Archive | July 2012

Olympics: Post-Apocalypse Style

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With the kick-off of the London Olympics on Friday night, complete with a rather apocalyptic NHS/giant baby scene, Wren and I have been discussing what the Games would look like in a post-apocalyptic world. The result is a cross between the Olympics, the Hunger Games, and a few other odd elements. Here’s how we see a few of the future events:

Track and field

A 400m sprint while being chased by zombies? I guarantee you that would see a drastic increase in record-breaking finishes. Other options include long jump over a pit of nuclear waste and attempting hurdles while being chased by wolves. Only the fittest will make it to the podium (if they’re lucky).


The post-apocalyptic world will most likely knowledge that, while it’s pretty awesome that some people can do backflips on a tiny beam and catch a ball while doing the splits, these aren’t very useful survival skills. That being said, the basic principles of gymnastics become much more relevant when taken outside the gym. Balancing on branches and vaulting over fallen trees anyone?


Again, a useful skill in a somewhat useless event. After the apocalypse and the disruption of the food distribution system known as the supermarket, archers will be much more highly valued than they are today. Shifting yet another event to the forest, the one that bags the most meat in a given amount of time wins.


Those thin blades with the safety tips aren’t going to do any real damage. Let’s see some proper swords and have the participants fend off a few zombies while they’re at it.

New events

Of course, the apocalypse could also give rise to a whole host of new events. Navigating your way through an abandoned city, which presumably includes some undisclosed dangers, would be a nice addition. Fire-starting may not be the most exciting thing to watch, but then again neither is ping pong and being able to generate heat is a lot more useful.

The biggest challenge of hosting the post-apocalyptic games could be coping with the weather – if you think a little rain in London is bad, try holding beach volleyball with an uncertain monsoon or hurricane season. Or track events in the Midwest’s never-ending drought.

Whatever the challenges, the Olympics will probably overcome them; the Games have already survived their original “apocalypse” with the end of Greek civilization and survived to be reincarnated in the modern age. The next version could be even more exciting.



Wilderness Survival 101: Fire building


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Before you get into actually creating fire by friction you need to prepare the materials that will form the base of your fire.

As always, be sure to adhere to fire safety rules by building a fire pit. At your new found home, chose the site where you will be keeping your fire. Now dig it out, removing any vegetation so all that’s left is hard ground. Be sure to clear an area roughly twice the size of your intended fire pit. Now, go collect a bunch of rocks roughly the size of your fist – you’ll be using these to line the edge of your fire pit. Once you have enough rocks to fully enclose your fire pit it’s time to move on to fire building materials.

To start a fiction fire you’re actually going to need a lot of fire-catching materials. Let’s start with the very basics – a coal catcher and tinder bundle. A coal catcher is a piece of bark that you’ll use to transfer the coal you produce into your tinder bundle. The bark needs to be sufficiently thick and sturdy to hold and move a coal. I typically recommend cedar or a similarly textured evergreen bark.

A tinder bundle is a little more complicated. You want to create a nest, roughly the size of your fist and the density of a hefty knot in your hair (girls, you know what I mean). The bundle should be made of ultra thin, soft, and puffy fibers – cedar again is one of the best materials for this. Strip a piece of cedar bark from a tree and flip it so what was the under side is facing up. Use your knife – please tell me you have a knife  – to scrape at the underside of the bark, fluffing up fibers. Begin balling these together as you work to make a nice round nest. Once you have enough material literally shape it like a nest – with a little divot in the center where you could place a small egg – this is where you’ll be putting your coal once it’s produced.

Next you need to build the actual fire. Consider the shape of a typical flame – fatter near the source of energy – the log – and thinner as it reaches up, eventually tapering off. You should build your fire structure with this shape in mind. Begin by gathering a bunch of wood that you’ll be able to hew into different sizes. Ensure it is relatively dry – the drier the better – and that it’s not such a hard wood it will be hard to work with (no maple). First create and set aside little sticks of kindling that are roughly the length and width of your longest finger and only a few millimeters thick. You can usually break these off of dry down logs with your hands. You’ll need roughly 10 such pieces to get your fire started.

Next, prepare and set a second pile of sticks, these one incrementally larger in every direction. Do this three more times for a total of five piles – each larger than the last until your prepared wood in the final pile is roughly the size of a standard fire log – as long as your fore-arm and you should be able to fit your hands around it.

Starting with the first pile, take half of your smallest kindling and build an upright tipi – remember, bigger at the bottom, tapering toward the top – just like fire itself. Then, using a few pieces of kindling from the second pile add to the pyramid, making it larger but being sure to leave a sizable gap so you can squeeze the tinder bundle in once it’s alight. Think of this as the door to your tipi.

Once you actually get a coal and light the tinder bundle you’ll need to be able to get low to the ground so you can blow on the fire, making sure it has the oxygen it needs to catch the tipi so I recommend moving a few of the stones – on the same side of the fire pit as the door – while you’re working. Once you have fire (which I’ll cover in the next post) you just want to keep adding layers to your tipi, using all of each pile from smallest to largest until all you’re adding to the tipi is standard-sized logs. You’ll want to do this slowly so as not to knock over the pyramid and inadvertently smother the fire.

Even just the process of preparing the materials for your first fire in the wild can take a couple of hours however, if you’re good at banking your fire this may be the first and last time you have to go through the full fire starting process.

– Wren

Survivalist Uses for Household Items: The Second Edition

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Yes, it’s the long awaited return of how to survive the apocalypse using materials that are probably lying around your house right now.

First up: vinegar.

Vinegar has a seemingly endless amount of uses, from cleaning and pickling, down to being a science fair volcano ingredient. Here are a few of my personal favorites:

  • Cleaning. The standard white vinegar you can buy in the supermarket kills 99% of bacteria, 82% of mold, and 80% of germs. It’s also safe enough to spray on pretty much any surface, and won’t harm any mini-preppers in your family.
  • Laundry. Vinegar is fantastic for removing stains and freshening up a load once the Tide has run out.
  • Keeping the bugs away. Place a small bowl of apple cider and a few drops of soap in your food storage area to draw out any bugs that may be hiding there.

I could write an entire post on vinegar and still not cover all of its amazing uses. Thankfully Reader’s Digest has been kind enough to document 150 ways to use vinegar here.

Everyone knows you can’t have vinegar without baking soda. Almost as versatile as vinegar, baking soda can be used as a body scrub, toothpaste, deodorant, and various cleaning purposes. Baking soda is also a useful addition to your first aid kit, as it can be used to sooth skin irritated by rashes, bug bites, and poison ivy.

My personal favorite use – which is particularly appropriate for preppers with a large stash of legumes – is adding baking soda to the water for soaking dried beans. This will help your beans cook better and allow your body to digest them more easily.

Our last item of the day is a coffee can. Here I’m referring to the super-family-sized cans that you can buy at Costco. These are great for storing any kind of food and are perfect for organizing your post-apocalyptic pantry, as they will keep your food dry and are easy to stack.

Once you’ve emptied out a can, you can turn in into a small, portable stove that is particularly useful for bugging out. First, cut a small piece out of the side of the top of the can. This will allow oxygen to feed your fire. Make a small fire, place the can over it, and use the top surface to cook your food. Alternatively, if you have a pot that will sit on the can, you can cut the bottom out and settle your pot directly on the flames as pictured above. Both of these methods will provide you with an efficient stove that is easy to construct (I made my first one as a girl scout!).

If you have any other ideas for using everyday household items in the apocalypse, leave a comment below.


Post-world pet care


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The ASPCA estimates 62% of American households have companion animals – dogs, cats, birds, etc. While many of us are becoming more and more prepared to care for ourselves following an apocalyptic event most of us probably have not considered our options for also caring for a companion animal. Given the importance of companion animals to our daily lives it is important to also have a plan in place for your pet should SHTF to help save you both time and grief.

The first thing to acknowledge is it may not be possible for you to keep your pet post-apocalypse. It’s a sad reality all pet owners who do not live on a farm or in a prepared survivalist community must face. For instance, can you imagine how hard it would be to bug out with a cat? Or carrying a fish bowl? I can’t. It simply wouldn’t work. Owners of severely independent pets should try to consider, in advance, the prospect of setting their animal free post-world. Consider factors such as:

  • The ease of bring the animal with you – wherever you’re headed
  • The ease of caring for the animal in the wild (cleaning, feeding, etc)
  • The amount of distraction caused by the animal’s presence
  • Could you handle it if your pet got fleas/worms/etc

We know considering setting you companion animal free post-world is emotional but do consider how this may benefit both the animal and you. For example, cats, rodents, amphibians, reptiles, and birds are all fairly self-sufficient and will more likely enhance the ecosystem – reproducing and growing populations for hunting – than simply die out. They know how to take care of themselves and many will thrive post-world.

A practical survivor will also need to consider where the animal will fit in to the post-world lifestyle. While most pets today are kept simply for the emotional enjoyment of animal companionship we must consider that the animal’s position will change as our needs change. Our pets will become “working” animals – serving many non-emotional purposes as well. Those with big fuzzy dogs, for example, may have the added advantage of sharing their warmth, having increased protection from potential predators, and help with finding potential food sources. Similarly, a loyal house-cat may help to control pest populations and even bring in a kill to share on occasion. Thinking outside the box, even a small dog may have it’s uses as survivors try to rebuild. A small dog, similar to a cat, is able to hunt small game and control rodents but also may help to alert you of potential predators.

Along the same lines, it’s important to recognize the post-world will represent a shift in our overall cultural paradigm. At some point, all survivors will, in some fashion, have to revert to a combination hunter-gatherer/subsistance farming lifestyle. Animals of all kinds are necessary to such a lifestyle and we recommend being aware of opportunities to grow your “herd” by acquiring dogs, cats, chickens, goats, etc as you move through the post-world. A great start to building such a lifestyle is bringing your current companion animal along for the ride. If you chose to go this route though, realize you will need to find means to feed, house, clean, and harvest products from many, if not all, of the animals you collect.

So, while there are many reasons both to and not to hold on to your companion animals in the post-world it’s important you decide what your plan will be now so you aren’t asking yourself these difficult questions when you should really be getting out of dodge. To help you visualize this process, my own post-apocalypse animal care plan is below.

I live in a five-pet household with three dogs and two cats. While I love my cats, I can’t image forcing either to go with me anywhere. They both still have their claws so, I would plan to set them free and hope they chose to follow me on my journey while fully understanding they either may not be able to or may not chose to. I would however endeavor to keep all three dogs. My dogs are 60lbs, 40lbs, and 5lbs (that’s not a typo). I have a little doggy front pack I plan to wear to hold my small dog (who I admit is my favorite and is also quite the little terror) as I bug out. I’ve tried it out and it’s relatively comfortable with my main pack so no concerns there. The other two dogs would move with me on leashes. A spaniel and a retriever – both are extremely useful and loyal breeds and will likely be invaluable in a survival situation.

The plan is simple, but it’s there and it’s practical (relatively  – I admit my small dog will kind of be a luxury). I definitely expect it will help me, an animal lover, save time if I have to bug out post-apocalypse. After that – all that’s left is surviving.

– Wren

10 Flavors of the Apocalypse: Climate Change (Threat Level Tangerine)

Wren and I are both of the opinion that climate change most certainly exists and could pose a very imminent threat to the world as we know it. As discussed in an earlier post, scientists have now determined that climate change is indeed behind some of the bizarre and extreme weather witnessed across the globe in recent years.

What’s even more scary is that we’re closing in on the tipping point, where the climate will fully shift into another state. This is worrying because once the tipping point has been reached the damage is irreversible (at least until the next ice age and we don’t have much control over that). Thus, a 2 degree increase in the plant’s temperature could become the new normal, and ecosystems and weather patterns everywhere will have to shift to adjust.

The major reason to think that this form of apocalypse could occur is that it already has, on a small and localized scale. Just think about the Texas drought of 2011 or the current drought in the Mid-West. While these events occurred in the past, they’re becoming much more frequent and more severe. Any further increase in the global temperature will only contribute to more bizarre weather events across the globe.

The second reason Wren and I consider climate change to be a severe threat is that it’s an example of a tragedy of the commons. This is econ-speak for what happens when an issue effects most or all of the planet, but politicians can’t get their act together to address it because they’re too concerned with short-term goals like getting re-elected. If the recent summit in Rio is anything to go by, it will be up to NGOs, private corporations, and private citizens to make any kind of lasting change. And sadly these efforts will have a limited impact so long as heavy industry, resource extraction, and farming continue to with their current business models.

However, we’ve opted for a rating of tangerine over our top ranking of rust because there are too many unknowns about climate change’s impacts. Some parts of the world will probably get hotter, others colder; some will get wetter as sea levels rise, others will get drier. What remains unknown is which parts will be most severely impacted (beyond the low-lying Pacific islands, which we can all agree are in trouble). It also remains to be seen if the extremes and severity of current weather patterns are part of the transition to a new climate state. It is possible that the weather will settle down once a new average has been reached and the climate has adapted to its new state.

So to summarize: climate change is happening and will in all likelihood continue to happen for quite a while. But we can’t say this will be the apocalypse because there are simply too many unknowns in the equation. Time to watch and wait.




Survivalist Technology Corner: The ZERO Kit

It’s happend. Someone has produced, packaged, and sold the ultimate technologically advanced zombie survival kit. Scientific supply company Optics Planet is now selling its ZERO Kit (Zombie Extermination, Research, and Operations Kit) and it costs a whopping $24,000.

Sure, it contains gun accessories and the like, but there is so much more….

According to the website the ZERO Kite contains everything a prospective zombie apocalypse survivor needs to battle and study the zombie menace. From basic survival gear to hard-core weaponry to lab equipment this kit has got you covered.

After watching the video on the cite you quickly realize the ZERO Kit is joke (please be a joke) but the gimmick certainly raises a couple of interesting points.

First, this kit contains dozens of high-tech tools – watches, medical research equipment, etc – and, though cool, we need to keep in mind that without means to build or find replacement parts these items are only temporary fixes. No matter what technologies are available to you at the onset of the apocalypse it is unlikely they will still work after a generation and it is important that you learn to survive without them. Even if they are really awesome.

Second, accuracy is often for important than sure firepower. Many commenters note the kit provides means to make ammo (great long term option assuming you have access to metals with a low melting point and a ton of gun powder) and multiple laser sights but no actual guns. Knives and bludgeoning weapons are available but no guns. While disconcerting at first, this is logical. You will always be more deadly with greater accuracy. The better your aim, the fewer shots you take. The closer your range, the better your accuracy. Knives and bludgeoning weapons are essential for these reasons but they also make less noise and thus attract less attention. Plus, it’s unlikely that Optics Planet has the correct licensing to “sell” guns. Regardless, if you think you’ll be using a weapon in the post-world, practice using it effectively – safely and on paper or cardboard targets – while you have the chance.

Third, pack light. Sure the kit includes storage bags but a lot of this stuff is heavy. No way I’m gonna be able to carry half of it myself. If you’re planning to build your entire life around the pending apocalypse and have hunkered down with your family on a self-sustaining farm with multiple water sources and nuclear bunker than more power to you; get a ZERO kit. If you’re like the majority of preppers and take a more casual, socially normal, stance on your preps than you’re probably not currently living in your ideal survival location and this kit would be impractical. As we’ve stressed in the past, be very certain that you are strong enough to carry all your necessary gear long distances BY YOURSELF.

Despite these concerns I think Optics Planet has done a really cheeky thing here. The product is original and interesting and has the community talking. Not bad at all. Tell us: What’s in your ZERO Kit?

– Wren

What if north was south?

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Scientists researching Earth’s magnetic fields have noted for years that they are weakening and we are most likely moving towards a reversal of the poles – when the North Pole becomes oriented in the south, and vice versa.

Such reversals have occurred in the past, approximately every 450,000 odd years or so. It is important to keep in mind that 450,000 years is just an average, and the magnetic fields can remain stable for millions of years without shifting.  However, given that it’s been almost 800,000 years since the last reversal, we’re more than overdo for another one.

Now, no one knows exactly what will happen in a reversal or how to predict when the next one will occur. It is, however, likely to be similar to a geomagnetic storm on steroids. Often caused by solar winds, these storms disrupt satellites, radar, and radio communication. They have also been known to disrupt electrical grids by producing induced currents that can greatly damage long transmission lines.  The power systems of North America, China and Australia are particularly susceptible to these storms and it is possible that the damage could be severe enough for it to take weeks to recover from (or months if Pepco owns the grid…).

So even though no one knows what will happen in the next reversal, multiplying these effects to the “worst case scenario” gives us a good base case. However, the reversal isn’t a sudden process; we’re unlikely to wake up and find that the North Pole has shifted to Australia. Scientists have noted a gradual shift of the pole eastwards, which could potentially speed up as we journey through the transition period. This makes it unlikely to cause the apocalypse (although the risk still remains).

What’s more likely is an extremely strong geomagnetic storm caused by solar winds, or a geomagnetic excursion. The second of these is more frequent that full reversals and occur when the poles “wander” a bit due to a flex in the magnetic field. The magnetic field perceived at the level of the Earth’s surface becomes greatly weakened during these events. It is possible that the “transition” stage that scientists think we are currently in is simply one of these events. While mankind has survived at least one excursion event before, the effects on modern technology are unknown. It is very likely that the corresponding weakening or flux in magnetic would have more severe impacts than your standard solar storm.

Unfortunately there isn’t much you can do about these kinds of events, other than having the standard emergency preparations in place and being able to function off the grid for a while if necessary. Should the magnetic field weaken several and comic radiation starts to affect the planet, it’s unlikely we’ll have much to worry about at all.