Monday, January 25, 2016

SHTF Self-Education Series: A Prepping E-Book to Avoid?

We have received a lot of e-mail requests here @ StopShouting blog.  Among them were requests to review and critique some of the "Prepping" books on the market today, with an eye to practicality and whether the advice is sound.

SHTF Prepping: 100 Amazing tips, tricks, hacks and DIY prepper projects, along with 77 items you need in your SHTF stockpile now!” - by Kevin Moore

I was asked to read this e-book by my spouse with a critical eye based upon my own professional experience (see my bio). One aspect of various “SHTF” proponents that has troubled me is the use of fear and “we are all doomed, get ready to eat dog food” mentality that pervades the literature. I see nothing wrong in prudent, sane precautions and hedging your supply bets to give you options. That is all well and good. Any material that I believe to be dangerous or patently absurd, I'll call that out as well - and give you my reasons.

The structure of this e-book (available on Amazon Kindle) is 10 chapters, with an introduction and a conclusion. This seems standard fare, and covers the basics. While the majority of the material covered is pretty standard, there are
some oddities that deserve special mention.

The discussion on caches, while interesting from an academic viewpoint, need to be reviewed for legality as well as practicality. If you bury a cache NOT on your own property, you are not going to fly below the radar although many "preppers" seem to think otherwise. Bury food in a suburban area, you may be seen as eccentric by many, but bury something serialized, well... you'd better have a good attorney on tap. I do not advise caching serialized materials. This is just not good public relations at all. Even if you are caching gear on your own property... do you really think no one will notice you?

You may be surprised at what lurks in the woods, mere yards from your back door. One summer I found a hobo tent within 30 yards of my property line, in a county park next to a walking trail. That site was stuffed in a lawn and leaf bag in 10 minutes flat, and off to the dump. It is hard to know for certain that there are no creepers around, so why waste your time? Caching along your evacuation routes as well presents legal and ethical problems.

The admonitions to “constantly be drilling” begs a question... drilling for WHAT? If you have a wife and kids, let alone elderly parents that are dependent upon you, this takes on a dimension of its own. While practicing SHTF skills is important, and will bring familiarity and help you keep on top of material conditions of what you have on hand, consider your time management. If you have to drill constantly, maybe your time would better be used finding a more restful place to live. Also, people have jobs for the most part. Jobs and families in the absence of imminent hostilities take precedence.

The author mentions that he spends a considerable amount of time “RV”-ing around, while keeping a homestead going. Given the material he presents, it is a puzzle how he manages to RV around and maintain his “preps” as he espouses. There is precedent for mobility as survival - the old MX “Peacekeeper” missile was originally designed to be shuttled around by land vehicles or trains across
large portions of America to reduce the ability of the Soviets to pre-emptively strike them. Constant mobility brings issues of wear and tear as well as reduced security while on the move.

The author also mentions gardening and RV-ing. I am not sure how those are compatible. Gardens are heavy. Gardens are bulky. The most lightweight setup that I can conceive of is a hydroponic setup that is carefully balanced so as to not cause imbalance in an RV. But that poses other problems, such as enough power for illumination and enough capacity to store nutrient solution. Hydroponic growers could elaborate here, and perhaps point out how it can be done and I welcome that. From what I have seen, though, this mobility and gardening combo is a non-starter. Perhaps start gardens as the author
suggested one caches? Along routes? Guerrilla gardening, especially on property you do not own or control I see as a low-yield disaster and waste of time - speaking from experience.  It is in some ways bad advice, as it may lead people to believe that they have fallback preps which in reality they do not.  Personally, I have enough trouble managing a garden in my own suburban yard.  Our own experiment with "guerilla gardening" was both entertaining and informative, if nothing else, was enough to cause us to rethink our long term food needs and plan accordingly.

Chapter 3 has a discussion on creating a “bug out bag”. To start out with, the very first thing that gave me pause ... his bag weighs 30 pounds...

“this weight does not include any food and water I may be bringing with me”.

Water is 8 pounds a gallon. Food is generally dense and is not lightweight. His bug out bag with 2 days of food and water could push 50 pounds. Unless, of course, he is falling in on cached materials he previously spoke about.

Let us be perfectly frank in this discussion
. If you have not read “A Soldier's Load and the Mobility of a Nation”, do so now. The classic by S.L.A. Marshall covers the average fighting load through history.

(FYI, New Paperback copies are available under "other buying choices" for less than $514!)

My first point is that people unaccustomed to carrying a 50 pound pack will quickly tire. Asking or expecting a woman or child to do so is cruel and unmanly. If you are going to meet all your buddies a few hills over with all your 50 pound packs to re-enact “Brokeback Mountain”, that is your business.

The American man is typically a family man. That means taking care of your wife and children, as well as the older cadre. Think about what happens when somebody sprains or breaks an ankle because they are carrying all that weight. These sorts of things happen, and then they happen in cascades.

If you have any doubts about the veracity of what I am telling you, make a pack of a known weight and then set out over a known distance. Try flat ground at first, even if all you are doing is lapping the subdivision. Keep track of your water use and the weather. If you take out a 50 pound pack (start with
lighter weights, you'll thank me later), wait until you feel how good it feels to take that load off when you are done. Consider the next few days and see how long it takes you to recover. Look at your feet for blisters. When you can seriously look yourself in the face and state that it was easy, go ask your wife to do it.

Maybe you are married to an Amazon, maybe not. My wife is an experienced backpacker, grounded in years living and working in the bush, but she is not the typical suburban housewife, and she also cautions people strongly against overdoing the "bug out bag" loaded up with extraneous gear.  Do not put a 50 pound pack on a child. Just don't do it. Big packs, like mountain ALICE packs, invite heavy and unsustainable loads - especially for someone who does not have the training, stamina and road conditioning to carry large amounts of gear, long distances, for a sustained period of time.

Additional concerns I have with the “bug out bag” as laid out by the author are several. The suggested "hand chainsaw" is complete B.S. Go buy and try one now and see what I mean. A signal mirror? Really, If SHTF, just who are you signaling? Indiscipline in ounces adds up to unnecessary pounds. The hatchet is a good idea, but to really split wood, a wedge is most efficient. Putting a handgun in a bag of any sort is not a good idea. Bags are not the most secure storage, zippers are easy to defeat even if you lock them. The best place for a handgun is either on you, or in your arms locker. The last time I used a duffel bag tactically, we used a large one with a zipper on the top. It was
stuffed full of spare loaded magazines, grenades and medical supplies in case we were hit in Iraq. It kept everything from spilling all over, but was used inside a vehicle, not on foot.

A nagging issue that keeps coming back as the author doles out "tips and tricks" is that there appears to be no consideration of 2nd and 3rd order effects. To illustrate my point, he discusses a medical bag. In that bag, a tourniquet. O.K.... if it is truly SHTF and a tourniquet is called for, what comes after that?
A tourniquet is a one way ticket to amputation (perhaps not under some limited, rapid medical intervention circumstance). Is the “prepper” ready for that? Is the “prepper” ready for all the attendant after care, or rehabilitation? It is this lack of planning for the “and then?”, several steps down the road that just has me shaking my head.

The author posits that 1 liter (ONE LITER) of water per day, per person is enough. This is under “water and food” in chapter 3. He thoughtfully adds “I always err on the side of caution, and bring a few extra liters more than I think I'll need”. This is INSANE. Planning this little amount of water will get a
person and their family killed through dehydration. If you take anything from this review, PLEASE take an appreciation for just how much water you use in a day, just to stay alive. You may use a liter sitting on a couch watching football, but if you are active and outdoors, you can go through quite a lot more.
The liter figure does not include washing, food preparation or spillage. Water is a necessity, it is heavy and there is no substitute for it. Advising 1 liter a day is sufficient is criminal. The human body is about 80-85% water to start with. If you get that ratio too far out of whack, you will have serious medical problems. Think cardiac arrythmia. Think heat stroke. Think kidney stones. Women and children get these quicker than men do, in general. Hydrate, or die.

On to “20 Skills” as enumerated by the author:

Barbed wire on my property? Unless you are really SHTF ("S--t Hit The Fan) and WROL, (Without Rule Of Law) you are setting yourself up for failure on this. Consider what it takes to properly emplace barbed wire. Go HERE and see section 4-6, “Organization of Work”. This is what it takes to emplace barbed wire that works. A "strand or two" is useless. Putting in barbed wire or concertina is a hard slog that takes a dedicated team. Furthermore, without the
right equipment, you can seriously get hurt.

I have no beef with learning new skills to employ if things get sporty.  I just have questions with the difference between "saying" you have skills and the actual performance of those skills. Is the suburban prepper going to always be
drilling with setting up wire obstacles, and not attracting attention while doing so? I doubt it. If you do go for putting up wire, please let the your home
team know about it.

The “tips” section... where to start?

Much of what he has in this section is dubious, or, in my opinion, of no value. For example:

#28 is ...poke holes in a plastic gallon jug to serve as a watering can? Did I buy this e-book for this sort of “advice”? I think not. Personally, I would be embarrassed to sell such "tips".

#29... learn to put up a fence without digging? Unless you have the “rent-a-fence” riot sections that stand on a plate, I don't see how this is going to work. Pounding T posts in is not technically "digging", but does one have the time if “SHTF” to emplace any amount of them?

#30... freeze your eggs (no. just no.)

#31... use duct tape to open jars???? If you are a person and SHTF, and you need duct tape to open a jar... 'nuff said.

#32... parts from an old bike to make a crossbow??? EGADS! This one made my head spin. Just buy one ahead of time. Why mess around with this tinkerer fantasy material?

#45 just gets me, as the author has mentioned numerous acts that are going to run afoul of any number of laws and home owners association bylaws and he has time to remind one about local ordinances? This is laughable at this point.

#50 is advice on making a “stab proof vest”. This is dangerously bad advice. Please do not do this.

#59 is nonsensical... if you are in a SHTF world and you get lost... you signal the rest of your party to come rescue you by swirling a chem lite on a string? Either the scenario is truly "SHTF" or it is not. This was a technique used by forward air controllers to mark their position to orbiting fighter jets. Its utility in getting you "un-lost" while not getting the rest of your group in the same situation is debatable at best.

#80... if you lose your knife, make a sharp edge by smashing 2 rocks? This shows a complete lack of understanding of stone tool making.

In Chapter 7, the author mentions marijuana as #23. Although listed as “not his thing”, is it really something one should “stockpile”? I think not. Besides being illegal, it is likely to get you hit by a “rip off crew” and all your SHTF planning will end right there, and in a very ugly way. As I have stated before, mind your local laws. This “tip” is not a way to do that.

In Chapter 8, the author dispenses firearms/arsenal advice. While I understand his rationale for choosing a pistol, a pistol is heavily outclassed by a carbine, any day. Although each may and will make their own choice, I suggest taking a pistol and an AR-15/M-4gery to a range that offers some distance for shooting. Try shooting both at something 25 or 50 meters away. Then make your choice.

The authors advice on putting traps on ones property is again in the “not sane” category. In the previous chapter, he discusses minding local laws and then he puts that in print. Folks, this is illegal and unwise in so many ways. Please do not do this.

A real puzzler was found in the e-book. What exactly is a “trash rock”? I have no idea. Is it sort of like the frozen airplane sanitizer fluid meteorite from the movie “Joe Dirt”? Is he suggesting that you make your trash into a postmodern piece of art? He is right that trash is an issue - it gives away your position, attracts vermin and fosters disease vectors. Just no real depth on what a “trash rock” is, and I still can not share with you what was meant by this "tip".

To wrap up this discussion of what I found “off” in this e-book, I have to first off give the author credit where credit is due. He has an e-book, and I clearly do not. The first chapter is orderly and makes sense, but the divergent paths he takes the reader on after that are at times nonsensical, dangerous and
patently illegal. I don't begrudge him the fee to read his e-book. At times I was entertained. However, a serious reader and someone seeking realistic and meaningful advice on preparing for contingencies that could confront the average suburban family should SHTF would not want to hazard what is in this e-book. For example, his grave misunderstanding of how much water a human needs is terrible misinformation to put out there. In general, the overall lack of
depth in understanding and conveying the “what next?” is troublesome and can lead ingenues and the uninitiated down the primrose path with false expectations.

In summation, I would NOT recommend this e-book to anyone I cared about who was genuinely interested in learning ways to exploit their existing resources and develop new skills to prepare for SHTF emergencies.  However, as a Free Kindle E-book on Amazon, I guess it brought me good entertainment value.

Prepper Book Review Written by StopShoutingBlog contributor and #FAB50 Blog Award Winner Partyzantski, coolest cat on teh inner webs, retired Mustang, former FID embedded military Advisor, SASO trainer and scenario developer, Electronic Warfare Aviator, PME instructor, certified Force Protection and Anti-terrorism officer and combat seasoned USMC (0202) field grade intelligence officer. When not blogging or maintaining weapons proficiency at the range, he enjoys cat herding and travel to off-the-beaten-track locales. You can follow him on Twitter @Partyzantski 

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this honest appraisal. I agree - too much stuff out there designed to scare people to get their money, and meting out BAD advice. Look forward to more of your excellent reviews!