinder.
- Pine tree pitch/sap also works great to start a fire. As does dry moss or pine needles.
- CDC Preparing for Cold Weather Emergencies
- Emergency Heating
- Bagelhole.org: Low-tech living and sustainability
BA Products- Emergency supplies like light, heat, water filters, etc. Reasonable prices. Also has propane adaptors for using bulk tanks (like 20-lb) with devices that use small cans of propane. Also has many 12V devices.
- St. Paul Mercantile - solar powered stuff, water filters (including Berkefeld for $189), kerosene powered stuff, propane heaters for indoors, etc. I recommend this site for their great selection.
More light links:
- You can use candles for light. Don't forget the matches. Note: long term use of candles MIGHT POSSIBLY cause people with respiratory problems to get worse. People with asthma will want to monitor their health. If they notice an increase of coughing, try use an alternate lighting method. But also note that the dry winter air also causes asthmatics to have a dry cough more often anyway.
- Use a kerosene lantern. Some people do not recommend using a kerosene lantern indoors. I say, if you are using only one lantern in a standard sized house, you should be ok if you get fresh air every 12 hours. If you start to feel numb or dizzy, turn off the lantern and get fresh air immediately. Do not use the lantern again. But remember, a commercial lantern probably burns cleaner than home made devices based on wax. BTW, I did see a photographic comparison of light output between an Alladin kerosene lantern and a generic kerosene lantern, and the Alladin was MUCH brighter, even though it wasn't pressurized. Now you know why they cost more.
- Make your own lantern from glass jars. Don't use plastic, it may get hot and melt. Save the glass jars and cut out the bottom with a glass cutter. Mount on a piece of wood which has a handle. Put a short candle in it.
- Make a Betty Lamp out of a metal cup and 1/4" copper tube (or rolled up soda can or other metal), and a wick and some animal fat or lard. Do not use vegetable oil, it will probably smoke a lot and smell bad. However, in a pinch, kerosene might work. Olive oil may also work but will be harder to light. The tube must be 1/2" from the bottom of the can so it can get melted fat up to the wick.
- Make an olive oil lamp out of a canning jar (glass) and 1/8" braided cotton wick. (Cotton works best and is the least smokey. You don't want smokey if you are indoors.) The wick must float on the top of the oil on a metal piece, like the metal piece on the bottom of a votive candle. Fill the jar 1/2 way with olive oil and light the wick.
Some vitamins come in glass jars with metal tops. This will make an ideal lantern once a cotton wick is placed in the top and the jar filled with olive oil. Other sources for short glass jars with metal lids: salsa jar, hot fudge jar, jar of cheese for corn chips, relish jar.
- Or get a jar with a metal lid. Put a cotton wick through the metal lid and fill with olive oil. I have not tested the brightness of olive oil lights.
- Aladdin lamps from Survival Unlimited - kerosene lamps with mantles. ~$60 US. Has a Petromax with alcohol conversion kit, which is safe to operate indoors. Petromax 500CP: $92, no top reflector. $121 with top reflector. Alcohol kit: $25US. Side reflector: $15.
- Petromax oil lamps - also use mantles and give off a bright white light. ~$120 US. Also Geniol pressure kerosene lantern. ~$150 US.
- Google search for Petromax
- Compares the Petromax and Butterfly lanterns - they also sell a Petromax for $98.
- Cheaper than dirt.com - sells what looks to be a Petromax for $59, but ask them to make sure. There is a Butterfly brand lantern from China that looks like a Petromax but does not work as well. It emits a lot of fumes.
- Deepwater Pottery - Olive oil lamps made from pottery.
- Winelight.com - sells ceramic corks with a hole to hold a wick to make oil lamps out of wine or beer bottles. Very simple.
- St. Paul Mercantile - solar powered stuff, water filters (including Berkefeld for $189), kerosene powered stuff, propane heaters for indoors, etc. I recommend this site for their great selection.
- TheLEDLight.com - I do have to mention these guys because they have the best selection of LED products, but the prices are high due to the new nature of white LEDs and the electronics required to make them work with 120VAC or retrofit flashlights. They have LED flashlights, headlights, lanterns, accessories, and more.
- Vermont Lanterns - lots of nice brass kerosene lanterns here, inexpensive.
- Pocketlights.com - cheap LED lights.
- Allelectronics.com - LED keychain light for $2.50 in Flashlight section. Plus LED flashlights for $8 plus $6 shipping.
- Solar charged LED light. Woo hoo! - These guys have a lot of good deals on LED products. Including 12 LED bulb for 110v std US socket, $12?!
Storage, in general
5 gallon buckets
5 gallon buckets are great for all kinds of uses. Here are some sample uses. NOTE: when carrying 5 gallon buckets of water, they are quite heavy. Be sure to balance your load and carry one equally weighted bucket in each hand, so you don't hurt your back. Always try to balance your load when carrying heavy things. Or make a yoke, to balance 2 buckets on your shoulders.
- Use them to store drinkable water. To wash them out, put 1 tablespoon of bleach in a quart of water. Wash the bucket with soap and hot water, then wash it out with the bleach solution.
- Use them to store non-drinkable water to: water your garden, flush your toilet.
- Use them to store other items in an airtight container (if you have the lid).
- Use one as a seat for a latrine (cut a hole in the bottom and invert the bucket over a hole in the ground). Or use one as a latrine. Cut a hole in the lid and the bucket holds the waste. You can add that bio breakdown stuff used in Porta-Johns and RVs if you want.
- Use them to catch rainwater. Good especially if you have gutters to divert the water into the bucket. You can also use a plastic saucer snow sled to catch rainwater. Drill a hole in the bottom, put some weights in it, and place on top of a bucket or other sterile container.
- Drill holes in the bottom of one and use it to wash/soak acorns or other foods in a stream.
- Use it as a strainer. Drill tiny holes in the bottom.
- I use them as stools all the time.
- Use them to weed the garden or pick up trash around the yard.
- Use them to gather wild food or water from streams.
- Use them as seats. They are the perfect height for adults.
- Use them to store or carry raw materials (kindling, acorns, etc.).
- Use it to wash clothes in.
- Use them to store items underground. Requires lid.
- They can be painted black and used to heat water. A wall of black water-filled buckets can also be used to keep the cold out of a house by placing them next to a sliding door or window. Insulate cracks between buckets with blankets or towels to keep the cold air out.
- Can 5 gal. plastic pails store gasoline? Remember, gas dissolves some plastics, that's why you must use an approved plastic can. And gas evaporates if you don't have a tightly sealed lid, releasing harmful vapors.
- Use them to store packaged food to keep it away from pests.
Where do you get 5 gallon buckets? They hold pickles, paint, blacktop sealer, stain, drywall mud (aka joint compound), and more. Get them from fast food restaurants, companies who seal asphalt, paint and drywall contractors. Hardware stores may have some empty ones. Don't store drinkable water or food (which will touch the bucket walls) in the ones that have been used for paint, asphalt sealer, etc. It may not wash out completely and will taint your water. Do not let food or water touch the sides of buckets which have not held food.
Does anyone else have novel uses for 5 gallon buckets? Write me at chuckr30 at netzero dot net.
Power, electricity, other utilitiesI think it's generally better to prepare for the worst, but hope for the best.
- Lehman's non-electric catalog - lots of items that don't use electricity, like a propane refrigerator.
- Global Merchants - radios, flashlights, battery recharges, car coolers, solar bug repeller, more.
- Holly solar - outdoor lights, panels, fans, panel and battery kits.
- Martin Enterprises - solar products. Emergency light ($9.95), car fan, flashlight ($17.95), solar car emergency light, bike light ($12.95), AM/FM radio ($17.95).
- ACDC Power^ - solar flashlight ($19.95), solar lantern ($69.95), car vent (in window, $29.95), solar security light with infra motion detector ($129.95), battery charger ($22).
- Lifelinke^ - solar/battery/generator AM/FM radio and flashlight.
- Hurricane Preparedness Ctr^ - solar AM/FM radio and flashlight ($29.95), solar lantern ($49.95).
- IMSI USA^ - solar car battery charger, solar car window vent.
- Intersolar - flourescant light with solar recharger, solar street lamps.
- Personal solar - solar AA batt. charger ($59.95)
- Elfins (UK) - solar AA batt. charger (9.99 GBP)
- Invicta - solar watch runs forever ($139.95 US).
- Realgoods - wind up flashlight ($74.95), solar flashlight ($29.95), solar lantern ($69.95, similar to ones on other websites), Siemans solar halogen light with motion/heat detector ($129.95), another solar lantern ($89.95), Siemens Pathmarker solar light (2 for $39.95), solar cookers,
- Prepare-now - solar flashlight ($29.95, same as ones on other pages), solar lantern ($69.95, same as ones on other pages here), solar radio: AM/FM shortware, aircraft, police with solar panel, cigarette lighter adapter, hand crank generator ($89.95, this looks to be the best item for the price).
- http://www.geocities.com/euro446/batts.html - link to discussion about regular and rechargable batteries, and which ones are the best.
- St. Paul Mercantile - solar powered stuff, water filters (including Berkefeld for $189), kerosene powered stuff, propane heaters for indoors, etc. I recommend this site for their great selection.
- Emergency car starter battery. There are a couple brands of these, but they contain a rechargable bettery with battery clips and will help you start your car if your battery dies. Some of them have 12VDC outlets, which can be used with some devices. Some also have a light. Mine has a light and it was surprisingly bright.
- Ebay search for "solar"
- There are solar flashlights which also have an easy-off back cover and can be used to charge batteries using the sun.
What to packThere is some discussion about what you need to survive. Most agree you need the following: water, shelter, food, heat. But how do you get those things if there is no electricity, water going to your house, and the stores are sold out from a panic? Here's what I advise to pack:
- Fresh Water. A person can only survive 3-4 days without water. I haven't seen any numbers on how long a person can remain CONSCIOUS without water.
- Water filter (I recommend a gravity, not pump-type), to get your own water from a stream. I recommend pre-filtering your water through a fine cloth, like an old pair of nylons or cheese cloth, before filtering.
- Food (canned, dried, like legumes, rice, raisens, cereal, crackers, nuts, etc.)
- Food basics (flour, sugar, lard). You determine how much you need. If you're exhausted from getting firewood, getting water, pumping the water filter, do you REALLY think you'll be making pancakes or fresh bread?
- Propane and propane stove. It's cheap and effective. Make "sterno" cans by taking a tunafish can, roll a piece of cardboard in it, and fill with wax. Note: This will create a black mess on all your pots. It's just soot, but it works in emergencies. These aren't as hot like a gas stove though and food may take longer to cook. Use only outdoors or where there is 24 sq inches of ventilation.
- Candles and wind-proof candle holders. Get some kind of "hurricane" lamp that won't let the candle blow out and you can hold in your hand.
- Matches. Butane lighters work well too and are easier to keep damp-proof. Put your matches in a damp-proof container. Those things where you scrape magnesium dust into a pile and ignite it with a spark also work well (or so I hear). Those are sold at any camping store.
- Fuel starters. You can make these by taking cardboard and dipping pieces of cardboard into wax. Cottonballs are also very flammable when they are fluffed up and pulled apart.
- Firewood, for cooking. Don't forget it must be dry and you will need tinder (smaller branches) too. Just in case the propane runs out.
- Pots, pans, plates, silverware, plastic cups, and mugs for hot liquids (like soup or coffee).
- Kitchen Soap to clean kitchen stuff. Liquid soap can also be used to put on the bottom of pans before cooking over a fire. It makes the soot come off more easily. I think I read that food poisoning is one of the most common illnesses during camping, and it is caused mostly by dirty dishes or improper food storage (not enough ice in the cooler).
- Bar Soap to wash yourself with.
- Medicine. Pack lots of cough syrup, because coughs will be common in freezing temperatures (where the air is dry) or flooded/damp climates. Also pack pain relievers and anti-bacterial creams. Plus cortisone creams to treat itchy bug bites. Don't forget band-aids and other larger bandages and medical tape.
- Multi-vitamins. Since food may be scarce you will need to supplement your diet with multi-vitamins. Get 6 mos. worth for each person.
- Space blanket. Good if your home doesn't have heat. If your power goes out, but you have propane heat, how will the hot air be blown around the house? The blower won't work.
- Rope. Various sizes. Lots of things can be made with rope, like a line to dry your clothes on. Dry clothes are important for keeping you warm. 550 paracord is parachute cord that is small but very strong. Do a search on the net or ebay.com for "550 paracord". Here is a search on ebay for paracord.
- Knives. Used for cutting all kinds of things, from food to rope and more. Also you may want a sharpening stone.
- Radio and batteries. How will you know what's going on? Keep in touch. Solar powered items at http://www.Global-Merchants.Com/.
- Flashlight and batteries. I found a solar rechargable flashlight that works great. Put it in bright sun all day and it works for hours. Got it at Natural Wonders store. A headlamp also helps to keep your hands free. Keep a spare bulb too. Solar flashlight at http://www.Global-Merchants.Com/ for $24.95 US, with bicycle clips. Note: the new white LED flashlights work great! The LED lights last a long time, are bright, and use up very little power. I have had a headlamp LED light for 18 months, use it a lot, and have yet to change the batteries. They are supposed to last 100+ hours on one set of batteries vs 10 hours for regular flashlights. I advise getting a headlamp kind to keep your hands free.
- Bleach. Can be used to disinfect all types of items.
- Sun screen.
- Sun glasses. Important even more in winter, to prevent snow blindness!
- Parachute cord. Can be bought at military surplus stores or web sites. This can be used to tie a variety of things together, make handles to carry things, and is very handy.
Other stuff good to have around
- Tools. For fixing things that get broken. Screw drivers (flat and Philips), pliers (for working with metal cans and such), wrench, hammer, nails, utility knife, hand saw, hand drill/brace. Also sewing kit to fix clothes and material items. And nails.
- Paraffin (wax). To make fire starting materials and for canning. Crayons are also made of wax and can be made to start fires.
- Sharpening stone. To sharpen dull axes, knives, or other things.
- Food grinder. To grind your own wheat or corn or meat.
- Various buckets and storage containers. Buckets are good for harvesting food from the wild or from the garden. You can also dig your own latrine (at least 50 feet away from any surface water, stream, etc) and be used as a latrine seat. Use tin snips to cut buckets.
- Small camping ax. Used for getting firewood mainly and chopping other things.
- Book on identifying and cooking wild plants. Wild plants have lots of vitamins, but probably not many calories as other things.
- Seeds for garden
- Gardening equipment (shovel, hoe, watering cans or buckets, seed starting pots, fertilizer)
- Laundry soap. For washing clothes and cloth bandages.
- Hose replacement parts, male and female ends. These can be glued to 5-gal buckets to make water holding/filtering or other liquid systems.
- Duct tape. It's strong and can fix all kinds of things. Electrical tape is handy too.
- Leather gloves, for doing heavy work.
- Plastic film canisters. Can be used to keep small items waterproof, and hold spices, salt, and pepper. Get these from a film developer or large store that develops film in-house.
- Solar battery charger. These can be real handy if the power goes out. Works best in the summer with bright sunlight but will still work in the winter. In the winter use some type of reflector or mirror to shine more light on the panels. Solar battery charger (and more) at http://www.Global-Merchants.Com. 2 AAA charger: $14.95 US, 2 battery charger (AAA, AA, C, D): $24.95 US.
- Plastic sheet, at least 4 feet square. Can be used for shelter, or condensing drinkable water from the air.
- Heavy plastic garbage bags. Variety of uses. Can be used to keep clothes and other items dry.
- Kerosene lamps and kerosene. These also make good light in the home. Messy for travel though.
- Pepper spray. For defense.
- Canning and food storage supplies. Could include smoking supplies (wood and smoker), canning jars and lids, or just glass or plastic containers with lids.
Reviews of productsYou've heard of the products, know their features, but how well do they work in real life situations? This section will attempt to answer those questions by showing reviews of actual products I have used.
No battery flashlight. These are starting to be sold in many camping stores. You shake the flashlight to make it work. Actually, you shake it to charge a battery to make it work. So it is not really "no battery". It works on a rechargable battery, which, like any other battery, will eventually go bad. Do not expect more than 5 years of service from a rechargable battery. I do not own one.
Update: some brands have a battery, which will eventually wear out. One brand (called Nitestar) has a large capacitor, much better than a battery because it will not wear out. The Nitestar also uses an LED bulb for conserving power. Here is the Shakelight. Can't tell if it uses a capacitor or battery.
LED flashlights. These are great. They last 100+ hours on one set of batteries and the lamp itself, an LED, is much more tougher than a standard flashlight lamp. Very much worth the price. I own one. Regarding the tiny LED flashlights that take button batteries. They work great, but you might pay $10 for the light, then new batteries will cost you $6-8. Be warned. Try getting batteries from www.cheapbatteries.com.
Solar flashlights. My parents started laughing at me when I asked them for one. But it works great. However, you must have bright summer light to get a decent charge. And the charge will only last 2-3 hours at night, just enough to get to bed. Do not expect it to work very well in the dim light of winter. I own one.
Magnesium fire starter. I have not owned one, but they look like they would work well as magnesium burns very hot.
Crank/Solar/AC/battery radio/flashlight. I have one of these of Chinese manufacture and it works great! It has a battery which can be charged via the sun, hand crank, or an AC adaptor which comes with it. It is an AM/FM radio and flashlight. It has a translucent blue plastic case with rounded edges. I've been using it for 3+ years and it has given us the news each time the power went out. Cost was about $15 on sale.
Kent County resourcesAre they prepared?
- Consumer's Energy for Kent County, MI - Write email@example.com for a letter about their Y2K status. As of Jan 1999 they are about 50% done with fixing problems with distributing electricity. NOTE, statement from power engineering community: "It is inconceivable that all Y2K components will be indentified and fixed before Jan 1, 2000."
- Grand Rapids, city of
- Kent County, MI
- Michigan gov't resources (MAGIC)
- Yahoo - Kent county
Most useful camping itemsIt is important when camping to minimize the number and weight of items you are carrying. Do you have a camping item that you have many uses for? What is the most useful camping item? We all know we need a: pocket knife, matches and hatchet. What are other things you find that have many uses?
- Bandana: can be used for: holding hot pots, keeping sweat out of your eyes, as a bandage or tourniquet, a strainer, as a mask to keep out foul odors or smoke.
- wax or paraffin: can be used to start fires, or seal jars for food preservation.
- metal can: use as a strainer (poke holes in bottom), as a stove, as a fry pan (cook on inverted can), to boil water, to carry liquids and solids, large cans can be used as a seat.
- film can: can be used to store small things and keep them dry, like matches, tinder, medicine.
- Keep items from rusting by placing dessicant in the cans with metal parts. Get dessicant from new boxes of electronics. Or go to a store where they sell Harley-Davison motorcycles. HD cyles come with bags of dessicant and the store should give you some for free. You can also heat it in your oven (250 for 24 hours) and reuse it. Also buy it where they sell flower drying supplies. They sell it in cans for drying flowers. Do not allow silica gel in direct contact with metal as the metal will rust.