The Camelbak Mule Is A Great GHB

camelbak-mule

My original criteria for selecting a GHB or BOB was the size of the pack. The more a pack can hold the better, right? I quickly discovered the disadvantage of this mindset. A bigger pack is a heavy pack. While I can bare the grunt of a large load I favor lightness and speed over all else. The Camelbak Mule is a smaller pack and forces you to think about what you’re putting inside (that’s what she said.) Selecting a smaller pack means you put more thought into your gear. After bugging out a few times with my larger packs I realized I had gear I did not need. I also realized I had no desire to lug around dead weight in a bag that’s too big.

In this review we trim the fat as I show you the Camelbak Mule and explain why it is a formidable GHB.

Specifications

  • Synthetic
  • 12.5 Liters Storage Space
  • 3L Hydration Bladder
  • Imported
  • The iconic M.U.L.E is the perfect balance of cargo and hydration in a feature-rich, narrow-gauge design
  • Antidote reservoir features Quick Link system, easy open/close cap, lightweight fill port, Dryer arms, center baffling and low-profile design
  • Key pack features: xv back panel, magnetic tube trap, bike tool organizer pocket, four-point compression, helmet hooks
  • Designed to carry helmet, Multi-tool, pump, Spare tube, extra layer, lunch, phone, keys
  • Camelbak Got your Bak guarantee: if we build it, we’ll Bak it with our lifetime guarantee
  • Three interior slip pockets. Three exterior pockets.

What I like about the Camelbak Mule

camel-bak-MULE-front-shot

This is a pack made for mountain bikers and cross country runners. One thing these sports have in common with a survival/SHTF scenario is a heavy reliance on water. Typically you would throw a couple water bottles inside a pack that’s too large and call it a day. Camelbak includes a high quality water bladder in all of their bags and the Mule is no exception. The reservoir bladder is BPA free and holds 3 liters of water. I like this setup because I have access to water while I’m walking or running. Traditional setups require you to drop your pack and dig through the main pouch. In a fully blown SHTF situation this might not be an option. Avid hikers are also well aware of the dangers of stopping. You can lose momentum and energy by stopping.

The Camelbak Mule is designed with comfort and high activity in mind. The compression straps cinch down the contents of your bag so everything sits close to your spine. This allows you to efficiently carry a load and move around without feeling bogged down or off balance. I have lots of experience using packs without the compression straps and it’s a night and day difference. The closer you can get your gear to the back of you spine the more mobile and balanced you’ll be.

Pockets and storage space

camelbak-mule-review

You got 12.5 liters of storage capacity not including the 3 L hydration bladder. Storage space is split up between the front storage pocket, the main compartment, and the felt lined media pocket for electronics or sunglasses. Between the front pocket and the main pocket is a stretchable section of synthetic material that can be expanded and stuffed with whatever you want. To give you an idea of the size of this expandable area, bikers could easily fit their helmet inside of this space. It’s a good amount of overflow space for extra storage if you find yourself needing to carry more than what the main container can hold.

The 3L hydration bladder

camel-bak-mule-hydration-bladder-3l

The signature feature of all Camelbak products is the hydration bladder. I’ve never had a Camelbak bladder leak on me. The material is BPA free so no worries about harmful plastic byproducts seeping into your H20. The hydration tube is detachable from the bladder via a quick connect apparatus and the drinking end features a shut off valve to open and close the flow. 3 L is the largest bladder Camelbak makes and it’s good to see that large capacity ship stock with the Mule. I’m not a fan of the hard plastic seal – It’s difficult to remove and thread back on the bladder. However, it does its job dutifully once sealed.

Final thoughts

The Camelbak Mule is a great get home bag and a strong potential bug out bag. The more skills you have the less gear you need to survive a fully blown SHTF situation. I can see this bag sitting in your car ready to rock at a moments notice. You can load it down with water and all your important gear and “get home” should anything happen to you on the road. No, you’re not going to pack everything and the kitchen sink with the Mule. However, you’ll be able to pack all the essential stuff AND efficiently carry 3 Liters of water. That’s all you need when it comes down to it.

By the way, they make a military spec version as well. It’s very similar to the Mule but it’s made with heavier material and features MOLLE webbing on the outside. Until next time.

 

Must Have Survival Gear

must-have-survival-gear

When you’re putting together a survival kit there’s a lot of things you don’t need. There’s a widget for this, there’s a widget for that. But, there still remains a core list of survival gear no survivalist should be without. This is the gear you must have in your bug-out bag when things go fully blown.

The knife

Hands down, the knife is the most important piece of gear in your survival kit. It is also the most versatile. With the knife you can blow through a host of survival tasks which would be pain in the ass to do if you did not have the knife. All the experts agree – the knife is one piece of gear you don’t want to leave home without. I’ve written posts on choosing a survival knife. The most important aspects of the knife are the blade and the tang.  The blade must be fixed. Avoid at all costs the folding type varieties of the survival knife. These types of knives introduce a weak point – the last thing you want is your most important piece of gear shattering to pieces in the middle of a full blown SHTF situation.

I’ve had the privilege of reviewing many knives. From this experience I will recommend 3 knives you should consider adding to your survival kit (choose one.)

The Kabar BK2 – The Kabar Bk2 is the classic survival knife favored by many survivalists. This knife is absolutely bombproof and will no doubt blow through anything you throw at it.

Bk2-wilderness-survival-knife
The Kabar BK2 Survival Knife

 

The Gerber LMF 2 – The Gerber LMF 2 borrowed crucial ideas from military forces deployed in Iraq. It’s notable for the built in shockproof design and the razor sharp serrated portion of the blade. Another no-nonsense blade well suited for a fully blown survival situation.

Gerber LMF 2...a fully blown survival knife
Gerber LMF 2…a fully blown survival knife

 

The RAT 5 – The budget friendly version of the ESEE 5. The RAT 5 is a well known knife and well tested in the deep bush. The glass breaker pommel can bust through glass or skull without the slightest problem. This is a sharp-as-hell blade and certainly one of the best survival knives you can get.

rat-5-knife
That’ll do Rat…that will do.

 

Paracord

survival-paracord-uses

Paracord is the all time classic staple in any survival kit worthy of a full blown SHTF situation. Extremely versatile, paracord can be used to drag heavy gear up cliffs, lash wood together, replace torn boot strings, string up your food in bear country, or create makeshift handcuffs. There’s no end to what a good length of paracord can be used for. Your imagination is the only limit.

Fire gear

survival-fires

I recommend including at least 3 different methods of making fire in your survival kit. This redundancy will serve you well in a survival situation. Waterproof matches, a BIC lighter, and a ferrocerium rod will do the trick quite nicely. Pop these in to Ziploc bag and call it a day. If you’re feeling fancy there are some novel pieces of gear you can experiment with. The fire piston, the SOTO pocket torch, and the flint based ZIPPO emergency firestarter are other firemaking tools you can consider.

Water purification

Man cannot live without water for more than a few days, less in extreme conditions.  You might be thinking about taking a nice long drink from that pond or creek, but it’s not advised. Many bodies of water are racked with bacteria. Consuming this water will give you the worst case of the shits you’ve ever had. You better come fully loaded with the proper gear if you want to drink the water you find in the wild.

Check out the following water purification options:

The Camelbak UV Water Purifier – This is a standard water bottle with a high tech lid. It purifies water via UV light. UV light destroys all traces of bacteria, protozoa, and viruses present in a water source. I use this all the time for my backpacking excursions and the battery always lasts the length of the trip. Is this the most well suited device for a long term survival situation? I don’t think so. But for temporary disruptions it works great.

The Sawyer Water Filter – One of the more popular water purification devices known for filtering up to 100,000 gallons of water. This is recommended for longer survival situations. The Sawyer has been well tested in the backcountry by avid hikers and backpackers. This is a pump action water filter so you can fill up large containers with water to be used around camp.

The Lifestraw – A lightweight and affordable water purification option. At $20, the Lifestraw is an easy piece of gear to throw into your pack. It can filter up to 264 gallons. This makes it perfect for those of you bugging out solo who wan’t something cheap, effective, and easy.

Shelter Stuff…

Lots of people pack in heavy stuff like tents. Really, this is overkill. Survival is not a 5 star stay at the Ritz-Carlton. A lightweight tarp will do the job nicely. You can use the paracord to rig up a decent shelter. Use your knife to secure the proper woodland materials to further bolster your shelter. Using basic bushcrafting skills you can easily create a solid shelter with very modest and lightweight gear.

The clothes on your back

The clothes you wear are your first line of defense against the elements. There are a few guidelines you should follow when selecting survival clothes. First, always avoid cotton. Cotton absorbs moisture and sticks to your skin, creating a rich environment for hypothermia. Wool fabrics or synthetic materials are preferred because they wick away moisture and insulate your body even when wet.

Your first layer should be of this type of material. Your outer layer acts as a barrier against the elements. This usually means a light waterproof jacket or parka. The outer layer keeps you dry and protects you from wind. On your feet, a good pair of boots. A good pair of survival boots support the ankles and keeps your feet dry. Go for any mid-size boot with a Goretex lining and you’re good to go. I’ve owned a pair of these for the last 2 years and I plan on getting the same pair when they wear out.

One last tip…don’t forget the extra socks.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to must have survival gear you don’t need a whole lot of fancy stuff. Secure everything in this post and you are well on your way to owning a full blown survival kit. You can easily get lost looking at all the gear options out there. Get the basics down before you venture down the rabbit hole of building a full blown survival kit.

 

 

Best High Tech Survival Gear For Your B.O.B.

high-tech-survival-gear

Want to survive but want to do it with technology? Many survivalists are quick to advocate primitive tools when in a survival situation. With a little preparation and some high-tech gear however, you can make any survival situation a complete walk in the park.

Let’s crack into the gear.

Camelbak UV Water Purifier

This is one of my all time favorite pieces of gear. It’s a water purifier that purifies water with UV light. UV light absolutely destroys any traces of bacteria or harmful pathogens in the water, making it suitable to drink.

The entire bottle looks like it came off some kind of futuristic space craft – and at night the light gives off a very alien vibe. Just make sure the water is clear before you hit it with light. The light cannot pass through dirty water.

SOTO Pocket Torch

Turns any lighter into a flaming hot torch capable of temperatures up to 2300 degrees Fahrenheit. Completely windproofs the lighter too. It really does transform an ordinary lighter into a fully functional torch which makes getting a fire going that much easier – especially in windy conditions!

Goal Zero Solar Recharging Kit

The best solar recharging station available to backpackers and survivalists alike. Easily recharge your smartphone or bluetooth speakers wherever you are. On a full charge this thing can charge your smartphone up to 5 times depending on the make of your phone, and, the whole unit fully recharges itself via sunlight in 9 hours. It’s also lightweight and completely water/weatherproof.

Flir Thermal Imaging Camera

flir-thermal-imager

Spot heat signatures effortlessly. This is a very effective piece of gear for hunting at night, the time when many animals reveal themselves to the hunter. You could also use it to scope out your surrounding area for any human activity you might want to avoid. In a fully blown SHTF situation, moving at night and remaining concealed could be a big part of staying alive.

Fire Piston

high-tech-fire-piston

This little piece of high tech gear uses compressed air to generate heat and create fire. With a little technique, you have a fullproof method of making fire that can’t be destroyed by water! The thing about lighters and matches is they become unusable if they get wet. That being said, it’s always a good idea to have multiple ways of making fire. The fire piston is one more method of making fire you can add to your survival kit.

Uvex Bionic Face Shield

uvex-bionic-face-shield

Survival doesn’t necessarily mean “lost in the woods.” Sometimes it means blasting your way through riots, hurricanes, tornadoes etc. A face shield can protect your head from flying debris, batons, pepper spray, etc. When TSHTF you’re going to feel a lot safer and more equipped when you got this thing on – guaranteed.

Blast knuckles

blast-knuckles

A taser built into a ring you can wear brass knuckles style. If things go fully blown you can put this on and take out anyone in your path. I personally can’t vouch for the strength but one Amazon reviewer did say it took down his 350lb brother no problems. Test one out for yourself and let us know!

Zippo Emergency Fire Starter

This is high tech because it’s a primitive method of fire making molded into a modern design. You get the best of both worlds here – reliability and quality. The Zippo is flint based, waterproof, and comes with replaceable wax coated fire tender for effortless ignition. The bright orange makes it easy to find if you drop it somewhere.

 

Keep on eye on this list for updated high tech stuff!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Big Bad List of Cheap Survival Gear

cheap-survival-gear

So you want to start building your survival kit eh? You say you want to do it cheap, eh? Finding cheap survival gear is easy when you know where to look. Having bought a lot of gear myself I have a ton of information about where to find the most budget friendly survival gear on the internet.

You see, you can get a lot of survival gear for cheap but certain items are more expensive than others. Knives and multi tools being some of the more expensive pieces. Fear not, I know where to get this stuff super cheap and at a price that fits your budget.

Survival Knives Under $15

The instablade – This knife is being given away FREE as part of a special promotion from my friends at Survival Life (2.95 shipping and handling.) It’s a sharp-as-a-razor blade that folds down to the size of a credit card. You might be thinking if it’s free, it must be a piece of garbage. In fact, this statement couldn’t be further from the truth. The entire blade is sturdy as hell. I don’t have any doubts about this knifes ability to function in a fully blown SHTF situation. It’s an extremely covert way to carry a quality blade right in your wallet. It looks exactly like a credit card when folded up, and with a little practice it transforms into a formidable blade with a few flicks of the wrist. Shank worthy indeed.

instablade

TAC FORCE TACTICAL – This knife is a spring assisted blade (aka switch blade) with serious bite. When you’re talking about budget survival knives this knife can’t help but enter the conversation. You can pick one up for less than $10 dollars on Amazon. Keep in mind this blade is possibly illegal depending on how your state handles switch blades. If you do purchase it, don’t be flashing it around in public. Keep it hidden and take it out only during the most fully blown SHTF situations.

tac-force-survival-knife

Survivor HK – A dirt cheap combo knife that includes two other essential survival tools: Along with a half way decent blade, the knife handle is wrapped with 20 feet of usable nylon cordage. Sure, it’s not paracord but it does the job. The blade itself comes pretty dull out of the box so make sure to take a good grinding stone to the edge. It’s a blade that looks like it came out of a cracker jack box but with a little work it can turn into a formidable survival knife. For less than $10 bucks you can’t be complaining.

cheap-survival-knife

Multi Tools Under $15

EDT Tool – Another quality freebie from Survival Life. How long will they keep these deals going? I have no idea but I can’t imagine they can just give these away for free forever. The EDT Tool is a Leatherman style multi tool with an added carabiner to hook into a key ring, belt loop, or patch of Molle on your bug out bag. It’s heavy, sturdy, and well made. How’s that for cheap survival gear?

free-edt-multi-tool

Stanley multi tool – One of the best multi-tools I’ve experienced for well under the cost of a Leatherman. Leatherman is known for dominating the multi-tool industry but the Stanley is a formidable competitor. It has everything you expect to find on a multi-tool and comes extremely well built. The pliers on this bad boy are especially powerful and dig deep into whatever you need to get a bite on. You can pick one up for about $12 bucks.

Fire Under $10

Ferrocerium rod – the bulletproof method of generating sparks even in wet weather. The ferro rod gets the nod of approval from even the most hardcore survivalists. BICS get wet. Matches get wet. The fact is, ferro rods remain a tried and true way to get a fire started even when all other methods have failed. The rods themselves are cheap and you can use the spine of your knife as a striker.

BIC lighters – BIC lighters are undoubtedly the highest quality lighters you can purchase. They’re relatively cheap and it’s the easiest method of fires tarting. Sure, a ferro rod is more reliable but it’s much easier to get a fire going with flames than sparks. You can pick these up at your local liquor store or buy them in packs online.

Waterproof matches – Waterproof matches round out your fire kit in an effective way. High quality waterproof matches are very inexpensive and a critical part of your fire kit.

Alcohol pads – The latest survival hack making fire starting an extremely easy (and cheap) task. Simply ignite a single alcohol pad under your bundle of tinder and watch as a blaze of glory unfolds right before your eyes. Plus, they double as first aid supplies. Gear with multiple uses is always a win. Pick up a box on the cheap and throw a few in your bug out bag.

Water Under $20

Purification tablets – the most bang for your buck when it comes to purifying dubious water sources. Water filters can run upwards of $100 dollars but you can pick tablets up for $6 dollars. They make the water taste like chemicals but they do the job.

Life Straw – Extremely budget friendly method of purifying water. Dip the straw into a dubious source of water and drink deeply. The built in filter will filter out harmful bacteria and pathogens from any creek, pond, or lake.

Stainless steel thermos – Another cheap way to purify water is to boil it. With a stainless steel mug you can boil water and store it for later. You can can also cook your food too. Even if you plan on purifying water with tablets, you’re gonna need something to store the water.

Shelter Under $10

Tarp – Depending on where you are, the elements can kill you faster than anything else. A tarp is an inexpensive piece of gear to keep you dry and sheltered from the weather. Tarps can be rigged in a number of configurations depending on the scenario. Tents are good choices but they are heavy and not budget friendly. If you have to bug out, do you really want to be toting around all the weight of a tent? Probably not. Do yourself a favor and snatch one up for $7 bucks.

Paracord – You’ll need something to rig your shelter with. Paracord has a number of uses and it’s too cheap and light to pass up. Paracord can be used to hoist food in the air (bear bag), make boot laces, rig shelters, haul a load up a mountain pass, and a ton of other things. You can even make 50lb test fishing line out of the inner strands. Truly versatile indeed!

Emergency blanket – the tried and true method of staying warm in even the coldest survival situations. The emergency blanket (AKA the space blanket) works by reflecting your bodies heat back to you.  Rig up your tarp and wrap yourself nice and tight with the space blanket and you’re good to go. Is it the most comfortable setup? No, but you’ll make it through the night. This is survival, not a 5 star stay at the Ritz!

Other budget friendly survival items

Trash bags – the big black ones. You probably have these under you kitchen sink or in your garage. They can be  used to collect water, waterproof your gear, create shelter, or fashioned into a parka. Trash bags are super light and can stuff into even he most fully loaded bug out bag.

Flashlight – helpful when it gets dark but you still have stuff to do. I prefer headlamps but cheap flashlights can be had for pennies on the dollar. I’ve got cheap flashlights from years back that still throw a decent beam.

Bleach – not the whole jug! Put a little bit in small eye dropper for water purification purposes. A couple drops of bleach can purify an entire gallon of water. Bleach is something you probably have around the house and won’t have to spend money on.

Pencil sharpener – this useful little tool can create fine wood shavings from sticks found in the wild. Even in wet weather the inner core of the sticks will be dry and will make starting a fire very simple.

pencil-sharpener-survival-gear
Great way to make fire tinder out in the wild

 

Duct tape – not the whole role! Take a few rounds of tape and wrap around your BIC lighter. Duct tape proves to be invaluable stuff when it comes to repairing gear and mending holes. As they say, there isn’t much that can’t be fixed up with duct tape.

Magnifying glass – Method of last resort to get a fire going. Rays from the sun can be focused into a beam of light to catch small tinder on fire. Light enough to throw one in your pack and not worry.

Socks – Extra socks will do wonders for your feet and your morale. Your feet are your primary asset in a fully blown SHTF situation. If they get wet you’re in for a miserable experience.

Sillcock key – Probably the most awesome urban survival hack I’ve came across. A sillcock key taps straight in to the commercial water faucets you see on the sides of big buildings. These are special faucets and require a key to access the water. The thing is, the key isn’t all that special and anybody can pick one up on Amazon for cheap. Even if the power goes out in the entire city there will be enough water pressure left in the pipes to fill your cup many times over.

Other cheap survival gear

You see, getting survival gear doesn’t have to be an expensive shopping spree. With less than $100 bucks you can create a bug out bag that will blast straight through a fully blown SHTF situation. If you’re really pressed for cash you can order things one at a time until you have all the survival tools you need.

There is one thing I left off the list – the bug out bag, and only because they can get expensive. However, it’s wise to have a quality B.O.B. in case things go fully blown and you have to bug out. When you got some extra bucks read my post on the 12 best tactical backpacks.

Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments below.

 

Best SHTF Knife For Ultimate Survival

When things go fully blown it’s crucial to have a knife that’s gonna stand up to any conditions. The best SHTF knife will be one you can defend yourself with. A competent SHTF knife will not bust on you when you go to do something important. Your knife is your closest survival companion. It’s important to choose a blade that can handle anything you throw at it.

Think about it. When they stop the food stamps, when the government refuses to offer any more hand outs, the monkeys will riot in the streets. Do you really want a knife that’s so cheap nobody takes you seriously in the streets? Of course not. Do you want a knife that’s going to break when you go to baton wood or cut cordage? No.

There are a number of characteristics you need to look for in a full blown SHTF knife:

  • Fixed blade
  • Full tang
  • Skull crusher pommel
  • 4″+ blade length
  • Comfortable handle
  • Razor sharp blade material

Owning a fixed blade knife is of critical importance. A folding knife is convenient but busts a lot easier due to a weakened point on the blade (the part that folds.) A busted knife is of no use to you. If the knife you own must last, you MUST go for a knife with a fixed blade.

Full tang is another crucial aspect of the knife. The tang is a continuation of the blade that runs into the handle. Half tangs run half the length of the handle while full tangs run the total length. A full tang serves to bolster the strength of both the knife and the handle. Plus, if the handle cracks off you still have a usable blade with a full tang knife. Simply wrap a bit of paracord around the tang and you’re good to go.

tang
A full tang blade runs the length of the handle

 

What about size? Don’t be afraid to get a knife with a little length. 4 inches + is a good starting point and I find a knife between 5 and 6 inches to be perfect. Too short of a blade and the knife is worthless. Too long and the knife becomes a cumbersome piece of steel.

You got to strike the right balance between length and usability.

The Best SHTF Knife

Let’s talk knives. Out of all the knives on the market, there is one knife that stands out against the hundreds of wannabes. – The ESEE 5. The ESEE-5 was designed as a downed pilots survival knife. The pommel (butt end of the knife) is engineered so a pilot can bust out the window on a downed chopper or aircraft. Everything about the knife is specifically there to smash you out and through a fully blown SHTF situation.

The ESEE-5 SHTF Knife in FULL Glory

 

The blade is fixed, the tang is full, the knife is sharp as a razor. The blade material in question is the time tested 1095 carbon steel. This stuff is sharp, and I’ll tell you one thing – you wouldn’t want to be on the business end of this blade.

Is the knife more expensive than other knives? Yes. Do budget survival knives even come close to the quality of the ESEE 5? No. There’s a reason why those knives are $20 dollars. They’re going to bust the second you go to use them for anything useful.

I’ve always said, your knife and bug out bag are two pieces of SHTF gear you do not want to cheap out on. ESEE knives are extremely solid in every way.

Budget version of the ESEE 5?

What if I told you about a knife that’s a damn near replica of the ESEE 5 but way cheaper? I’m speaking specifically of the legendary RAT 5. The RAT 5 features the same 1095 carbon steel and design as the ESEE 5 but comes in at a significant cost difference. Why is this? Nobody has quite pinned down the answer to that question. Myths suggest the RAT uses inferior metals but field reports suggest the RAT 5 holds up just as well as the ESEE in the bush.

rat-5-knife
The RAT 5 – budget friendly version of the ESEE 5. Half the price!

 

Me personally? I’m a sucker for brand name stuff. But having used both knives I can tell you they are very similar in overall build and quality.

So, if you’re in a pinch for money, definitely check out the other reviews on the RAT 5.

Final thoughts

The most hardcore survivalists agree, it really comes down to the ESEE or RAT 5. Both blades are extremely well equipped and stand up to the harsh conditions of a fully blown survival situation. Strapped for cash? Go for the RAT. But if you got the cheddar you’d be doing yourself a big solid by going with the ESEE.

 

Best Survival Radios For Full Blown SHTF

Imagine, ISIS has infiltrated your immediate environment. They’ve taken out critical COMMS systems like all of the cell towers. You pick up your phone to make a call…and nothing. Nothing is going out and nothing is coming in. How do you find out what is going on when the cell towers go down? How will you get immediate information about the surrounding disaster? This information is crucial to your survival.

What you need is a survival radio. A radio operates in a much different way than cell phones and offers higher reliability in the event of catastrophic disaster. Cell phones rely on cell towers in order to send and transmit signals. If these cell towers get knocked out or lose power, you are S.O.L. Radios on the other hand use different modes of communication and are much more reliable during times of instability.

Let’s crack in to the best survival radios you can get for a fully blown SHTF situation

Two Way Walkies

You might remember messing around with these as a kid or using a pair for work. Two-way walkies communicate directly and the signal is instantaneous. They feature PTT (push-to-talk) technology which allows for instant and rapid communications. Two way radios have come a long way and now offer communications at much greater distances. This two-way radio has a total communication distance of 37 miles. This is a cheap way to ensure you have critical communications with local family and loved ones even in the event of a disaster. You are only seconds away from critical COMMS.

Hand Cranked Emergency Radio

A hand cranked emergency radio is an inexpensive way to tap into crucial survival communications. An emergency survival radio can listen in on emergency radio frequencies and relay important information about what’s going on around you. This information will prove to be crucial to your survival. I always go for the hand cranked radio types. I don’t like being dependent on batteries although I always have them around. Many of them even come fully loaded with a flashlight and a strong antennae. These types of survival radios are receivers only – meaning you cannot communicate using them.

HAM radios

Now we’re getting into the big boy COMMS. Ham radios operate on a much wider set of frequencies and can reach other ham radio operators across the world. The equipment is truly powerful – so powerful you actually need a license to operate. You can’t just be tapping into air traffic control frequencies. The high barrier to entry comes at a significant advantage however – you can basically listen in and communicate on many different frequencies. While this remains illegal in many normal cases, in a fully blown SHTF situation you can be sure the FCC isn’t going to be worried about tracking down offenders. There are a number of entry level radios you can get started with (see below.)

Best Survival Radios

Now that you have a good idea about the different technologies, let’s crack straight into some products. These survival radios are widely regarded as being the best radios out there.

Cobra CXT 1035R – This pair of two-ways offers insane distance – up to 37 miles. Very easy to use and operate unlike some of the more advanced survival radios. It even floats in the water! Great for the outdoors and definitely a big advantage if you have to bug out. You can grab your bug out bag and start coordinating with everybody instantly and directly. Get a set for everyone in your family.

two-way-survival-radio

American Red Cross Hand Cranked Radio – This survival radio is the standard for portable and rechargable radio technology. It’s licensed and widely used by the American Red Cross themselves. It features an AM/FM frequency band, an LED flashlight, and a rechargeable USB port for your smart phone and other electronics. A built in AUX port allows you to plug in your Ipod or smartphone to play music. It takes batteries which can be recharged by the hand crank. A real quality radio you should have on hand at all times. Oh yeah, it also has built in electronics to access the NOAA emergency weather radio station. Check out this resource for a listing of local frequencies in your area.

red-cross-survival-radio

Baofeng UV-5R Two Way HAM Radio – The absolute STANDARD for the entry level HAM radio operator. If you’re just getting into HAM radio this is the radio to get. And the thing is, even if you don’t have your HAM license you can still buy this legally. If you make sure to stick within the frequencies you’re allowed to transmit on you’re good to go. A pair of Baofengs can be used as two very powerful two-way radios in and of themselves. There is no license required to use them as a pair of powerful walkies. And here’s the kicker, they’re even cheaper than a pair of normal two-ways! Don’t ask me how that works.

baofeng-ham-survival-radio

Kaito Voyager-500

Kaito-ka500-emergency-radio

Perhaps the best emergency receiving radio is the Kaito Voyager KA500. This radio comes fully equipped with all the NOAA channels and can tap into the AM/FM and shortwave channels too. The Kaito 500 has 5 different methods of charging itself. You can use the hand crank, USB, AC, Batteries, or solar. A truly versatile radio and one well deserving of a full review. You can read my full review of the Kaito 500 here.

Final thoughts

A survival radio is an invaluable piece of equipment especially when TSHTF. I urge you to explore the options of becoming a HAM radio operator. If shit truly hits the fan, people who know how to operate radio will be in high demand. On top of that, it’s a fun hobby to get into and there’s a massive community around HAM radio. At the bare minimum, snatch a couple of two-ways and an emergency radio and you’re good to go.

Top 5 Budget Survival Knives

If you’ve done any research on survival you know the knife is the most important piece of gear in your kit. The knife is versatile enough to cut cordage, baton wood, and protect you from attackers. But if you’ve looked at the knives many people recommend, you might find yourself saying one thing – “damn, these are expensive!”

And you’re right. The best of anything is going to cost you a pretty penny. But don’t worry, there are actually some quality blades you can get for relatively cheap. Read on for a list of my favorite budget survival knives.

US Marine Core Military Knife

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Price: $11.76

Licensed by the military and used throughout the USMC training course. This is a beastly looking blade. In fact, I’m not even sure if this is legal in all states. It’s a weighty knife, not a cheapo blade by any means. The blade itself is sharp as hell and locks securely into place. I have no doubts that in the right hands, one could easily Rambo their way out of any full blown SHTF situation. If you’re looking for a budget survival knife you got to check this one out for sure.

TAC-FORCE Black Sheriff LED

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Price: $10.90

Shank your way through the dark with a no-nonsense survival knife made for CRITICAL OPS. The LED on this bad boy is surprisingly bright and effective. The blade is also something you don’t want to handle unless you know what you’re doing – it’s sharp as razor wire and has a mean bite indeed. This the black sheriff and it’s here to add a little justice to your survival kit. The price of this blade will satisfy even the most frugal meiser.

RAMBO Tactical Hunting Knife

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Price: $12.99

Can you imagine smashing through a full blown SHTF situation with a knife that looks like this? I’ll tell you right now, nobody is going to mess with you. This blade is big and bad, and stands up to the stressors of even the most hairest survival situations. Baton full size logs and then turn around to shank your way through a hoard of ISIS terrorists. Serious stuff.

The Survivor HK

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Price: $7.49

A serious survival knife that brings loads of value to the table. It’s a full on fixed blade survival knife with paracord and a ferrocerium rod included. What more could you ask for in a survival knife? At less than $10 bucks, you would have to have been dropped on your head not to see the value in this. This is a great bargain buy because of all the included gear. Don’t pass up on this deal.

Tac-Force TS-705

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Price: $9.04

Another blade that is possibly illegal depending on your state (don’t tell daddy.) This is a “spring assisted” blade, otherwise known as a switch blade. I like this knife because you can keep it in your pocket unlike a fixed blade. At a moments notice you can bust this thing out and switch the blade. If you things get hairy this is a great knife to have on hand. It also has a built in bottle opener so you can crack open a brewski after a long day on the apocalyptic plains of DOOM.

Conclusion

Well there you have it. All of these blades are under $15 dollars. It really doesn’t get any more budget than this. If you’re still looking for something cheaper I suggest spending the money on a psychologist who can diagnose why you’re always trying to cheap out on stuff. If you could kick your coffee addiction for even a month you would have enough cash for a full blown bug out bag or survival kit. Anyways…

Thanks for reading!

 

Budget Survival Kit V1.0

budget-survival-kit

Looking for a budget friendly way to build a survival kit? Procuring all of the essential survival gear does not have to be expensive. In fact, you can get all the basic stuff for well under $100 dollars. A lot of the important stuff you need is really inexpensive and will serve you well in a full blown survival situation. Although the tactical backpack is most expensive, most people have something laying around they can use. It is a good idea to keep all this gear in a backpack in case you need to bug out.

Let’s crack straight into the budget survival kit.

Paracord – This stuff is cheap and extremely useful. What can you use paracord for? I can go on for days about the practical uses of a good length of paracord. Rig up a shelter, tie off a load, make shift handcuffs, dragging loads up steep hills etc. If you need any further convincing I suggest watching the movie Boondock saints. They answer the question quite nicely.

Black trash bags – Speaking of budget, I know of nothing cheaper yet more useful than the trash bag. They are the unsung heros of the city. They are waterproof parkas, collectors of water, body bags, insulators, and much more. Not to mention they are the lightest thing in your pack. You can load your pack down with hundreds of them and barely feel the weight. You probably already have some in your garage.

BIC lighters – what are these, like .50 cents at the liquor store? You can buy a whole box of them and still have plenty of funds left over. Use these to start a fire in the coldest conditions. On the highest mountain top you can rest soundly, knowing you have a roaring fire ablaze to keep you warm.

Ferrocerium rod – cheap and effective. It’s a backup to your BIC lighters. The thing about ferro rods is they strike even when wet. If your matches or lighter gets wet you are hosed (no pun intended.)

Budget survival knife – This will be the most expensive part of the budget survival kit but the knife cannot be overlooked. It’s the most important piece of equipment you own. If you don’t have a knife you don’t have a survival kit. Take a look at my review of the Bear Grylls survival knife. It’s actually a solid knife despite his reputation as only being an entertainer. And as a bonus, it comes with a ferrocerium rod. Kill two birds with one stone.

Water container – preferably stainless steel. If you come across any dubious water sources you can boil the water so it’s drinkable.

3 days of food – 3 days worth of food and water. Water is extremely cheap. For food you can pick up some bulk dried nuts and fruit. Clif bars are good and so are candy bars. Think about foods that won’t perish and pack in lots of nutritional value.

Alcohol wipes – you can use these to clean wounds and they double as a powerful fire starter. The alcohol burns long enough for you to get a fire started with relative ease. Especially in wet weather conditions, these can be life savers.

Water filter – Another essential piece of gear you can’t afford to leave out. Water filters like the Sawyer water filter can easily and rapidly filter out bacteria found in dubious water sources.

Extra socks – when the cheese foot sets in you’re going to want a dry pair of socks. There is something about a change of socks that boosts morale and gives you that last little boost of motivation. Do not go balls deep into a fully blown SHTF situation without an extra pair of socks. Your feet will thank me later.

Backpack – All this gear has to go into something right? Sure, you can use that Jansport bag you’ve had since freshman year of highschool but I don’t recommend it. Those straps and zippers will bust at a moments notice. They simply aren’t made to handle the load of a full blown survival kit. While most of the items on this budget survival kit are light, if you add more gear in the future you will run into problems with a standard school bag. I have made a list of the best tactical backpacks for your reading leisure. Take a look at the list. There are some budget friendly bags towards the bottom that are actually quite nice, yet very reliable.

The Grand total

So without the backpack the grand total for this budget survival kit comes to $85.29. Considering many survival kits you see online are upwards of $500 and more, this is a very solid kit at a budget price. If you don’t have the money for everything just buy single items until you have gathered all the gear you need.

With a little time, you will have a bug out bag that rivals even the best. You can then rest soundly at night knowing you are prepared or the worst.

What do you think of this survival kit? Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Camelbak Motherlode Review

The Camelbak Motherlode backpack has taken the survival community by storm – producing a backpack that functions admirably as both a bug out bag and a general hiking bag. Camelbak is well known for producing high quality hydration packs and now has their hands in the backpack market. I got to say, the quality has transferred over quite nicely.

In this review, I take an up close look at the Camelbak Motherlode. I had a number of questions going into this review:

  • Can the Camelbak Motherlode handle a full blown SHTF situation?
  • Can it function as a bug out bag?
  • Can it store all of my gear?
  • Is it worth the price?

Yes, these are all crucial questions to ask. After all, you are trusting your backpack to hold all of your gear. Whether that gear is for hiking, backpacking, or bugging out, you need a pack that is going to handle anything you throw at it. Plus, quality packs will last you for years. I’ve cheaped out on packs before only to see the zippers bust within 6 months with light use. No bueno.

Specs

  • 100% Nylon
  • Made in USA
  • Hydration capacity: 100 oz/3 L
  • Total capacity: 2258 cu in/37L + 3L reservoir
  • Total weight: 4.9 lbs/2.2 kg
  • Torso length: 16.5 in/42 cm
  • 420D high Density Nylon on shoulder harness

Camelbak Motherlode quality

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Loaded down…

 

The first thing you’re going to notice with the Camelbak Motherlode is the absolute quality of everything on this pack. Everything from the material to the zippers are extremely well built. Don’t be fooled by Camelbaks background as just a hydration pack manufacturer – this backpack is military spec in all the areas that count. It’s even got Molle webbing on the outside. This is a feature you only see in highly tactical military packs. And it’s not just there to look cool either. With the Molle webbing you can easily attach Molle compatible pouches to the outside. This would allow you to extend the carrying capacity of the pack in case you needed to go full blown pack mule status.

Super clean

Holy cow is this pack slick looking. It’s like they took a military spec bag and gave it a complete makeover. Don’t get me wrong – I love tactical military packs. But if we were completely honest with ourselves they aren’t the best looking packs around. Can’t we have military spec while still looking cool? The answer is yes with the Camelbak Motherlode.

Critical hydration

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The Camelbak Motherlode with included hydration bladder

 

Being a true-to-form Camelbak, the Motherlode comes fully stocked with a 3L hydration bladder. If you have any experience with Camelbak you already have a good grasp on the sheer quality of the bladder. Lesser bladders bust wide open within months and barely pull any water when you go for a drink. The Motherlode delivers the same level of quality we know and love from Camelbak.

Comfort and Pockets

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Inside look

 

The Motherlode is well padded in the shoulder straps and back area. The last thing you want is skinny spaghetti straps digging into your traps on a hike. The pack also comes loaded with enough pockets to store all of your gear. On the outside is a generous admin pocket with the main compartment totaling 37 liters. That’s a lot of space.

Concluding thoughts

So, can the Motherlode stand up to a full blown SHTF situation? Hell yes. Can the Motherlode handle a 3 day excursion into the bush? Absolutely. This pack isn’t going to have any problems with anything you throw at it. Sure, you aren’t going to be able to pack everything and the kitchen sink, but you can certainly pack all the essentials. The Camelbak Motherlode gets a big thumbs up from all the experts at DSK.

Pick one up today and see for yourself.

 

Direct Action Ghost Backpack Review

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When TSHTF, are you going to have a real backpack to grab and go? Are you going to have all the essential gear required to blow through a fully blown SHTF situation? Serious situations require seriously durable gear. The Direct Action Ghost Tactical backpack is the all time classic tactical bag – coming fully stocked with everything you need in a backpack. In fact, the Direct Action Ghost is versatile enough to be used in many different scenarios – many people use the backpack as a standard daypack while it’s fully functional as a full blown bug out bag too.

Specs

  • 100% Cordura 500D, DWR coated
  • Made in USA or Imported
  • Lightweight and versatile 3-day backpack designed for advanced Military & Law Enforcement operators
  • Patented Combat Vent System® provides increased comfort for their users during prolonged use
  • Unique laser cut MOLLE/PALS system is lowprofile, lightweight, snag-free and non-water absorbing
  • Durable, water resistant coated Codura 500D fabric with multiple color/camo options for versitility
  • Kryptek, PenCott, Mulitcam are NIR(Near-infrared) treated; Helps prevent detection with nightvison

Bullet proof

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The pack itself is made of bombproof 500 Denier Cordura material and features heavy duty zippers. Too many times have I taken a backpack out into the woods only to run into quality issues. Material rips, straps snap, zippers stop zipping. This is the LAST thing you want in a backpack no matter what you’re using it for.

The Direct Action Ghost was designed for military and law enforcement personnel. It goes without saying that any gear the military uses is going to be very high quality.

Unique features

The outside pouch is completely detachable when you don't need to carry a massive load
The outside pouch is completely detachable when you don’t need to carry a massive load

 

The thing I really like about this pack is the slim profile. Many backpacks “chode out” the back when you load them down with gear. While this is a purely aesthetic complaint I have, the taller slimmer profile caught my eye straight away on the Direct Action Ghost. I’ve also never seen a camouflage pattern quite like this. It’s quite awesome and a refreshing change from the standard camo variety.

Fully functional

The Direct Action Ghost is adaptable to many scenarios. The side compression straps can be used to lash down a tent or a tarp for instance. I always look for side compression straps for this purpose. A lot of bulky stuff must be lashed to the outside to make room for gear on the inside. Without the compression straps this can become quite a pain in the ass.

Fortunately the Direct Action Ghost has compression straps right on the side – very strong ones at that. The laser cut molle not only makes this pack look completely badass but allows you to attach more gear to the outside. You can extend the carrying capacity if you have Molle compatible pouches. And speaking of pouches, the Direct Action Ghost has a removable pouch attached to the outside. Remove the pouch if your’re going for a day hike, put it back on when it’s time to go fully loaded.

Comfortable

Okay, another gripe I have with packs is the the thin spaghetti straps companies use in place of well padded ones. The Direct Action Ghost gets it right. This pack is extremely comfortable from the generously padded straps to the soft and breathable back area. The waist straps are also well padded and do a good job at bearing a lot of the load you’re carrying.

Pockets for days

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Tons of pockets!

 

I’m still discovering pockets on the Direct Action Ghost. It comes loaded down with a ton of organizational space and plenty of pockets to stash and store your gear. While most military style packs only offer a large rucksack, the DAG goes against the grain by including more pockets than you can shake a stick at.

If you’re the type of person who likes to organize your pack, this is the only backpack you’ll need. Seriously, lots of nice meshed pockets!

Direct Action Ghost Review Conclusion

Overall this is a great pack and deserves a spot on your back. It’s slim, looks cool, and stands up to the strict standards of military quality. If you’re looking for a bug out bag, a backpack for hiking, or just an awesome day pack, definitely check out the Direct Action Ghost. Thanks for reading this review!