Writing The Second Draft

Documenting the Journey as I become who I want to be.

Archive for the category “Survival”

Making Charcloth

Some time ago I had planned my initial project for the weekend was to finish my wallet and maybe practice some watercolor painting. But as I was doing laundry I came across an old pair of pants that, to be frank, was ripped to shit.  But I had loved these pants dearly and decided to let them live on as rags for usage in other applications. (I’ll be needing rags whenever I get around to finishing a woodworking project after all.)   But as I was cutting it to bits, I realized that some swaths of cloth would be too small for usage as a proper rag, and then there were the tiny pockets and the folded hems and all that where there simply wasn’t enough undisturbed cloth to be a good rag.

Hem open hem

I checked the tag to see just what material I was working with here and was pleasantly surprised to find that it was 100% Cotton, and it hit me that I could use these scraps to make charcloth!

For those who don’t know, Charcloth is a very good survival tinder. It catches a spark very easily and burns (from what I’ve read) pretty slowly. It doesn’t make a big flame on it’s own but forms a workable ember you can use in a tinder bundle to make a fire. Great for survival applications and I’ve been wanting to have a bit in my survival bag’s fire kit for a long time.

So! I took some smaller scraps of cloth I’d been cutting and cut them into smaller squares roughly 1-2″


Next I took an empty Altoids tin I had lying around and a nail and popped a little hole in the top of it.


This is after it went into the fire. But you can see the hole I poked right in the O

I piled in, very loosely mind you, the cloth strips and closed it up nicely. All of this was done that saturday. Now all I needed was a heat source! So back on the weekend when The Artist came over, friday evening we decided to have a fire! Perfect!  We enjoyed marshmallows and had a nice evening until the fire had burned down to embers, I checked that I’d have a method to remove the hot tin, which I had a pair of long tongs, and so then I took the tin, closed it up tight and put it into the hot embers. I don’t have any photos of this part since it was night and fire and well I was having too much fun to remember to take pictures…

But as for the tin, it somewhat unexpectedly caught completely on fire!

In other tutorials I’ve seen and read, they say that if the tin catches on fire, or fire comes out of the hole, too much air is getting in and you’re getting full on combustion not charring and that when you open the tin you’ll have nothing but ash.  So The Artist and I were a bit disappointed but we continued our conversation eventually all of the paint burned off the tin and there were just flames almost shooting out of the edges and the hole in the top.  After a few minutes though, the flames stopped, welp might as well get the failure out of the fire and give it a try again another time right? So I grabbed the tongs and pulled it out setting it on the driveway to cool down.

We went inside and completely forgot about it for a few hours. The Artist remembered it before I did and reminded me to bring it in, so I did and I popped it open over the sink ready to wash it all out when… LO AND BEHOLD! CHAR CLOTH!!!


The cloth bits shrunk substantially from the initial cloth, which I didn’t expect, but it worked! And they aren’t super fragile or anything so I now have a nice pack off charcloth in my fire kit and am one very happy survivalist :3


My firekit thus far. It has charcloth, a lighter, and the firestraws I made a while back 8D

Get Home Bag

Many survivalists these days seem to idolize the Bug Out Bag.  That is, survival kit generally housed in a backpack or other easily portable pack that you have in case you ever have to ‘bug out’ that is, escape, evacuate, or otherwise flee your home. Some people have them set up to help them survive 72 hrs  or to help them get to either a bug out location or to just get them far enough from civilization to go live off the land in the woods.

I’m not here to talk about bugging out though. My current situation is that I see only a few potential emergencies that would make me want to bug out and abandon my prepped home for an unknown or unprepared location and their likelihoods are pretty small. What a more realistic situation would be say, ending up stranded on the road or at work due to car trouble or  inclement weather perhaps. Or even in case of another type of emergency, my biggest worry is about getting home. Home is where I’m prepped. Oh sure I know the general bushcraft style survival stuff. If I got stuck in the woods overnight I’d be just fine. But I don’t want to be there. I don’t want to run out of my house and head for the hills. But I’ll have to explain my thoughts on bugging out vs bugging in on another post  haha. I keep veering off topic.

What I’m trying to talk about right now is what I call a “Get Home Bag” and the reason I keep bring up b.o.b’s is because they’re generally similar. They’re both survival kits with a specific purpose: to help you travel safely.

Now, when you build a Get Home Bag, you’re going to want to consider a few things

What is your Origin point?

That is, where is it most likely that you’re going to be traveling FROM to get home?

For me, that’s work. It’s the only place I go to nearly every day, not to mention it’s probably the farthest I travel. Which it’s only about 15 minutes away by car so I guess that tells you quite a bit about how often I get out of the house P: It’s about 6 miles from my home.

What is your fitness level?

Now, I’m not a fantastic survivalist or anything. I’m overweight and out of shape (though I’ve been exercising just about every day it’s a slow process to get fit) . And While my work is only about 6 miles away, that’s not a distance I’m used to walking, and depending on the emergency I might have to take a route with rougher terrain than I’m used to if I want to avoid main roads and such.

If I am walking at a comfortable pace on flat terrain I go about 1.5 miles in 30 minutes. In an emergency situation I’m sure it’ll be a bit different but let’s use this as a base for now.  At my normal walking pace it’ll take me about 2 hours to get home in ideal conditions. But even on rough terrain and inclement weather I don’t expect it to take me more than half a day to get home.  So as you can guess, the pack I’ve chosen for my ‘get home’ bag is relatively small and it’s most important feature is that it’s a hydration pack.

Your Pack

My pack is a High Sierra pack, (Replenish model iirc) that I picked up several years ago at costco for about $20-$30. My brother ended up using it more than I did until it got packed away and lost in his storage until we cleaned it out last year. He had his own hydration pack by then and so he gave it back to me.  It’s got a 2 liter reservoir, and 550 cubic inch capacity. It’s got quite a few nifty features too. It’s obviously specifically made as a biker’s pack (what with the helmet mesh and the bicycle pump sleeve) but I think it’ll work for my purposes as well.

What will you need?

Or rather, what do you think you will need?

Even though I’ve established that it wont’ take me longer than maybe half a day, I still want to be prepared in case something drastic happens. So the top 5 things of survival are what?  Water, Food, Shelter, Fire, Safety.

Now, with my pack, I’ve got 2 liters of water. Less than the suggested 1gal/day but I do tend to have at least one other water bottle that holds roughly a liter, so at 3 liter’s that’s pretty darn close.

Water, Check.

For food I’ve packed a couple fiber/protein bars a pack of ramen and a pack of beef jerky. The ramen is in case I am stuck either overnight or in rough weather to the point where it’s safer to camp out than to keep going. But I do intend to add some more ready to eat foods that require no prep whatsoever.  None of this is meant to sustain me for an extended period of time or anything, just keep my belly full so I can keep my head clear.

Food, Check.

I’m not expecting to need shelter, but even so if somehow it’s a worst-case-scenario and the weather is inclement enough that it’s safer to stay put for a while I have some plans in place. Right now, in my bag, I only have two of those ’emergency blankets’  which will do in a pinch. I also have several yards of cordage (I have some standard woven nylon and some paracord.). These alone are adequate enough to make a primitive shelter and if nothing else I can use one of the blankets to keep from getting too wet or cold.  However I don’t feel that this is good enough so I plan to add a tarp and military poncho which I already own but are not with me at the moment, they’re packed in some boxes I need to have shipped, but those items will go into my g.h.b as soon as they are back in my possession.

Shelter, Mostly Check.

Once again I’m not expecting to need fire, but just in case I do have a ‘fire kit’, it’s an altoids tin that I have several fire-starting options in. Firestraws, a mini bic lighter, char cloth, and storm matches.  I intend to also add a tube of carmex as I hear that it can extend the burn period of tinders but of course I’ll probably test that out on my own first. Now, outside the fire kit, the main purpose of fire (in my opinion) is warmth, and since I’m not expecting to have to find a place to make a fire, I am expecting to need warmth, so I’m also planning to add some of those hand/foot warming packets or maybe even one of those zippo hand warmers.

Fire, Check

Now, Safety covers kind of a broad range. It can be signaling, navigation, security, etc. Whatever you need it to be to make sure you get home safe. In this section I have my first aid kit, nothing spectacular but just a small one I picked up somewhere.  I have a combination Whistle/Compass/signal mirror contraption. I don’t have any weapon at the moment but I intend to add a handgun when I can afford it.  I don’t really have to worry about navigation as I know my area pretty well, but if I have to take roundabout paths a map would come in handy so I’m planning to add that too.

Safety, semicheck

How will you travel?

Another thing to think about is just how you plan to get home. In case you can’t tell I’m more or less prepped to hike it. But if your main transportation you’re counting on will be a car make sure you account for problems that could arise. It would also be prudent to keep a separate car-emergency kit in your trunk (which I’ll probably discuss when I put mine together) filled with things like road flares/signals, fix-a-flat, etc. Same goes for if you’re on a bike or whatever, keep a patch and repair kit, air pump, whatever you think you’ll need.

<enter a few pictures here>

So just by going through these questions and going over those 5 key areas I can see what I need to do to make my get home bag better. Also, just because we’re prepping for the worst-case scenario doesn’t mean we should neglect the more likely small things. For example I also keep cash in small bills in case I can get home with just a taxi or if I need to get some gas.   Adjust your kit to fit your needs, otherwise you’ll be carrying a bunch of junk you just won’t use. And don’t be afraid to start small. Remember: The best survival gear is the gear you have with you.  Something is better than nothing.

Survival How-to: Fire Straws

The other day I was planning to have a little bonfire in the back yard but… nope. The weather was raining off and on all day so, bonfire for entertainment purposes not so good an idea. I was tempted to try anyways but I would be the only one out there and the firepit’s already been set up for family enjoyment. (one of my bros already set up logs and stuff. ) So instead, I did a little crafting inside, I made fire straws!

I first read about these a couple years ago, and it’s a really simple premise!  You take a plastic straw cut to whatever length you want,  melt one end shut, fill it with something, and melt the other end shut!

I’ve seen these used for things like a single dose of neosporin or toothpaste or other things too. But the use that interested me most was the ‘fire straw’ where it’s filled with some type of tinder. So here’s what I did, step-by-step so you can make some too!

You will need:

Plastic Straws
Needlenose Pliers

Lighter (or other open-flame)

1.  Take your straw and cut it to your desired length mine were roughly an inch.
2.  Pinch one end with your pliers and hold it shut with a little bit overhanging the end of the pliers

2013-09-29 13.25.43

3.  Run your flame under  the overhanging bit to melt it together. While it’s still malleable you can pinch down the seal with your pliers to make it flat.

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4.  Take your cotton ball and pull it apart into more manageable strips of fluff.

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5.  Take the fluff and a toothpick and stuff your straw with the fluff!  Be careful not to use too much pressure or your toothpick could puncture a side, defeating the purpose of keeping your tinder waterproof!

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6.  Fill it up until you have just enough space to pinch down the end with your pliers with a bit of overhang once again.

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7.  Repeat step 3 on this other end and ta-da! You’ve got a fire straw!

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The purpose of firestraws is to keep a bit of tinder dry in your kit (I keep mine in my fire kit which I try to have waterproofed anyways, but they’re so small they can fit just about anywhere you want to stash ’em)  I made a total of 6 of these and have those in my kit right now.  One thing I have read is that some people will dip their cotton in petroleum jelly to make it burn longer and that kind of thing, but I haven’t tried that yet.


So why don’t you try and make your own firestraws and tell me how it goes! Or if you’ve made your own before or have other ideas of what to store in these mini-containers leave a comment!

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