Archive | June 2012

Wilderness Survival 101: Let’s get dirty


If the Boy Scouts of America can do it than so can you – time to earn your survival badges people!

Another aspect of prepper training is developing your wilderness survival skills. Though most of us are unlikely to be caught unawares in the wild by the apocalypse, many of us may be planning on bugging out or preparing for massive shortages of modern goods and services. Part if that preparation must involve learning a few basic survival skills.

The average human can survive roughly 3 minutes without oxygen, 3 hours without being able to regulate temperature (read: hypothermia or heatstroke), 3 days without water, and 3 weeks without food. Being able to meet those needs – in that order – is key to long term survival.

So assuming the post-world has oxygen your first mission is to find our build shelter. The design of your shelter will very depending on the materials available to you in your environment. If you’re in the desert or an arctic environment your best bet is burying yourself. In a more temperate climate you’re looking at debris shelters. Hopefully no matter where you’ll have a decent size tarp as such a tool can be invaluable no matter the weather.

When building your shelter you’ll need to take location into careful consideration. You’ll need to be close enough to resources necessary for the remaining survival factors to be able to access them easily. Things to consider: where’s your nearest water source? Can you build a fire? Will your shelter end up in a puddle if it rains?

Once built, look into building a fire. I’ll go through this in depth next post but for now I recommend keeping a lighter on your person at all times. Not only is a fire an excellent ingredient in keeping warm but it’s necessary for boiling water, cooking food, and has an excellent effect on ones mental state.

Once you have a good roaring fire going it’s time to get some water. Depending on what you have available you may need to make your own water carrying device. If not, yay you! You’re prepared! Gathering water itself will very in difficulty from waiting for a steady rain to scooping some out of a river or spring…and once you have it, you’ll need to boil it.

Next, you’re going to need a food source. I recommend learning your local plants and how to harvest them. A few basic traps and snares won’t do you any harm either. Nor will learning how to prepare and preserve any food you acquire.

I’ll dive into each of these points in excessive depth over the coming weeks but right now what I want to cement is your list of priorities. If you’re going to be surviving in the relative wilderness for any length of time you must address the following needs IN THIS ORDER:

1. Pick a location.

2. Build a shelter.

3. Build a fire.

4. Gather and boil water.

5. Find and prepare food.

Got it? Good. Oh – and this whole process is going to be absolutely filthy. Fair warning.

– Wren

Prepper training: run an apocalyptic 5K

Photo Source: American Red Cross Blog

Just when I thought there couldn’t be anything better for your pre-Apocalypse workout than the Warrior Dash, I stumbled across Run for Your Lives, a zombie obstacle race.

Yes, that’s right. You can run an apocalyptic 5K complete with zombies as part of your training regime. What could be perfect?

Participants will dodge, weave, climb, and crawl their way through the infected zone to get to the finish. While the race claims it’s a 5K be warned – there are several ways to get to the finish, some of which may end up being a lot more of a workout than you bargained for (up to 10K!). This race is about brains and brawn as you try to find the fastest way to the safe zone with a pack of zombies on your tail.

For those of you who want the zombie experience without getting high on bath salts, you can register to be one of the undead trying to attack the helpless racers making their way through the course. The zombies try to hunt down the racers and grab their “health flags” before they reach the safe zone.  Sadly the race doesn’t involve the real undead, but that would make logistics a bit difficult.

The entire thing wraps up with an Apocalypse Party, which features booze, food, zombie-themed games, zombie gear, and all other things zombie related. Your unfit friends and family members can skip the race and head straight to the party, but wouldn’t it be better to encourage them to train with you? The race could even be used as a valuable educational tool to highlight why it is so important for them to get into shape when facing the approaching apocalypse

The only issue I have with this race is choosing whether to run as a participant or a zombie. Clearly the participants will be provided with an excellent chance to test their overall fitness level and escape skills, which could be the difference between surviving and becoming another of the undead. However, I can also see the benefit of joining the zombie tribe. Consider it your chance at an inside view into how the zombies will try to track you done. Following the race, you can take these insights and apply them to your survival strategy to increase your chances of making it when the real thing occurs.

Or you can hope that the apocalypse holds off for long enough that you have time to run the race twice. Either way, I’m definitely going to incorporate this into my training schedule. Hope to see you there!


10 Flavors of the Apocalypse: Updated


In our very first post Kennedy and I introduced our ten flavors of the apocalypse. The idea was that, over time, we’d do a deep drive on each of the flavors: Mayan, Nuclear, Astroid, Ice Age, Aliens, Biotech, Zombies, Super Volcanos, Robots, and Black Holes analyzing the possibility of occurrence and noting steps you can take to survive in each situation.

Well, following the recent de-bunking of the Mayan apocalypse we’ve decided to make an alteration to the original list. The Mayan apocalypse is no longer even a mere possibility but financial collapse is. Our revised list is below.

1. Financial Collapse – While Greece may have voted down the Euro apocalypse, financial collapse still seems eminent to those of us who follow financial markets. This variety of apocalypse would be devastating not because of initial infrastructure damage, as in other flavors, but because of the resulting chaos. Such an apocalypse would come to head over time with people feeling the effects first through unemployment and then through a widespread reduction of consumption until the entire system collapsed. Goody. Kennedy will touch on this further soon enough.

1. Mayan Apocalypse – This will be a focus of the blog going forward as the date (Dec 21, 2012) is approaching. While there is nothing in Mayan texts that states that the world will end this December, the Mayan conception of time was cyclical rather than linear (as ours is) and the end of the calendar later this year may signify that we are due for a ‘reset’.

2. Nuclear War – This is our other focus and most likely scenario. Here’s a secret: both of us follow current events across a variety of news sources and we’re pretty certain that if the world doesn’t end this December we’re staring nuclear war in the face. Yay. While brutal, nuclear war is survivable. See our view on this flavor in more depth here.

3. Astroid Impact – An astroid impact is a popular theory regarding the cause of the extinction of dinosaurs? Yes, it could happen again. The subject of many movies over the years, the chance of the occurring again is actually higher than most 1/700,000 per lifetime. This is also probably the most destructive theory. Very few people would survive.

4. Ice Age – Global warming. Climate change. Whatever the moniker, the gradual change in the environment of our planet makes the phenomenon of the return of an ice age very possible. It’s unlikely that this will occur during our lifetimes but it’s still worth considering.

5. Alien Invasion – There are plenty of reasons why aliens would want to invade earth: Anthropological study? Resources? Breeding partners? Homelessness? We don’t know if they exist, when they’ll strike (assuming they exist), and we certainly don’t know their intentions.

6. Biotech Disaster – With the proliferation of genetic engineering – of people, animals, and food – it becomes likely that something may go wrong. It’s still unclear what effect gen-mods will have but a biotech disaster may well lead to a zombie apocalypse…which leads me to my next point….

7. Zombies – A primary feature of recent apocalyptical films, Zombies may be produced through a biological mutation, mass insanity, or a new infection. Regardless, this is likely to be the most individually violent form of apocalypse.

8. Super Volcano – There are three known super volcanos in the US, one in Indonesia, one in New Zealand, and one in Japan. Each is capable of producing an eruption with an area of effect of more than 240 cubic miles. The resulting ‘nuclear winter’ would result in sufficient dust and debris to block out the sub for years.

9. Robot Revolution – Robots taking over isn’t THAT far-fetched. All it would take is one particularly well designed robot deciding not to take humanity anymore and boom – robot revolution. We suspect that this one would get nasty unless the robots were capable of empathy. Also on the table is a cyber apocalypse.

10. Black Holes – Researchers believe there are millions of black holes in the milky way alone. Like stars they orbit, moving slowly across the universe. It is not unreasonable to believe it possible for one of these black holes to eventually collide with earth.

– Wren

Prove the prep: inland lifeboats

Welcome to our new series, where Wren and I evaluate the latest in survival techniques and gear. We’re starting with the STATIM pod, a “lifeboat” of sorts, made out of concrete, and designed for helping you survive a tsunami/flood/other giant water event.

Photo Source:

STATIM are constructed from concrete modules that are fitted together onsite. Inside, you’re find seating for 50 people, a ventilation system, storage space for emergency supplies, and a sanitation system (toilet). Self-righting and buoyant, the pods are designed to help you survive the first wave of the apocalypse-by-water and get through the following couple of days.

What we like: Clearly an effective way to survive a tsunami or other large water event. The pods hold a relatively large number of people and could be outfitted with enough emergency supplies to get you through the short-term.

The simple construction is another attractive feature. By assembling the pre-made modules onsite, costs will be reduced and the pods can be mass-produced to reach the largest possible number of people.

The company’s idea to anchor pods in flood-prone areas is also quite intriguing. While they do not provide any details on how one would anchor a pod, it is reassuring to know that they’ve come up with a way to keep you from floating off into the ocean when the next tsunami hits.

What we dislike: Firstly, the pod’s interior. The design is Spartan and it appears that 50 people would be a tight fit, especially if you end up being stuck on the pod for several days. I would be interested to see an alternative design with a reduced capacity but greater functionality (e.g. seats collapse into beds, “room” dividers, etc.).

Then there’s the size. I’m not entirely sure where you would store one of these things, unless you happen to have a lot of land available. In my experience, most people who live in coastal areas and those most at risk of a tsunami or hurricane floodwaters do not have the luxury of space. Neither do those of us in the city.

Thirdly, the cost. $1800 isn’t completely outrageous, but it’s also a lot to spend on a single survival item that still needs to be outfitted (although on the plus side, you could convert it into a bunker if you live in, say, Arizona). In my view, the pods weren’t designed for individual/family use, but could be sold to local governments or communities looking to invest in their survival.

Fourthly, there’s the aspect of transport to be considered. What happens if the floodwaters don’t recede in the first few days and supplies begin to run low? The company suggests towing using a helicopter to tow the pod to dry land, which seems a lot more complicated than owning something you can transport yourself (i.e. a boat). The helicopter assumes that either you own one (in which case, why weren’t you on that during the apocalypse) or that the government is fully functional and willing to rescue you in a reasonable amount of time. I’m not willing to commit to either of those things.

Finally, if you tend towards the claustrophobic side like me, the thought of spending at time in a confined space that small with 49 other people is enough to send shivers down your spine.

Verdict: Points for the interesting concept and it could potentially have some use, however this is limited to governments and a very specific subset of individuals. Overall, we’ll skip this one.


Cloud breaks and a chance of cyber attacks

cloud computing

via 123rf

Those of you who follow tech or have a cloud-connected Apple device may have noticed that Apple’s iCloud was down for a couple hours this afternoon. While this certainly isn’t cause for panic – the consumer cloud doesn’t exactly hold the secretes of the universe – I’d like to posit a different situation: What if the private cloud fell?

For those of you who don’t follow the tech world more closely than one ant follows another on its way to a picnic the cloud is the common term for a technology that allows an user to send information, via an internet or data connection, to a sever. The information is then stored in a server and can be accessed remotely at any time from a connected device. The benefit of storing your files in the cloud is circumventing storage restrictions on your device. Sorted.

The cloud has many dimensions – public, private, and consumer – and has actually been in use far longer than most of us know.  Envisioned in the 1960’s, the first tangible iteration of the cloud came in the form of in 1999 which which pioneered the concept of delivering enterprise applications via a simple website. In 2002 Amazon started rolling out enterprise cloud solutions including remote storage and abracadabra, ten years later we have iCloud, SkyDrive, Dropbox, etc.

Now, the interesting thing about the private cloud – a breed of cloud computing where the customer purchases a server suite to be hosted on-site at their own private location so they can administer it themselves through customized virtualization software – is that the private cloud DOES hold the secrets of the universe…or at least this country.

The US government has begun to purchase private cloud solutions to store secure data. Briefly, how it works is a government department purchases a private cloud solution, the vendor builds and installs a server farm at the department’s location of choice, the vendor syncs the servers to the department’s chosen (often customized) software solution, and there you have it – one private cloud. The benefits of a private cloud for governments is it allows them to house massive amounts of secure data on a safe platform – the data lives on the serves, employees access it through the cloud but they don’t download it to their individual machines. This means that the government can have all of the secure data on lock down – it’s more secure. The servers are privately hosted so no one else has access to them – virtually or physically – and synced devices can be remotely wiped using the administrative software.

The problem is that even private cloud isn’t perfect. In a world full of bureaucratic posturing innovation often comes most quickly from malevolent sources. Hackers can more quickly find access points to systems than “the good guys” can develop patches. Returning to the private cloud; the bulk of servers currently on the market are based on Intel’s Atom processors. The US Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) recently revealed a flaw in these Intel processors that allows hackers to exploit a set of kernel instructions on 64-bit (just go with it) operating systems. The hacker can then essentially subvert the security permissions of a virtual (read: cloud) system to access the supposedly protected data. Uh-oh.

While Microsoft has already issued a patch to correct for the vulnerability those using customized virtualization softwares or those running non-Windows operating systems may still be vulnerable. Including the government.

So what if someone far more malicious than you or I got it their heads to wipe all of Social Security Administration‘s data? What if a terrorist with mad computing skills decides to hack the Federal Aviation Administration‘s information for their own nefarious use? What if, some day for some reason, the private cloud goes dark like Apple’s consumer cloud did today? What then? I’d bet on anything from panic and a lot of administrative mistakes to full on war.  The implications are simple: If the data stored on those private cloud servers were to fall into the wrong hands this entire country would fall into chaos – after all, information is power.

Realize this: Everyday the US government is vulnerable to cyber attacks, may undertake its own cyber attacks (see Flame Malware), and YOUR government-held data is at risk of being lost forever. So I suggest you back up what you can – make your own private cloud so-to-speak – and prepare for the possibility of a cloud-free future.

– Wren

A sticky situation

Photo Source:

Sanitation is one of the most underrated public services in developed countries. As with all public services, there is a very high likelihood that sanitation services will fail in an apocalyptic event. Yet this element of survival consistently fails to receive the attention it deserves, probably because we’re all taught not to talk about poop in public.

Water is a relatively “sexy” topic. While clean water is critical to staying alive, it should not be forgotten that water and sanitation go hand in hand. Where there is water, there will be wastewater that needs to be properly disposed of. Surviving the apocalypse isn’t going to be very useful if you die of cholera three weeks later.

A failure to plan for your sanitation needs will very likely lead to the spread of waterborne diseases and could contaminate your water source, leading to a greatly reduced chance of long-term survival. This situation is frequently observed in developing countries that lack proper sanitation services, and in urban slums in particular. According to the World Bank, diarrhea caused by a lack of proper sanitation kills one child every 20 seconds in the developing world. Shit is not a laughing matter.

How you address your sanitation needs will greatly differ in bug-in and bug-out situations. The latter is relatively simple to address, assuming you establish a base/small community in a relatively rural area. In this case, a simple outhouse will suffice. Be sure to dig a deep enough hole that is far enough away from any potential water source to avoid contamination. You will need to move the location of the outhouse every so often, though this will depend on the number of people using it.

Bugging in, particularly in urban areas, presents an entirely different challenge altogether. If the number of people living in the area has been greatly reduced, outhouses may be a viable option in the urban setting. However, it is likely that there will be large numbers of survivors and that is a recipe for disease outbreaks if a basic level of sanitation service cannot be established. In urban areas it is also critical to know where the wastewater discharge is located on local waterways. If treatment facilities breakdown be sure to avoid this area at all costs, as it will be highly contaminated.

Sanitation is not a pleasant topic, but it’s much easier to deal with ahead of time. Nothing is worse than getting hit with a very angry digestive system and not having a place to go.

Greece: The Apocalypse in Slow Motion

Photo Credit:

I usually imagine the apocalypse to be some kind of catastrophe that catches people off-guard the moment it happens. The current situation in Greece, however, is providing an excellent case study for a slow-building apocalypse that has been predicted and studied for months.

Ahead of Sunday’s vote, which may be the final straw on a dying camel’s back, here are a few lessons that can be learned from observing the Greek situation:

1. Politicians are ineffective at addressing non-urgent, large-scale challenges.

Even in a situation such as Greece, which arguably has been in the urgent category for months now, politicians are often unwilling to step up until the last possible minute. This both lengthens the period of anxiety before the disaster and increases the damage inflicted, even if a full-blown catastrophe is averted. Another prime example in this category is climate change. Politicians are much more adept to responding after a disaster has occurred, as the course of action for recovery is much more clear-cut. When the politicians become entrenched over a critical issue that could bring down the entire system, start preparing yourself for a bumpy ride ahead.

2. Political disasters are likely to be slow moving.

Greece has been dangling perilously close to the edge of a fiscal and economic apocalypse for some time now and its citizens have been given considerable warning to prepare for the worst. They have responded appropriately by withdrawing Euros and stocking up on non-perishables.

While a swift blow to the global financial/economic/political system is still possible (e.g. Lehman Brothers), the current climate is one where the majority of the challenges are visible for a considerable amount of time before absolute disaster strikes. Consider this a blessing, as it should give you adequate time to prepare (esp. if you’re currently living in Spain…)

3. A trigger event is still required

The European turmoil has been dragging on for well over a year now, which gives a good vantage point for reflection. While the financial markets seem to jump and plunge with the slightest change in the news, the majority of this is merely noise. Even though this is a slow moving crisis, Greece has so far managed not to fall off the cliff because it has lacked a “trigger event”. Sunday’s election is (potentially) a prime example of such event, although the ramifications will take a few weeks to make themselves fully known.

The nice thing about the current crises that we’re facing is that there is no lack of build-up to these trigger events. You should be able to see them coming from weeks away if you read/watch/listen to anything that resembles the news.

So moral of the story: politicians are incompetent, but these things happen over time and you should be able to prepare yourselves accordingly. While none of us know what will happen on Sunday, I’m fairly certain the markets will be volatile on Monday morning and there will be lots of speeches coming out of various EU institutions. For those of us lucky enough to be observing this from the outside, it will be a bumpy ride but we’ll recover. I doubt Greece’s apocalypse will become a systemic catastrophe (at least not overnight).