Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Test Your Vocab

How many words do you know? A quick test gives an interesting result.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Back to the Drawing Board

Having nearly everything I want for my mobile survival kit, I've been scouring around for the few remaining odds and ends. My latest visits were to a salvage store and a military surplus store.

Finding a reflective safety vest at the salvage store that looks brand new for only $2, I scarfed it up for my car kit along with a canteen for $1.25.

Purchases at the military surplus store were a waist pack, sustainment pouch, insulated canteen cover, and other small miscellaneous items such as a piece of screen to contain the perlite in my Altoids stove and extra fine waterproof sandpaper to glue onto the tops of my match safes to use as striking surfaces.

While I don't like the army camouflage colors of my new waist pack and accessories, I love the price and that they're sturdy enough for the military. A bonus is that everything fits with room to spare for my Cascade II poncho and extra socks plus more if I want. It's perfect for warm weather hiking and to use for the bare essentials for cool weather hiking or backpacking.

The problem is that I can't quite see taking it along when riding in somebody else's vehicle much less using the set-up for air travel.

Back to the drawing board.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Rethinking My Mobile Survival Kit

Contemplating my mobile survival kit, loath to make duplicate purchases, I realized that my first idea of using my hiking pack as the base for my car survival kit was a good idea. Only the implementation of my hiking pack needed to be altered.

Changing from a lumbar pack for warm weather to a backpack for cool weather to a larger backpack for backpacking trips is what made me think I needed a separate car kit because I don't always keep the pack in the car. However, using a waist pack as the constant component, with the addition of a lumbar pack or backpack as warranted, would satisfy the minimum basics for survival.

For example, the waist pack alone would suit warm weather day hikes. For cool weather hikes, I would use it with my hiking backpack which would contain a sleeping pad and extra clothing. For backpacking, always wearing the waist pack would help me through a rough time should I set my main pack down to rest, go fetch water and not be able to find my way back, have to jettison my main pack to prevent my drowning during a water crossing, etc. There have been stories of individuals wandering away from their base camp to explore just a little and ending up in a survival situation because they couldn't find their way back to camp. The stories get grim when they didn't have anything with them. Wearing a survival waist pack at all times except while sleeping, swimming or bathing, would be a lot better than having nothing.

The waist pack would also supplement my evacuation kit which I plan to be a backpack for greatest portability. Even if I chose a rolling suitcase, the mobile survival kit in a waist pack would integrate nicely.

Keeping the waist pack in my car or taking it along when traveling in someone else's vehicle gives it the widest variety of applications. If I didn't work at home, this mobile survival kit could be carried to and from my workplace daily.

The main purpose for having a mobile survival kit is it will supplement and contain more than my mini kit. While I may not always wear it away from the great outdoors, it will be small enough and lightweight enough to keep in reasonable proximity and should have the capability of being carried hands-free should a survival event occur. The reason I decided on a waist pack instead of a messenger bag is because I already use a cross-body bag as a purse.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Rule No. 9

"Rule No. 9 - Never go anywhere without a knife." -- Leroy Jethro Gibbs, NCIS.

I've pretty much obeyed this rule most of my life. While young, Dad let me "find" tiny folding knives with pretty marbled handles and 1.5 inch blades. He'd tuck them on top of the door moldings, I'd get a chair to see if he had hidden a knife over the doorway and got to keep whatever knives I found.

(No, I don't think Mom knew what we were doing.)

In high school, I took to carrying one of these little knives in my purse, rotating them according to whichever color I preferred that week. I never told anyone, and never used one, but felt good having one along. It gave me a sense of security knowing I could sharpen my pencil if the classroom pencil sharpener ever failed.

Then, I switched to mechanical pencils and quit carrying a little knife.

In my late teens-early 20s, I carried a diver's knife strapped below my calf while scuba diving off the island of O'ahu in Hawai'i, mostly off a boat out of Poka'i Bay in Wai'anae, but also shore dives along the North Shore and south shore over to the Blow Hole on the Halona Coast.

I mainly used the blade to crack open sea urchins. Spearing the animal with the point, I would offer it to a nearby moray eel peering out from its hole in some rocks. My dive buddy thought I was crazy-brave to be feeding moray eels this way, and didn't hesitate to tell our dive companions when we rejoined them, but I was never in any danger since I wasn't threatening the eels. Sea urchins are special treats to them because they can't get to the animals because of the spines and the morsel was at a safe distance at the point of my dagger, not in my fingers. It was a calculated risk that wasn't at all risky, the way I did it.

Later on the Mainland, I was given a Classic Swiss Army Knife that I promptly attached to my key ring. Using it mostly to open letters and packages, cut hang nails, file broken fingernails, and trim errant hairs in my bangs using my car visor's cosmetic mirror, it remains a convenient EDC tool.

Years later, I got another Classic SAK for my hiker's survival necklace and a Trekker SAK for my hiking pack knowing I should have a fixed-blade sheath knife in case I ever get into a survival situation because the hinge of a folder is the weakest part and a survival event is the worst time for a knife to break.

However, I couldn't rationalize the cost of the knife I lusted after. A few weeks ago, I finally ordered an affordable survival knife. Made by Benchmade as is the expensive knife I coveted, I got the Rant with a drop point, plain blade that is just under 4.5 inches long. The overall length of the knife is slightly over 9 inches. The sheath is Molle compatible. Benchmade not only has an excellent reputation for quality, the company offers sharpening for life for its plain edge blades for only the cost of return shipping.

At the same time, I ordered a Benchmade Griptilian H2O folder to replace my Trekker. The Griptilian has a modified drop point, plain blade that is under 3.5 inches. The overall open length is slightly over 8 inches; it is 4.62 inches closed.

Popular with other hikers, I don't like the Trekker because of its weight and because the serration starts at the tip of the blade instead of at the base. I also don't like the way it closes. If I don't position my fingers exactly right and am not very careful, I could end up cutting myself while closing it. It makes me nervous.

The Griptilian is much lighter and much easier to open and close. It is very comfortable in my hand, unlike the Trekker. While I might miss the Trekker's awl, I don't mind not having the saw blade because I already had a wire saw in my pack before getting the Trekker. I wouldn't miss the other tools of the Trekker because of the Leatherman I carry for the pliers and wire-cutter.

I'm thinking to use the Griptilian as my motel camping knife as well, to replace the Farberware kitchen utility knife I've been using and don't like.

Remembering Aron Ralston's difficulty in retrieving his dropped multi-tool in the movie, "127 Hours," I immediately threaded wrist lanyards through the eyelets of my new knives using 1/8" utility cord with mini cord locks to cinch them to my wrist so the lanyard isn't loose to slip off and let my knife fall to perdition, thinking a survival event is the worst time to lose a knife.

I'm very pleased with my new knives especially since I got them both for less than MSRP from Amazon Marketplace Sellers and the Rant came with free shipping.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Mini Survival Kit

After beginning to use my Kindle as a reusable shopping list with the Notepad app, I changed from my wallet-on-a-string purse to one with a pocket large enough to hold my Kindle so I would not set the Kindle down on the seat of the shopping cart and risk having it walk away behind my back.

This meant I could upgrade my Micro Survival Kit of my previous post into a Mini Survival Kit, the subject of this post. While many of the components are the same as for my Micro Survival Kit, there are some additions, the major addition being the Pocket Survival Pak from Adventure Medical Kits. Initially purchased several years ago and modified for my hiking pack, I realized I could EDC it as part of my Mini Survival Kit. The changes are noted below in the sections designated as "AMK PSP" within each system.

As with the Micro Kit, you'll notice some items have to be worn, hand-carried, or left in the car, but not as much as before.

Please note that [items within brackets like this] need to be omitted or packed in checked luggage to comply with TSA restrictions.

1. NAVIGATION - luminous compasses; the same as for my Micro Survival Kit, this is an EDC item on my key rings.

AMK PSP: Includes a 20mm button compass, a good back-up for my own. I added 14 ft. 3 in. of surveyor's tape (same as 5. COMMUNICATION) so I can find my way back to a particular point and avoid getting lost.

2. PERSONAL ATTIRE - Sun glasses with retainer cord, winter or sun hat/cap/visor, Neckbandoo/scarf/neck gaiter, poptop mittens/gloves, shawl/sweater/jacket/coat, footwear, Cascade II poncho with DIY ties; all are the same as for my Micro Survival Kit. The exception is that a 27"x27" Trainman's bandanna is now always with me in my purse and I added the rest of my exposure kit sans goggles. Although inadequate, I'll use my wrap-around sunglasses for eye protection since my purse is too small to hold swim goggles. E-kit: aforementioned bandanna, earplugs, 1 pair nitrile gloves, plastic poncho.


3. HYDRATION - Water bottle/thermal bottle & insulated carrier with shoulder strap, the same as for my Micro Survival Kit.

AMK PSP: Includes 3 sq. ft. Heavy Duty Aluminum Foil that can be formed into a pan to boil water. I added (10) Micropur MP1 tablets from a pack of 30 tablets, an oven bag & tie and a quart zip bag, both to hold water.

4. SHELTER - Folding umbrella and poncho, the same as for my Micro Survival Kit.

AMK PSP: 10 ft. braided cord and 26 in. duct tape (both the same as 10. REPAIR AND TOOLS) may help construct a shelter.

5. COMMUNICATION - Fox 40 Mini whistle and LED on key ring (same as 7. ILLUMINATION), cell phone, Trekker Space pen, and calling cards (same as 6. FIRE); all are the same as for my Micro Survival Kit and are basic EDC items. A pocket-sized notepad was added.

AMK PSP: Includes a Fox 40 Micro whistle, a Rescue Flash Signal Mirror, a tiny #2 Pencil, and a couple of pages of waterproof notepaper. Because I already have a Mini whistle on my key ring, I removed the Micro to make room for other items. I added 14 ft. 3 in. of surveyor's tape (same as 1. NAVIGATION) so I can mark it with my Trekker pen for SAR to be able to find me.

6. FIRE - Fresnel lens magnifier (same as 10. REPAIR AND TOOLS), calling cards (same as 5. COMMUNICATION); both are the same as for my Micro Survival Kit. I added a disposable lighter and a magnesium bar and returned the Spark-Lite of my Micro Kit back to the AMK PSP from where I took it.

AMK PSP: Includes a Spark-Lite Firestarter and (4) Spark-Lite Tinder-Quiks. I added (2) "Magic" can't-blow-out trick birthday candles to help start a fire in windy conditions, rolled in plastic to ensure they would not melt and get wax on everything else in the PSP.

7. ILLUMINATION - key ring LED (same as 5. COMMUNICATION), the same as for my Micro Survival Kit. Since that LED has to be constantly pressed to turn on, I put another key ring LED in my purse that has a on/off switch I don't have to hold on.


8. NUTRITION - P-51 can opener and Ekco Pocket Boy folding can punch and bottle cap lifter, the same as for my Micro Survival Kit and EDC items on my key ring. I added a Ti-Ware spork in a snack zip bag because the plastic forks you can get for free sometimes break.

AMK PSP: Includes 6 ft. of stainless steel wire that can be used for snares and a mini fishing kit with hooks, swivel, and split shot. Use the included thread (same as 10. REPAIR AND TOOLS) as fishing line.

9. FIRST AID KIT - Chapstick, floss, pill fobs with antacids and allergy pills; all are the same as for my Micro Survival Kit. I increased the number of Wet Ones to (4) and added (2) ½ in. wide Band-Aids, facial tissue, and (11) multi-vitamin, multi-mineral tablets in an Altoids Smalls tin.

AMK PSP: Contributes nothing toward this system unless you count the duct tape. I added (2) alcohol prep pads and (2) ½ in. wide Band-Aids.

10. REPAIR AND TOOLS - ResQMe car escape tool, fresnel lens magnifier (same as 6. FIRE), [Swiss Army Classic knife]; all are the same as for my Micro Survival Kit. I added a battery-assisted solar calculator and a monocular.

AMK PSP: Includes [a scalpel blade], 26 in. duct tape (same as 4. SHELTER), (4) safety pins, 10 ft. braided cord (same as 4. SHELTER), 50 ft. thread (same as 8. NUTRITION), sewing needle, fresnel lens magnifier. [Update 9/19/2012 - I added a small card with ten different colors of thread taken from a travel sewing kit and a self-threading needle.]

11. DOCUMENTATION - Driver's license, In Case of Emergency card, library and other membership cards; all are the same as for my Micro Survival Kit. I know how to tie some knots, but not others, so added Knots cards to help.

AMK PSP: Includes Survival Instructions and a few knots along with a list of Pak contents which may be used as tinder for 6. FIRE. (Use the contents list as tinder, not the Survival Instructions - Duh!)

12. FINANCES - Cash and credit/debit cards in wallet with store discount tags on key ring as EDC; all are the same as my Micro Survival Kit.


13. TRANSPORTATION - Primarily a medium-sized purse and key rings unless worn or left in the car as noted above.

AMK PSP: Includes a waterproof, pocket-sized clear vinyl pouch to protect the contents. The pouch has a hole to attach a neck lanyard (some of the included braided cord) to ensure it will not be mislaid or lost during a survival event.

14. ENTERTAINMENT - Kindle, the same as for my Micro Survival Kit except it now fits in my purse instead of needing to be hand-carried separately.


15. SECURITY - Fox 40 Mini whistle (same as 5. COMMUNICATION); the same as for my Micro Survival Kit.

AMK PSP: N/A after I removed the included Fox 40 Micro whistle in favor of the Mini whistles on my key rings.

Many people like to assemble their own pocket survival kits that fit into an Altoids tin or other small container. Some buy an AMK PSP and use the components for their own kits because it's easier and less expensive than searching for and buying the pieces of similarly high quality gear individually.

The main point is that it is possible to have a Mini Survival Kit that is small enough and lightweight enough to carry on your person, in your pockets or purse at all times. I encourage you to set up your own because the only good survival kit is the one you have with you when you need it.

[Updated on 1/1/12 to change bandanna to Trainman's bandanna and to add E-kit, magnesium bar, LED with on/off switch, Pocket Boy, and knots cards.]

Micro Survival Kit

Before I get too carried away working on my Mobile Survival Kit, I thought I should document my Micro and Mini Survival Kits. This post is about my Micro Survival Kit.

Ideally, everyone should carry the bare essentials with them all the time as Every Day Carry (EDC) items which may be a challenge due to size and weight. However, when I carry my wallet-on-a-string type of purse that includes a pen pocket, cell phone pocket, and clip-on cross-body strap, I found I am able to cover all of my Fifteen Essential Systems although some items have to be worn, hand-carried, or left in the car as follows:

1. NAVIGATION - luminous compasses. These are on my key rings.

2. PERSONAL ATTIRE - Sun glasses with retainer cord, winter or sun hat/cap/visor, bandanna/Neckbandoo/scarf/neck gaiter, poptop mittens/gloves, shawl/sweater/jacket/coat, footwear, Cascade II poncho with DIY ties. Depending on the season, these are worn, stashed into pockets, or left in the car depending on the day's weather.

3. HYDRATION - Water bottle/thermal bottle & insulated carrier with shoulder strap. This is carried or left in the car.

4. SHELTER - Folding umbrella and poncho which has corner loops so it can easily be rigged as a tarp. When the weather is so iffy that I want to carry my umbrella with me, I hook it onto my waistband with a belt clip commonly used for keys so I can carry the umbrella hands-free.

5. COMMUNICATION - Fox 40 Mini whistles on key rings, LEDs on key rings (same as 7. ILLUMINATION), cell phone, Trekker Space pen, and calling cards which may be written on the back to leave notes or used to help start a fire (same as 6. FIRE). The Trekker comes with a metal split ring which I hook onto one of the strap clips of my purse. My calling cards fit into the wallet part of my purse. The cell phone goes into the cell phone pocket of my purse, but if I ever want to put more things in the cell phone pocket than I already have there, I could clip the phone onto my waistband.

6. FIRE - Spark-Lite firestarter, fresnel lens magnifier (same as 10. REPAIR AND TOOLS), calling cards (same as 5. COMMUNICATION). The Spark-Lite goes into the pen slot of my purse and the fresnel lens fits into a credit card slot in the wallet.

7. ILLUMINATION - a Garrity key ring LED on each key ring (same as 5. COMMUNICATION).

8. NUTRITION - P-51 can opener and Ekco Pocket Boy folding can punch and bottle cap lifter on key ring. This purse is too small to hold a snack.

9. FIRST AID KIT - Chapstick, floss, pill fobs with antacids and allergy pills, (1) Wet Ones. The Chapstick is held by a Leashable clipped onto my key ring. The floss and Wet Ones fit into the cell phone pocket. The pill fobs go on the clips of the purse's strap.

10. REPAIR AND TOOLS - ResQMe, fresnel lens magnifier (same as 6. FIRE), Swiss Army Classic knife with scissors, file, tweezers, toothpick; newer models have a screwdriver on the end of the file. The ResQMe and SAK are on one of my key rings.

11. DOCUMENTATION - Driver's license, In Case of Emergency card, library and other membership cards.

12. FINANCES - Cash and credit/debit cards are in the wallet. Store discount tags are on a key ring. My check book now stays at home, but fits into a larger purse-on-a-string that I own should I want to have it with me.

13. TRANSPORTATION - Primarily my wallet-on-a-string purse and key rings unless worn or left in the car as noted above. If my clothing does not have a pocket, I can clip my key rings onto the purse's strap.

14. ENTERTAINMENT - My Kindle has to be carried separately when I use this set-up.

15. SECURITY - Fox 40 Mini whistles on key rings (same as 5. COMMUNICATION).

For your own Micro Survival Kit, before you tackle the other systems, I recommend you first figure out how to carry a safety whistle, a compass, a knife (check your local and state laws to ensure you do not carry a knife that is illegal), items to make a fire and hold water even if they are as simple as a disposable lighter, pocket lint for tinder, and a quart zip bag for a canteen; and a light which can be used for signaling as well as to see in the dark.

[Updated on 1/1/12 to add Pocket Boy.]

Friday, November 11, 2011

Another Two Weeks Gone

First, my appreciation goes to all veterans for their service to our country. Thank you and all the best to you on Veterans Day!

In my last post, I mentioned an Audible book French language course waiting to be downloaded via Wi-Fi to my Kindle. I went to the library and downloaded it, but nothing was there although it said I was at the 100% point when I opened it. Oh, well. I didn't order it and don't care enough about it to contact Customer Service after having heard the sample.

I went ahead and ordered a Sansa Fuze by SanDisk because of the longer battery life compared to the Clip+ and Clip Zip and its ability to play videos. I immediately loaded it with my MP3 Bible and road trip mix as soon as it arrived and was charged. Plugging old mini speakers from a cassette recorder into the Fuze, I enjoyed listening to it while shopping for a couple of knives for my Preparedness kits.

Having decided on Benchmade knives more than a year ago because of the company's excellent reputation for high-quality knives, I decided it was time to settle on the models and placed my order on Monday.

For a sheath knife, I chose the Rant, model #515, drop point, plain edge, and am very pleased to have gotten it below retail price from a Marketplace Seller on Amazon. It should be delivered next week.

For a folder, I selected the model 511H2O Griptilian in orange so it's easy to spot, modified drop point, also plain edge, also below retail price, which arrived yesterday morning in excellent condition from Outfitter Country, a different Amazon Marketplace Seller. I really like how easy it is to open and how it feels in my hand. After attaching a wrist lanyard with a mini cord lock so it can't fall very far like in the movie, "127 Hours," I slipped it into my Mobile Survival Kit.

But, I keep taking it out to play with it, it's that nice.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Past Two Weeks

Time passed quickly these past two weeks. Between regular activities, thunder storms, working on my Mobile Survival Kit, trying to find sugar-free iodized table salt, checking out the 30 Kindle ebooks that were available for free yesterday only, and wondering what's going on with my Kindle and what to do about it, I forgot to blog until now.

About storms - I keep my laptop unplugged during lightning storms so it won't get zapped and save the battery for use in case of emergency. Although I have a surge protector, I prefer to ensure I'm safe rather than sorry.

Mobile Survival Kit - I have all but hand sanitizing and insect repellent wipes which won't much change the current weight (under 5 lbs.) and bulk (approx. 540 cu. in.). I'd like to trim it down further.

Kindle - nothing's actually wrong. In fact, several things are much better. One thing is now Kindle ebooks are available for borrowing from participating libraries. Another is that user-documents are archived.

My issue is in order to use the new features, there's an update for which I have to go to the library to use the Wi-Fi. Normally, that isn't a problem. What makes it an issue for me is that somehow, I have an Audible book, a foreign language course, also waiting to download via Wi-Fi. I'll get the Audible book, whether I want it or not, when I receive the Kindle update.

Since I did not order the book, it must be a gift. However, gift Kindle books are supposed to be announced by an email stating who is the gift-giver and allowing the recipient the opportunity to accept or exchange it for a gift card. I did not receive the email.

Because I have several foreign language courses on CDs and already used up 1 Gb on my Kindle, I'm reluctant to receive the Audible book. As a result, I decided to try the sample only to discover to my dismay that the sample is also too large to be delivered except by Wi-Fi to my Kindle, not that I thought to try to request the sample be delivered to my PC in the first place.

At this point, I'm thinking I'll have to call Customer Service. But, wait! Look, there's a shiny thing!

What if I finally buy an MP3 player? I could put the Audible book on it thereby saving space on my Kindle and retrieve Kindle space by deleting the MP3 Bible's New Testament in favor of putting the entire Bible on the player.

So, I started shopping. I really like the idea of SanDisk's expansion SD slot because it means I can have my entire music collection, all my foreign language courses, the entire MP3 Bible, plus any Audible books I may acquire with me, conveniently, at all times wherever I may go. All I have to do is decide whether to buy a Fuze, Clip+, or Clip Zip and figure out how to write to an SD card from my laptop which doesn't have an SD card slot. I would probably have to take it to a computer shop for the transfer service or buy something external to do it myself.

Saturday, October 15, 2011


Deciding to make my Westwind stove more versatile by adding a can as a fuel platform for solid fuel cubes, it took me a while to find the right one. It turned out to be a 5 oz. evaporated milk can. All I did was open one end as usual and wash it out so I may store a few items in it such as Esbit cubes. If I don't want to use the Trangia alcohol burner, I will set a fuel tab on the can, light it, and set my pot on the pot stand.

My next step is to get a disposable foil pan to use as a windbreak for the Westwind stove because I want to reduce the overall weight of my Go bag. I'm figuring a foil pan will be malleable yet sturdier than foil wrap and lighter than a commercially-made windbreak.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Sugar-free Salt?

Thinking to buy more salt yesterday, I was surprised and dismayed to find every box of iodized salt in a local grocery store also listed dextrose as an ingredient.

When did they start doing that? My old box of salt has only salt, iodide, and something to keep the salt free-flowing.

It doesn't do much good for people trying to decrease the amount of sugar they consume to have it added to salt.

Since sugar is addictive and since there's no good reason to add sugar to salt, why did the salt companies add it? What were they thinking? Is it to keep people tied to their product who would otherwise decrease the amount of salt they're putting in their food?

Are we going to have to demand sugar-free salt?

Friday, September 30, 2011

N95 Masks

I opened a package of N95 masks to see how well one folded to see if I could put it in my mobile survival kit. Reading the enclosed literature, I learned to my dismay that it's good only for non-harmful particulates such as sanding dust. So, instead of my risking not being protected from something by taking "only a bandanna" for my air travel exposure kit, I actually wasted money by buying N95 masks instead of packing a simple cotton bandanna in my regular exposure kit.

I'm annoyed the Powers That Be advise us to buy bulky, expensive, specialty items we'll use infrequently, if not rarely, instead of inexpensive, easy to EDC items many people already use on a daily or other frequent basis.

Since N95 masks only filter out non-harmful particulates such as dust, more reasonable alternatives are cotton bandannas, those keffiyehs or shemaghs the military are finding so helpful in Iraq and Afghanistan, or cotton pareos. Shoot, when I encountered dust storms without protection, a dampened paper towel from the ladies' room held over my nose and mouth was enough although inconvenient because it wouldn't stay in place by itself.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

My Key Rings

Speaking of key rings, I have two because a friend had to pay a couple of hundred dollars to have her ignition switch replaced. The mechanic said it broke due to the weight of all her keys hanging from it. We each immediately got a second key ring to hold our other keys.

On my car key ring, I have the car key, gas cap key, car top carrier key, store discount tags, Fox 40 Mini whistle, LED flashlight, and a luminous Suunto Clipper compass using the webbed nylon fob from an el cheapo compass that failed during my 2006 road trip and was replaced by the Clipper.

On my other key ring, I have my other keys, ResQMe, another LED flashlight, another Fox 40 Mini whistle, Swiss Army Classic knife, P-51 can opener, Ekco Pocket Boy folding can punch with bottle cap lifter and Chapstick in a Leashables holder.

For those times when I ride in somebody else's car and leave my own car keys at home, I moved the luminous Brunton 9041 key ring compass on my traveler's key ring to my second key ring to help keep me and whoever's driving headed in the right direction when I don't need my traveler's key ring.

Seriously, it's happened twice before. Once, a van-load of us were going to Dallas on a day trip when my internal sense of direction said we were going in the wrong direction. The driver and I proceeded to get into an argument which was settled by a sign that said, "Fort Worth," with an arrow pointing straight ahead.

The other time was at night. Again, my internal sense of direction said we'd gone off. It was a lot easier convincing that driver to pull over under the light of a convenience store and gas station where we checked the map...and turned around. At the time, not only did I not have a compass, I didn't even have a little flashlight.

Although neither situation was dangerous, both were a waste of time and gas, the first much more than the second. If anybody had a compass, the waste could have been avoided.

You live. Hopefully, you learn.

[Edited on 1/1/12 to add Pocket Boy and because I moved the Brunton Glow Mate to my second key ring.]

Why I Need a Mobile Survival Kit

I haven't given up on making a personal survival kit. It occurred to me that when I'm in somebody else's car for a day or road trip, I've got nothing to help me through a bad situation except for my water bottle, key ring LED flashlight, Fox 40 Mini whistle, Swiss Army Classic key ring knife, P-51, ResQMe, and the Spark-Lite I carry in the pen slot of my purse. It isn't a bad list but it isn't enough and I know better than to rely on somebody else having a Space Blanket on hand for me or even a first aid kit (FAK).

For example, in 2004 or so, there was a woman whose trunk I saw before we took off on a day trip and there was nothing in it. Completely bare. Absolutely naked. That was before I got serious about preparedness and it made me uneasy even then.

I've ridden with others on day trips to Wichita Falls and Dallas and overnighter or longer road trips to Houston, Albuquerque, and Milwaukee, but didn't know what they had for a car kit which was probably just as well.

Also, for hiking or backpacking, although I made a hiker's survival necklace consisting of my Suunto MC-2G compass, Fox 40 Mini whistle, Mini Swedish FireSteel, (4) Tinder-Quiks in a colored key ring pill fob I bought from CVS, a key ring LED flashlight, Pro Tick remover, and Swiss Army Classic knife; if I get separated from my pack, I won't have an emergency blanket or FAK. Definitely not good.

That made me think, if I have a bag I could convert from a waist pack to a cross-body shoulder bag, I could set up one small kit as a mobile personal survival kit for hiking and riding in other people's cars and put my exposure kit in it, too. If I remove the sharp things to make it TSA-compliant, it could also be my air travel survival kit.

The trick is to keep it small and lightweight enough for me to not mind taking it along every time.

[Edited on 1/1/12 to change the title.]

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Dead Batteries

In rotating out my flashlight batteries last week, I encountered one that had leaked and gotten stuck in the Mini Maglite LED I keep in the car.

Unable to pry or shake it out, faced with having to buy a new flashlight, I took a chance and filled the battery compartment with water hoping to dissolve the cell loose.

It worked.

After rinsing it several times to get all the battery acid out, I shook the excess water out into the sink as best I could, disassembled it as much as I could, and let it set a couple of days to air dry.

After reassembling it and installing new cells, I turned it on and was very happy to see it working as it should. Whew!

The next battery to go was in my laptop. The flashing light quit blinking a couple of days after getting my flashlight working, indicating that I was running only off the AC. All I had to do was install the replacement I bought in May.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

What's the Point?

Yesterday, I took a car trunk full of plastic to a nearby recycling establishment I've gone to several times before only to be told the recycling facility they take the plastic to doesn't accept anything except recycling codes 1 and 2.

Giving the man one gallon jug, one liter bottle, a grocery bag full of #1 containers, and another bag of #2 containers that barely filled out the bottom of the bag, I left with six bags full of codes 4, 5, 6, and 7 containers.

I haven't checked the telephone book for other recycling collection points to see if this is the only one that discriminates which recyclable containers are accepted, but the disappointment has me wondering if recycling facilities aren't accepting all the recyclable plastics, what's the point of having the various codes? Are the other codes not profitable enough for the recycling facility or the collection point or is it simply a matter of the recycling facility having never been set up to process the other plastics?

The plastic recycling codes were set up to help save the planet. It's bad enough when consumers don't care enough for their children's future to recycle. What about when the very companies that are established to receive and process the materials are the road blocks?

Obviously, I've been patronizing the wrong recycling collection point. I just hope a better one is nearby.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Preparedness 2011

This is the eighth annual National Preparedness Month.

Ideally, our first priority is to prepare our evacuation kits since they may be used anywhere if stored in our vehicles where they would be easily accessible whether we're at work, home, or simply running errands.

Ideally, we'd have our stuff in backpacks, duffel bags, or other easily transportable containers in case we have to abandon our vehicles and walk.

As a traveler, I already have travel packs and wheeled suitcases I could use. However, the travel packs are too small for everything I want to have on hand and the wheeled suitcases are too heavy and bulky to easily navigate rough terrain.

My solution is to get a backpack. However, I need to figure out what capacity I need before I'm ready to shop for one. Since I'll have to go out of town to get the best fit and avoid mail-order returns, it doesn't have the highest priority. I rather research reviews online to narrow the field, first.

So, I converted my Preparedness Food & Beverage list last week to a text file and transferred it to my Kindle as a reusable shopping list for the items I need to check every six months for rotation.

All I have left to do this month are the following:

1. Go shopping and rotate my food and water supplies.

2. Replace all batteries, saving those being phased out for my electronic Solitaire game.

3. Check the air in my car's spare tire. This should be done whenever I check my tires, but I usually put it off and now I can't recall when it was last done, it's been so long.

4. Add a bottle of hand sanitizing gel to my car kit because it will also help start a fire.

Simple dimple!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Losing Faith

I believe in preparedness. I really do. I have, however, hit the wall.

It started innocently with my contemplating using a waist pack instead of my hiker's survival necklace so I could add a Space Blanket and have my camera and wallet immediately accessible...and safe should I happen to get separated from my backpack.

Next, I thought how convenient it would be to keep that waist pack in my car within reach so I may quickly grab it if I had to.

Then, I read a story about how a man parked at a scenic lookout, got out to enjoy the view, and fell down the hill. Unable to return to his car, he lay shivering for hours until a patrol car stopped to investigate what a vacant car was doing there in the dark. If he had a mini survival kit in a waist pack on his person, the man would have been able to cover himself with a Space Blanket and blown his safety whistle to let others know he needed help.

So, okay. I can accept having a mini survival kit on my person at all times, can't I? At ALL times? Like when I'm running in to the Post Office? Like when I'm at Wal-Mart?

What about when I attend the opera???

Maybe I wouldn't use a waist pack so much as a larger purse except I don't want to use a larger purse. Ugh.

Maybe I really only need a survival pack along the lines of other people's Get Home bag which is a small evacuation kit intended to have just enough supplies for a person to make it home safely from work which could be part of a car survival kit.

After all, what are the chances of my needing a survival kit closer than my car while I'm in town amongst other people? It isn't as though I'm a man with all those pants pockets in which to store things. I'm lucky if my skirts have any pockets at all.




Saturday, August 20, 2011

Within Arm's Reach

Still too hot to spend much time outside, I spent this past week refining my car kit by buying a couple of plastic Sterilite CD bins to stack in a rear passenger's foot well where I may easily access the contents from the driver's seat so I don't have to open the car door and let warm air escape in order to get a few items that may save my life or assist in my being rescued. The bins take up nearly half of the foot well, but since I usually have no more than two passengers, a third passenger would rarely be inconvenienced or I could put the bins in the trunk.

One bin contains a lighter, matches, ferrocerium rod, candles, hand-warmer packs, light sticks (increased from two to four), Space Blanket, plastic tubing in case I have to siphon water, and 30' of surveyor's tape in case I go searching for water, so I can find my way back and so SAR knows which way I went.

The other bin contains some of my hygiene and nutrition supplies: plastic cutlery set, citrus peeler, can opener, salt & pepper, floss, Shout towelettes, my Freshette, toilet tissue, toilet seat covers, baby powder (a new addition inspired by this record-breaking heat), hand-cleaning wipes, baby wipes, No Rinse body wash and shampoo, Campsuds, and insect sting relief.

The danger in having my hygiene supplies within arm's reach is that I might use and not replace them in time for a survival situation.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Leave No Trace

A couple of nights ago, I decided to burn one of the Warm Vanilla Crème tea light candles by Better Homes and Gardens in my UCO Mini Candle Lantern that I bought for travel preparedness.

Surprisingly, maybe because I don't usually burn tea light candles and this was the first one I've burned in what appears to be a plastic cup, the others being in aluminum cups, one side of the cup disappeared. I had set the lantern on top of the TV set and could see the flame from where I sat working, but couldn't see the candle itself until I went over to check on it a few hours after I lit it.

The flame was very low. All the wax was liquid and very low as well. Concerned that the liquefied wax had drained out the open side of the cup and had pooled below the holder, or worse, had leaked onto the TV, I blew out the flame.

After letting it cool, I examined it only to find... nothing! The remaining portion of the cup was still there along with the resolidified wax, of course. Other than that, there was no trace of what happened to the missing part of the cup or candle wax anywhere. It's as though however a dripless candle can burn and leave no trace was how the cup was made, too.

It elevates "Leave No Trace" to a whole new level.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

My Car Kit

This was birthed when I first started driving with a few items like a tire pressure gauge and entrenching tool, grew with more items such as jumper cables and flares, was the beginning of a survival kit with the addition of a gallon of water when I crossed a desert, then expanded as I saw the wisdom of preparedness.

In keeping with my 15 Essential Systems and using my EDC (Every Day Carry) items as well as items from my hiking, camping, and road trip packing lists, this is my current car emergency and survival kit.

Although I reduce water and food items for running errands in town and day trips, keeping the bulk at home as my home preparedness kit, I take everything listed on road trips.


a. Luminous Suunto Clipper compass - on my car key ring.

b. Map(s)/road atlas.

c. Highlighters - I use yellow to plan and a darker color to mark my actual route to make it easy to see how far off-track I went.

d. Carson Lumi Click - a lighted magnifier.

e. GPSr and cigarette lighter adapter - optional. These things are great, but I've never relied solely on one.

To confirm my distrust, when I went to see "The Marriage of Figaro," I planned on dining at a particular restaurant after the opera and programmed the waypoint two nights before I left home. After the opera, however, something happened and my GPSr screen blanked out. It wasn't the batteries because I was using the DC adapter. It wasn't the DC adapter because it did the same thing with the batteries which registered a full charge on the meter before blanking out again.

Since I always have a variety of maps with me, I simply selected one and proceeded to the restaurant by memory of the street name and approximate cross street. It turned out that I was two blocks off on the cross street, but that wasn't far to drive in that vicinity.

I never did figure out what happened to it. It worked fine when I tested it after my return, even I went out of town to meet a friend for lunch.


a. Sun glasses with retainer cord, & clip-on keeper for car visor.

b. Sun hat or visor, winter hat or knit cap, scarf or neck gaiter - depending on the season.

c. Red bandanna - multiple uses.

d. Driving gloves/poptop mittens - convertible mittens are the greatest because they provide the warmth of mittens with the manual dexterity of fingerless gloves and all I have to do is pop off the top of the mitten to switch from one to the other - luv'em!

e. Shawl wrap, sweater, windbreaker, and winter coat - depending on season.

f. Walking shoes/hiking sandals/hiking boots/winter boots & socks, YakTrax Walkers - again, depending on the season.

g. Change of clothing appropriate for the season.

h. Cascade II poncho with DIY ties - breathable and much more comfortable than the PVC poncho of my exposure kit (next item).

i. E-kit: PVC poncho, N95 face mask, swim goggles, earplugs, nitrile gloves, plastic bags - in addition to protecting from dust, noise, or hazardous NBC materials; for extra protection in case of self-rescue, I can put the plastic bags over my socks inside each shoe to waterproof my feet and help prevent frostbite. The nitrile gloves may be used similarly inside my gloves or convertible mittens to further protect my hands.

3. HYDRATION - because water is vital, I have multiple backups for this system:

a. Brita Bottle/thermal water bottle/Katadyn filtering bottle, insulated carrier, Katadyn ViruStat or microfiltering cartridge - which water bottle I use depends on the season and how far from home I'm going.

For example, if I'm only running around town, I use the Brita Bottle or thermal bottle when I want to keep ice longer in over 100° F summer heat like it's been for 65 days so far this summer. For a long road trip, I take all three since the Katadyn bottle is part of my hiking and preparedness kits, using the Brita Bottle as it's intended to be used or to fill the thermal bottle with great-tasting water instead of taking along a Brita pitcher like I used to do.

I like the Katadyn bottle because it may be used as a regular water bottle, a microfiltering bottle when used with the microfiltering cartridge, or a purifying bottle when used with the ViruStat cartridge. It would be great if the carbon filter for the Katadyn bottle could be purchased separately so we have the option of using it as an aesthetic filtering bottle because it would allow every option. Then, I wouldn't need the Brita Bottle.

b. 18 oz. stainless steel bottle mug with fold-in handles and graduated measurements on the side and a foil pot pie pan as a DIY lid - to boil water if necessary. A regular 1 quart/liter Nalgene-type water bottle fits into these bottle mugs so there's very little additional space needed to take one along. Some come with their own lid.

c. 1-4 gallon(s) water, 1 DIY cozy - 1 gallon for day trips to 4 gallons for crossing a desert. I still need to make the cozy to keep the water from freezing during the winter. I thought of using an inexpensive polystyrene ice chest, but it takes up too much space.

d. Katadyn Micropur MP1 tablets and a quart zip bag - to collect water if the location is too shallow for my bottle or mug and to purify water if viruses are a concern when I'm using the microfiltering cartridge in my Katadyn or another bottle that's less than 1 quart/liter capacity. While it's okay to use an MP1 tablet with a lesser amount of water, I think it's a waste since the quart zip bag is so easy to have on hand.

e. Aquarium tubing, 4' - to siphon water if I can't collect it with my water bottle or zip bag.

f. Evaporated milk with non-dairy creamer to improve taste.

g. Hot beverage fixings such as powdered spiced apple mix and bouillon cubes. Since caffeine and alcohol aid both dehydration and hypothermia, there's no coffee, cocoa, or alcohol in my kit. The only tea is decaffeinated.

h. Box juice - optional, usually apple which is better for alertness than caffeine.

i. (3) 2-liter PET bottles for SODIS - optional, depending on how much space is available after packing my small car for a road trip.


a. Umbrella - use as portable sun shade as well as for rain.

b. Window shades & solar-powered fan - the fan hangs on the edge of a window to vent the interior hot air to the outside. Sorry, I've had it so long, I can't recall from where I bought it.

c. Space Emergency Blanket - I got one years ago and still keep it in the car at all times since I take the All Weather and Grabber blankets along only for road trips.

d. Space All Weather Blanket - sturdier, quieter, and easier to refold than a regular Space blanket; use as ground sheet, tarp, and signaling.

e. Therm-A-Rest Women's Trail Lite pad - from my hiking pack. I have an inexpensive closed-cell foam pad I use for car camping but it's too bulky for my pack or to keep in my small car. Not thinking, I got a 3/4-length Uber pad which doesn't insulate my usually colder legs and feet at all simply because it's short, so switched to the full-length Therm-A-Rest.

f. Space Grabber hooded all weather blanket - use as a hooded blanket and for signaling.

g. Plastic sheet (=> 2 mm thick) - create a greenhouse effect with a fire on one side when a Space blanket is used on the opposite side as a heat reflector for warmth. The sequence is: fire, plastic, person(s), Space blanket, and car or other surface to which the plastic sheet and Space blanket are secured. Also for additional purposes such as collecting dew or rain runoff for hydration.

Relying on only the car as shelter might not be a good idea because of the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning and not being able to stretch out to sleep may prohibit getting the best quality of rest during an already stressful situation; it's a personal judgment call.

The problem with rigging a tarp or pitching an open-ended emergency tube tent is that wind shifts may cause the elements to storm in and the open sides permit insects and larger critters to share my shelter. I really don't like the idea of a snake snuggling up to me to share my body heat as I sleep and cringe at the thought of rolling over onto a rattler. While a mosquito net would help the open ends of a tube tent, it would have to be a large net to help with the open sides of a tarp.

I do have a hiking tent that needs to be staked out which I carted around in my car for a few years until I realized a free-standing tent would be better because of the variety of surroundings I was driving through.

When high summer temperatures turn a car into an oven making hyperthermia a concern, rigging a tarp to create shade would be more comfortable than getting under the car to stay cool. I can tie my All Weather blanket to my roof rack or close the car doors on the edge of one side and use my hiking poles or buy taller, collapsible tarp poles to hold up the other.


a. Cell phone with In Case of Emergency (ICE) info in phone book + cigarette adapter - I probably should get an additional way to recharge it in case I can't recharge it using the car battery.

b. Antenna help flag (red bandanna).

c. Fox 40 Mini whistle - on key ring.

d. Parker Jotter with Space Pen refill - the Jotter cost me less than the Space Pens were priced; I put a Space Pen refill in it because it writes when other pens won't.

e. Mechanical pencil & eraser.

f. Rite in the Rain® All-Weather notepaper - to leave weatherproof notes in case I leave the vehicle to attempt self-rescue so rescue personnel know which way I went and my condition; this paper needs a pencil or Space pen to be able to write on it.

g. Surveyor's tape, 30' - to leave a trail of "breadcrumbs" in case I leave the car to search for water so I can find my way back and so SAR may track me down.

h. Signal mirror.

i. Radio Shack NOAA Alert radio.

j. Grundig AM/FM/SW radio, optional - to keep up with what's going on in the rest of the world.

6. FIRE - Vital for heat, purifying water, signaling, cooking, light, and morale; I have multiple backups for this system as well:

a. Lighter - with an adjustable flame that mimics a blowtorch, butane lighters are not dependable at high altitude or when wet or cold, however, there are windproof and water-resistant models available.

b. Wooden safety and storm-proof matches in waterproof match safe - backup to the lighter.

c. Swedish FireSteel Army model by Light My Fire - ferrocerium rods work even if wet and will outlast both the lighter and matches by far.

d. (2) "Magic" can't-blow-out trick birthday candles - for windy conditions.

e. Magnesium block firestarter - the shavings are too easily blown away, but if sheltered by kindling and wood, will help dry damp wood so it can burn.

f. (6) PJ cotton balls and (5) PJ tampons - triple-sized cotton balls and super plus tampons slathered with petroleum jelly as DIY tinder stored in a plastic snack zip bag.

g. (3) Firestarting sticks - in case natural kindling is too wet.

h. Portable stove & fuel - for this car kit, I selected the Esbit Pocket stove.

i. (1) Nuwick 120-hour candle - to warm vehicle and some foods, it also provides light.

j. Silicone & wooden trivets - there's no point in melting or burning up the vehicle or ground sheet. The wooden trivet could also serve as fuel in a pinch.

k. Set of two nested camping pots (with fold-in handles) with lids, 1.3 & 0.9 liter capacity. The smaller pot stays in the car kit all the time while the larger pot gets added for road trips. I used to include a kettle, but decided it's unnecessary between my bottle mug and these pots.

l. (2) EzHeat instant reusable handwarmers - boil in water to reactivate.

m. Fire extinguisher - required by some U.S. National Parks.


a. Mini Maglite with red lens from accessories pack - in glove box to read maps and preserve night vision. I got this years before and converted it to LED before getting the LED model and haven't had a reason to remove it from my glove box.

b. Mini Maglite LED, accessories pack, Nite Ize headband, neck lanyard. A brighter light than my converted, older Mini Mag, I really like having the SOS and strobe features of the next-generation model.

The problem with the headband is wearing the flashlight on the side of my head makes me feel lopsided. As a result, I prefer the lanyard except it bounces when I move and I can't always direct the light to precisely where I'm looking without holding the flashlight in my hand.

c. Headlamp - I currently have three I don't like and continue to look for one I do. I put one of these three in my car kit.

d. (4) Chemical light sticks - to light car interior to aid visibility while I sleep without running down batteries or risking a fire. I'd hate for another driver to not see me when I need help or, worse, hit my car but because they have expiration dates and I bought a lighted traffic cone, I doubt I'll replace them after they're gone.


a. Snacks - a small selection chosen from Clif/Luna bars, granola bars, nuts, dried fruit, crackers, or peanut butter-filled snack crackers. These are for day trips.

b. Three or more days worth of meals - instant oatmeal and Cream of Wheat, Bumble Bee's Tuna Salad Lunch on the Run, instant miso soup, Knorr's Sides - rice and pasta, Idahoan instant mashed potatoes, Ramen, foil-packaged or canned fish, chicken, or meat, canned vegetables, fruit cups, and Mountain House freeze-dried food (so far, I haven't liked the other brands I've tried). These are also my home preparedness kit. I prefer dried, dehydrated, or freeze-dried products because they don't have the weight of canned goods and there's no risk of breakage as with glass making this kit double as my evacuation kit. Although I realize they need water to prepare, and water might not be readily available, I hope to be rescued before my water supply is exhausted or be able to evacuate to a locale with an adequate water supply outside the disaster area.

c. Plastic plate as cutting board, paring knife, and a Frisbee for a plate because the raised edge helps prevent spillage. One of the camping pots can double as a bowl.

d. Eating utensils: plastic set of knife, fork, & spoon; citrus peeler for fresh fruit bought along the way.

e. Salt & pepper.

f. Manual can opener - even though I have a P-51 can opener on my key ring.

g. Punch can opener + cap lifter + corkscrew - leftover from my first attempt at making up a car kit for spontaneous picnics.


a. Commercially prepared FAK, lip balm, sun block, insect repellent, insect sting relief, artificial tears, rehydration mix.

b. Personal medications, multi-vitamin & multi-mineral pills.

c. Floss, toothbrush & toothpaste.

d. Toilet tissue pack/roll, toilet seat covers - this started out as a travel item.

e. Feminine supplies including a Freshette feminine urinary device (FUD) and a 2 L colored PET bottle - the Freshette is because I don't like exposing my bare butt in the great outdoors and hours in a car on an evacuation route wouldn't give me anything in the way of privacy much less a clean restroom. The bottle is so I don't have to let more cold air in by opening the door to go outside; it's colored so I don't confuse it with my SODIS bottles and so I won't have to regard the color of its contents.

f. Hand sanitizing wipes/gel - alcohol-based sanitizer gel will also help start a fire.

g. Facial tissue, hand lotion, foot powder, baby wipes - convenient sponge-type bath.

h. No Rinse shampoo, No Rinse body wash - for a more thorough clean-up when water is in short supply.

i. Biodegradable washing liquid - for body, hair, dishes, and laundry in fresh or sea water.

j. Solar shower - this black plastic bag, tube, and nozzle contraption that uses the sun to heat the water started out as a camping item because there's nothing like a hot shower.

k. Shout stain removal wipes, optional.

l. Quart and gallon zip bags for trash.


a. Squeegee, Rain-X wipes, windshield interior cleaner, ice scraper, spare wiper refills - leftover from the last time I bought refills since my wiper blades are different lengths

b. Leatherman multi-tool, knife & scissors sharpener, LifeHammer, ResQMe - on my key ring for when I'm not in my own car, I didn't know about the ResQMe when I bought my LifeHammer.

c. Gorilla Grip universal socket, 3/8" ratchet handle & driver extension set, adjustable wrench, entrenching tool, ax, Sierra saw.

d. Duct tape, 100' paracord, zip ties, bungee cords, bungee net - to secure items on the trunk lid's luggage rack.

e. Jumper cables, spare fuses, tow rope, traction mats & plastic bag to keep car clean after use, 1-gallon gas can, funnel, siphon, plastic bag to hold used funnel and siphon.

f. Bumper-mounted deer warning devices - absolutely fantastic for keeping bugs from executing kamikaze dives into my windshield; when the splats start up again, I know it's time to wash out the devices. And I've never hit a deer which is why I originally bought them.

g. 2-AAA Pack-a-Cone, warning triangle, flares, reflective safety vest.

h. Wheel block (a brick), jack, tire iron, spare tire, air compressor with cigarette lighter cord, tire pressure gauge.

i. (6) spare AAA cells for Lumnifier, Pack-A-Cone.

j. (4) spare AA cells for flashlights.

k. Eyeglass repair kit - gotta have sunglasses!

l. (3) 1-quart zip bags, (5) 1-gallon Hefty One Zip freezer bags, (3) kitchen can trash bags, (3) leaf trash bags.

m. (1) roll paper towels.

Some lists include a drive belt, hoses, and clamps. I don't because I have my car serviced according to the maintenance schedule in the owner's manual and take the car in for an oil change and to have such things checked before each road trip for my own peace of mind, ounce of prevention and all that.


a. Driver's license - in wallet.

b. Proof of insurance & phone #.

c. Registration & owner's manual.

d. Roadside assistance membership card with phone #.

e. ICE info - in wallet.

f. [Disposable] camera to record scene of accident.

g. Notebook to record accident info: other driver's license #, car plate #, insurance.

h. This list - to quickly assess what's available, use as tinder.


Cash & coins - I'm not sure what good these will be in an emergency or survival situation except to pay for a taxi, tow truck, or on-the-spot repairs since many businesses accept credit/debit cards. I keep coins in a Tupperware pudding cup in one of the car cup-holders for toll roads and parking meters.


a. Small ice chest - used without ice to insulate my FAK medications from heat when I park for a while to visit a site enroute to my next lodging.

b. Plastic bins - to store and easily transfer non-canned food and other preparedness items between home and car.

c. Doubled shopping bags for canned food.

d. Car accessory litter bags with Velcro closures - hung off the back of the front seats using the head restraint supports. These are used to hold my folding umbrella, maps, Mini Maglite LED flashlight, and other small items.

e. Car accessory storage bag that hangs in the trunk next to the back of the back seat - to hold almost everything in the Tools & Repairs category using a minimum of trunk floor space. Some items, like the brick, saw, and ax, are stored underneath or because of the angle of the seat back, between the bag and seat back such as the solar fan and sun shade during the off-season.

f. Car top carrier - for road trips. Abundant shopping in San Francisco and Los Angeles motivated me to buy a car top carrier system while I was in L.A. because of the greater capacity and providing more protection than the luggage rack on the trunk lid. I don't store car kit items in it.

g. Da car - ideally, items needed immediately such as the FAK, candle, matches, Space Blanket, and water would be within reach so the occupant(s) can preserve body heat while taking care of immediate needs without having to open the vehicle doors.

There's a luggage rack on the trunk lid, but because any cargo has to be netted, depending on state law, and tarped to withstand weather, I view this as a temporary carrier or for the last resort.

14. ENTERTAINMENT - The only items kept in the car at all times are my pocket and mini kites. I take my Kindle when I foresee waiting time while I'm doing errands in town. The rest are added for day or road trips as desired:

a. Camera, recharger, tripod.

b. Binoculars/monocular.

c. Crossword puzzle book, playing cards, assorted pocket, mini, and full-sized kites - under the right conditions, a kite could be used to signal my location.

d. Cassettes and MP3 player.

e. Cassette adapter and sticky pad for the MP3 player.

f. Kindle (also needs the cassette adapter) with games as well as reading material - I can recharge the Kindle using the inverter I got for my laptop.

g. Small musical instrument such as a tin whistle or harmonica and music book.

h. Watercolor painting supplies.

15. SECURITY & SELF-DEFENSE - Because this category depends on the variety of states' laws as much as personal preference, I generally limit it to my Fox 40 Mini whistle because if close enough, three blasts can really hurt a bad guy's ears giving me a chance to get away as well as signaling my need for help, three being the universal distress signal.

[Updated 11/18/2011]

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Review: Outdoor Products Water Bottle Sleeve

Last month, I bought the large neoprene insulated water bottle sleeve designed to fit most 750 ml bottles, item #1161 OP, by Outdoor Products for US$3.00 at Wal-Mart's sports department. The measurements are 7.75" x 3.125" (19.6 cm x 7.9 cm). The available colors I saw were black, red, blue, and orange.

Since a carabiner clip and a webbed carrying strap are included, I don't need the Brita Bottle's carrying loop anymore and removed it. Because the sleeve is tall enough to reach the lower edge of the Bottle's cap, I don't have to be as careful when capping my Bottle after refilling it because the sleeve catches any drops and absorbs them just like it absorbs condensation produced by the ice I put in the Bottle.

When inserting my Bottle into the sleeve, I align the mark I put on one of the seams of the Bottle with the stylish, diamond-shaped silver logo on the front so I may get as much water as possible before having to refill it.


It works well and I'd buy it again. In fact, I did buy another in a different color to rotate them from day to day so one may air dry while I use the other figuring nearly constant moisture on the inside of the sleeve from the condensation and drips would create an environment for breeding things I rather not think about. Those wanting to be able to visually monitor their water level may want to buy the smaller size, instead.

However, with the scorching temperatures this summer, yesterday being the 55th day the high temperature has been over 100°F, last week I went back to using my 17 oz. (.5 L) stainless steel Aladdin thermal bottle simply because ice lasts longer in it. The bottle sleeve fits it, too, better than all the other insulated carriers I've tried on it. Whoo-hoo!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Too Hot







Saturday, July 16, 2011

Evaporated Milk +

The advantage of evaporated milk, whether powdered or canned, is it doesn't have to be refrigerated making it ideal for hikers, campers, boaters, travelers, and preparedness.

The disadvantage is it doesn't taste as good as fresh milk prompting me to buy expensive box milk that doesn't need refrigeration.

Trying out a tip I read in "Long-Distance Hiking: Lessons from the Appalachian Trail" by Roland Mueser © 1998 Ragged Mountain Press, I added a couple of spoonfuls of non-dairy creamer to my cup of evaporated milk, stirred well, and gingerly tasted it.

It was great! Whoo-hoo!

[Updated 12/1/2011 - If I use non-fat, non-dairy creamer, it's even better to add a couple of spoonfuls of "Original" Carnation Malted Milk.]

Saturday, July 9, 2011

DIY Poncho Improvement: Side Ties

What I used:

-- a Cascade II backpacker poncho,
-- (1) 36" shoelace,
-- (4) eyelets from a 5/16" (8mm) eyelet kit by Prym Creative, part #14015, US$2.97 at Wal-Mart,
-- a hammer,
-- a measuring tape,
-- the scissors on my SAK Classic,
-- disposable lighter.

Contemplating for what else I might use the eyelets mentioned in my last post, it suddenly dawned on me that they're perfect for keeping my poncho from flapping in the wind. As mentioned in a previous post reviewing the Cascade II poncho, I stitched a few heavy-duty Velcro coin sets in mine. Since then, high winds once separated them during a storm. Sure, it was such bad weather I wondered why I wasn't safely indoors, but considering I was already out, there was no reason for me to get wet if it could be avoided.

Following the rule of "measure twice, cut once," I put eyelets in my poncho near the knees, left and right sides, front and back. The cutting part of the eyelet tool didn't cut as well as the enclosed instructions portrayed or maybe I didn't hit as hard with my hammer as I should have. I used the wonderfully sharp scissors of my Swiss Army knife Classic model to complete the holes.

Finishing the rest of the eyelet installations was easy.

Next came deciding what to use as ties and what type of knots would be best.

Settling on a 36" shoelace leftover from a pair bought to make a fore-and-aft cord for a hat, I cut it into fourths and sealed the cut edges with a lighter to prevent fraying.

After tying a double overhand knot on one end, I threaded each piece of shoelace through an eyelet ensuring the knot stopped it from going all the way through.

After each quarter-shoelace was in an eyelet, I tied another double overhand knot in the opposite end to prevent it from slipping out of the eyelet.

Finally, I tied the pair of front and back quarter-shoelaces together on the left side using a slipped reef knot to make it easy to untie if necessary, then repeated with the pair on the right side.

If I didn't pull the poncho on over my head from the bottom like a T-shirt, if I ducked into it from an open side, for example, I'd have to leave the tie(s) undone until after I had the poncho on. Either way is possible since this modification provides the options of tying before it's put on, tying after it's put on, or leaving it untied altogether.

Saturday, July 2, 2011


I've been thinking about my soft-sided travel pack which has an easy-access zipper to the main compartment that can't be locked.

Since there might be times I need to check the bag during a domestic flight, foreign train stations usually won't allow baggage in their baggage-hold rooms if they can't be locked, and considering those Pacsafe wire nets are so darn heavy and might even lead a thief to believe there's something inside worth stealing, I've been thinking about putting grommets into my bag in a place convenient to insert a lock through them and the zipper pull.

Wal-Mart's sewing notions section has a Prym Creative eyelet kit for US$2.97 that should work, part #14015, the bar code on the back is #72879 25061. Maybe I'll put more in to lock the zippers on the outside pockets while I'm at it.

The discouraging thing is that suitcase locks are meant only to keep bags from opening accidentally during transit which could also be accomplished by safety pins or cable ties. While locks will also keep an honest person honest by discouraging crimes of opportunity, anyone determined to get into a bag won't be deterred.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Searching for a Headlamp

I'm in the process of searching for the perfect LED headlamp for me to have easy, hands-free portable light. A few years ago, I bought one by Energizer for about US$10 that has wonderful features. It's just too bad the headband is too tight and isn't replaceable.

After that, I bought a Nite Ize headband designed to adapt mini flashlights such as my Mini Maglite into headlamps. Unfortunately, I find it best used as a neckband to help support the flashlight on my shoulder and actually prefer to clip the flashlight onto a regular neck lanyard which gives me general lighting although I rather have lighting that's more specific to my task at hand.

Exit stage left, a Rayovac headlamp for less than $6 at Wal-Mart. The headband is very comfortable but the battery compartment is extremely difficult for me to press to open. Although the white light is okay, the single red LED has a large dark circle in the middle of its light.

Enter stage right, a Coleman Max headlamp for nearly $25 at Wal-Mart. This has high beam, low beam, lower beam, plus red and blue LEDs. The headband is adjustable and replaceable. The battery compartment is the easiest to open of the three I've tried, having its own tool as part of the headband adjustment. Very nice. However, I think its having so many sexy features made it too heavy for my delicate head.

Back to the store for another try.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

New Tent

A year ago, I decided to buy a new hiking tent. There's nothing wrong with the hiking tent I already have other than it isn't free-standing and I don't like having to contort myself to get around the center pole blocking the entrance.

I shopped until I dropped last year, not finding any tent I liked well enough to buy. Either the tents weren't free-standing, the ceilings were too low, the carry weight too heavy, or the cost too high.

This year, I settled on the Kelty Salida 2 which came out just last year.

Now, all I have to do is wait for this unbearably hot weather to subside.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Traveler's Key Ring

I've been fiddling with my traveler's key ring and decided I may as well post the list.

It originated many years ago when I got tired of digging out a coin every time I wanted to use my tripod. That was before getting a tripod with a quick-release mount. I put a coin-like screwdriver onto a split-ring and hung it on my waistband with a belt clip. Items gradually accumulated until last weekend when I decided to see how everything fit into my 15 Essential Systems.

1. Navigation - luminous compass, mini highlighter. I used to have a Suunto Clipper on a fob I liberated from a cheap no-name compass that developed a honking huge bubble during the first part of my road trip in 2006. Before getting the Suunto, I tried using one of those several-function compass-whistle contraptions, but the compass was too small, the luminous points too dim, and the whistle too soft.

I bought a Brunton 9041 last year so I wouldn't have to move the Clipper from my car key ring to my traveler's key ring and back again. Currently, the 9041 is kept on a small carabiner so it's easy to remove from the split-ring to avoid letting other metal objects influence the compass.

As for the highlighter, I plan my routes using a yellow highlighter and use a darker color to mark where I actually go since I travel with a "that looks interesting" attitude and often stray from my intended path whether driving or walking. It helps me get back on track and is a reminder of what I did and where I went after the trip is over and I'm back home. The mini highlighter, bought at Staples, is a Sharpie Accent with a metal loop on the cap to attach it to a key ring.

2. Personal Attire.

3. Hydration.

4. Shelter - mini umbrella. Since this goes on another belt clip on the other side of my waistband when it looks like it might rain, it really doesn't count although it could. That's why I am.

5. Communication - Fox 40 Micro whistle, Trekker Space Pen. Every woman needs a loud, dependable whistle at hand and I don't like digging around in my purse for a pen whenever I want to make a note, either.

Fisher Space pens and the pressurized Space refills made for other pens are great because they write on any paper, even that slick thermal stuff, under any temperature, at any angle including the gravity-defying position of upside-down.

6. Fire - Spark-Lite, invented by the owner of Four Seasons Survival and also distributed by Adventure Medical Kits, or a Mini Swedish FireSteel by Light My Fire. This is an offshoot from my hiker's survival necklace. Realizing I got carried away with this preparedness endeavor and having too many items on my traveler's key ring, I put the sparker on a second small carabiner to live in my travel purse until needed. Since the Spark-Lite doesn't come with a lanyard, I duct-taped the melted and knotted ends of 1/8" orange utility cord onto the stem of the Spark-Lite.

I occasionally swap the two sparkers because I can't decide which I prefer to have where. The Spark-Lite is operated with one hand so is probably better for hiking where the potential for getting injured is greater. However, a Swedish FireSteel is much easier for me to use.

7. Illumination - Garrity key ring LED. Acknowledging this is never used until it's too dark for me to see without it, I relegated it to live in my travel purse on my second carabiner with my sparker until needed.

8. Nutrition - P-51 can opener, bottle cap lifter-can punch. For those who don't know, the P-51 is the big brother of the P-38 military can opener. The other is an Ekco Pocket Boy I happened to see in a local grocery store. It folds in half making it a nice size for key rings. To reduce weight and the number of items on my traveler's key ring, I added these to my second carabiner as well.

9. FAK, Health - Chapstick in a Leashable, Pro Tick remover. The Leashable is a clip-on neoprene holder that came with a tube of different lip balm. I borrow the Pro Tick remover from my hiking survival necklace for areas where I might encounter ticks I'd want to remove as soon as possible. Maybe I should buy another tick remover to ensure I don't forget it.

10. Repair & Tools - Craftsman 9-4160 screwdriver, Swiss Army Knife Classic model, ResQMe. The Craftsman 4-in-1 screwdriver I bought at Sears is what got me started on creating my traveler's key ring. Even though my current Slik tripod has a quick-release mount, I still use it to change over to my mini tripod, and change batteries and memory cards.

The SAK is now on the second carabiner in my travel purse and will have to be left behind or put in checked luggage when I fly.

The ResQMe only goes on my traveler's key ring when I rent a car. Otherwise, it remains on my house key ring for when I ride with other people since my own car has a LifeHammer mounted on the center console.

11. Documentation - USB drive. It fits into a clip-on holder and contains a copy of my current computer files since my laptop and backup external hard drive were both stolen in 2007. Eventually, I'll get around to putting report-loss-to phone numbers and critical information on it, password-protected, of course, if not encrypted.

12. Finances - emergency cash in a fob. I saw what looked like spy capsules online, designed to hold one or two folded and rolled bills in a key ring fob. CVS and Wal-Mart have good-sized pill fobs that will hold more which I think is better since I prefer to have easier-to-spend ten and twenty dollar bills than fifties and hundreds.

I may be wrong, but when it comes to traveling, I think of emergency cash in terms of a few meals and maybe cab fare back to my lodging where I can use the phone to get stolen credit/debit cards replaced or to a bank to cash a check. Never one to carry much over $25, I once spent six weeks with nothing more than a dime and a penny in my wallet. Hey, if I don't have it on me, I can't spend it, right?

13. Transportation.

14. Entertainment - pocket kite. Yup, a mini kite on a key ring means I'm ready to fly a kite any time there's enough breeze and the room for it.

15. Security & Self-defense - the same Fox 40 whistle in 5. Communication and the same USB drive in 11. Documentation. Having the USB drive on me is more secure or makes me feel like it is because losing all the work I did over the 10 months to that point of my trip was terrible.

There it is. Twelve categories out of fifteen on a key ring! Admittedly, it's better to wear it under a blouse that isn't tucked in to avoid looking like a building superintendent, but it's a great convenience to have often-used items at my fingertips and a comfort knowing I can add the items of the second carabiner back to it at any time.

To recap, the 17 items are:

On my traveler's key ring clipped to my waistband - highlighter, kite*, lip balm, pen, pill fob, ResQMe*, screwdriver, tick remover*, USB drive, whistle, luminous compass on a small utility carabiner.

On my second carabiner - Ekco Pocket Boy, LED flashlight, P-51, sparker, SAK.

On another belt clip - umbrella*.

* when conditions warrant it.

Saturday, June 4, 2011


This past week was spent trying to trim a packing list down to only what will fit in a carry-on bag. I've yet to succeed.

This is odd for me since I've traveled with only a carry-on before without any problems, but I didn't save any of those packing lists. Besides, this time, I'm organizing my packing list according to the 15 Essential Systems.

As a result, after I get this list done, I'm planning to use it as the basis for a master packing list that will have additional components for such things as kite-flying and motel camping during road trips.

That way, I'll already have my packing list and will only have to copy it to make a new file then delete whatever won't be needed for the current trip. I thought about simply printing it and crossing off what I won't need, but don't want to waste the paper and ink printing unneeded items and want to keep a record of what I packed for various trips. If I find something that consistently isn't being used, I can delete it from my master list unless it's a preparedness item such as my whistle or water purification tablets.

I don't think it's the preparedness items that are making me have too much for a carry-on. I think it's having clothing for temperatures ranging from 45° to 80° F. Theoretically, I should be able to layer a shirt over a top, adding thermal underwear, a beret or knit cap, convertible mittens, and a windbreaker if I get cold. Or, not wear either the overshirt or the top if I get too warm.

It isn't the quantity of clothing, either. Except for one or two sets of thermal underwear, I'm planning on three sets of underwear (one to wear, one to wash, and one for spare), two skirts, one pair of pants, two long-sleeved shirts, two short-sleeved tops, and one of my summer seersucker dresses to double as a nightgown to eliminate my needing a robe to go down the hall. That isn't much for a three-week trip. It isn't much for a one-week trip.

For footwear, I'm planning on one pair of shoes or boots that I'll wear plus flip-flops that I'll pack, so that's not the problem.

Thinking about it as I write this post, I think the problem is my tripod. Since 9-11, some airlines have been ignoring the Bern Convention that says camera equipment is exempt from carry-on limitations, so I'm planning to pack it into my carry-on instead of carrying it separately in its own case as I did prior to 9-11. However, doing so may mean I'll end up checking a bag. Damn terrorists!

I've also been considering different backpacks for my Grab & Go bag. I nearly decided on one before realizing it has about the same capacity as my travel pack which qualifies as a carry-on bag for air travel. That's too small since I want to be able to carry camping equipment as well in case I decide to get into backpacking which sounds really good to me right now.

Finally, thinking about cooking, eating, and sleeping outdoors whether I get a backpack or not, I started working on a camping list based on my 15 Essential Systems. I plan to create the list, then see what I actually have and which items I need to buy to fill in the holes. I think I already have everything and using the 15 Essential Systems to organize my list will ensure I do.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Interesting Week - Preparedness

Between Joplin, MO suffering from tornado devastation and a long line of huge storms with tornadoes passing through on Tuesday, the local CBS TV station polled viewers asking if they were going to step up their emergency preparations. Surprisingly, since the broadcast area includes Wichita Falls, TX that was devastated in 1979, 73% of the respondents said, "No."

One couple, looking like they're past the mid-life crisis stage of life, said they always have water and other items in each of their vehicles because they've learned to be prepared. I've been thinking along that line simply so I won't have to haul stuff out to the car I might forget under the stress of having to evacuate suddenly and to have it already there when I go on road trips.

Considering the government initiated National Preparedness Month in 2003 and all the natural disasters that have hit this country since, I wonder why it's more important for so many people to have the latest electronic games and smart phones than it is to set some things aside for the proverbial rainy day, not even having a basic, inexpensive car survival kit to keep themselves from freezing to death.

Are the relatively few of us who are prepared, or at least are trying to be, living amongst a nation of hedonists or are they just stupid people who should be left subject to the law of survival of the fittest? How many of us could be that hard-hearted knowing that we might need help ourselves someday despite our preparedness?

Maybe I'm fortunate in that I've been able to draw from other peoples' experience and knowledge as well as my own. My father grew up in Idaho on a farm which necessitates self-sufficiency. My mother and I grew up in Honolulu, Hawaii. She and her parents lived through the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the initial shock, panic, and subsequent war conditions. As a family, we experienced a hurricane and tropical storms along with warnings of tsunamis that, fortunately, never materialized.

As an apartment-dweller, I went back to my experience during a spring break in Honolulu living with a high school friend and her family on the 36' ketch they sailed from the state of Washington to Hawaii trying to remember what they had and how they did things in their small, compact, floating home. I'm also drawing from my experiences traveling, hiking, car camping, and camping with horses with friends who were in the Army.

Dad, who drove through all the lower 48 states plus parts of Canada and Mexico, taught me how to navigate using a road map during our Mainland road trips. I learned how to navigate using a topo map, lensatic compass, and protractor courtesy of the U.S. Army coming out #4 on the test which pretty well embarrassed many of the men. A few real men that were there near me congratulated me on doing so well; the rest were sullen. To the latter, I didn't exist.

Having been taught to put an extra gallon of water in the car trunk when crossing deserts on road trips and stocking several gallons of water in my apartment because of the Y2K bug scare, I already knew to have water on hand for emergencies. Traveling through areas flooded out by 2006's Pineapple Express prompted me to keep extra food on hand.

Also in 2006, a friend in WA advised me to have a 72-hour kit. I didn't know what one was, but found out and have been working on it basing my kit on hiking's 10 Essential Systems I adapted to cover travel and general preparedness to suit me and my lifestyle.

As a result, I've been thanked for sharing what little knowledge I've shared and someone suggested I write a book. At the time, I said "no" because I rather concentrate on writing novels, but thinking about what I know and my experiences and all the research I've done over the past 2+ years for hydration alone (there's a lot of misinformation out there and even the CDC is putting out info that isn't as accurate as it could be), I'm reconsidering.

Already having gear for hiking, camping, and traveling, I'm actually farther along with my own preparedness than this blog indicates. At this point, I'm filling in relatively small holes and organizing or reorganizing.

For the Communication category, because of the tornadoes of the past few days, I'm thinking wearing a lanyard with a whistle during storms, maybe my hiking survival lanyard since I already have it set up, would help get me found faster if I'm under debris, conscious, and able to blow my whistle.

I consider the Documentation category to be incomplete because I misplaced the key to my fireproof lock box which is way too heavy for air travel or evacuation if I have to go on foot. My passport is out because of traveling; I couldn't find the key to put it back in the lock box.

For Finances, I have a little cash on hand in case plastic can't be used due to power outage, but should have much more. A friend in Alabama who experienced April's storms that took out the electricity in her area putting stores and gas stations on a cash-basis said her residential area was without power for 5 days but power wasn't fully restored for 11 days.

For the Transportation category, I need to gather everything together to be able to Grab & Go quickly. Of course, my primary mode of transportation is my car, but what if I encounter a situation like in the movie, "The Happening," where people leave their vehicles to proceed on foot?

A large backpacker's backpack would be best, but since I'm travel-oriented already having a couple of carry-on travel packs, the kind of suitcase that converts to a backpack, that I can use for evacuation, do I shell out the money for one?

Because I'm geared up for hiking, camping, air travel, and road trips, I'm undecided about how to transport my stuff in the event of evacuation by foot without buying a backpacker's backpack to serve as my Grab & Go bag and duplicating stuff to store in it all the time. I have practically everything I need. However, I don't want to risk robbing Peter to pay Paul only to get caught not repaying Peter before the SHTF.

For the category of Security, I'm still figuring out what to do since a lot of stuff was stolen out of my car trunk in 2007 in San Ysidro, CA. Almost everybody knows to keep valuables out of sight, but thieves know the car trunk is where people put them. Lacking a car alarm system, securing the trunk with a cable that sounds an alarm if cut might be the answer for rental cars in addition to long road trips where I have too much stuff to immediately take everything to my room.

The matter of self-defense is a highly personal one because of the variety of state and local laws governing guns, knives, pepper sprays or Mace, and stun guns. Not to mention the TSA.

Personally, I can't see any sense in buying a gun only to have it confiscated without compensation if I'm in a situation like those being bused out of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina who had to give up their guns and knives before being allowed to board a bus.

OTOH, I much rather have a gun than be raped.

On the other other hand, if I can evacuate soon enough, getting far enough away from whatever bad guys remain behind, the money spent buying a firearm would be wasted and better spent on a motel room.

For the time being, I'm relying on prayer and the Fox 40 Mini whistle on my key ring which will hurt a bad guy's ears, hopefully stunning him/them with ear pain long enough for me to get away while it signals my need for help.

Finally, the Entertainment category is covered, I'm sure, although I still intend to get a pocket-sized MP3 player to replace my portable CD player. Since it's low priority, no rush. My Kindle, pocket kite, playing cards, journal, camera, tin whistle, and watercolor paints, etc., should be plenty enough to keep me occupied if necessary in the meantime.

Writing it all up for this blog as promised is the bitch.

Interesting Week - Laptop Battery

This past weekend, my laptop started displaying a pop-up warning about my battery reaching the end of its usable life with a link to order another whenever I powered it on or took it off Stand By. You'd think I would have been getting this warning since November, but I haven't.

So, first thing Monday morning, I ordered a new battery from Dell which currently has an offer for free shipping with a minimum purchase the battery satisfies. The order process and confirmation email indicated that the battery would arrive today. It arrived Wednesday from TN. That's great order fulfillment. Plus, it was free!

After ensuring the new battery is the right one, I decided to set it aside to save it until the old one is dead. A new battery is so expensive (the old battery was 32 months old when the flashing light first appeared), I want to make it last as long as possible.

I've been working off of AC, mostly, anyway. The only reason I need a battery otherwise is so I don't lose anything if the power suddenly goes off.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Review: Brita Bottle

The new Brita Bottle, available since mid-February, is an on-demand, aesthetic-filtering, environmentally-friendly, reusable water bottle made of durable, easy-to-squeeze, BPA-free, recycle code #4 LDPE plastic.

It is available in translucent blue or green for MSRP US$9.99 each, including one replaceable filter, or in a Twin Pack from $18.99. Replacement filters are MSRP $7.99 per pair.

The Bottle is 9.75" tall. The circumference varies from 7-5/8" at the waist to 9" at the largest point.

The literature inside says the filtering system was tested and certified in accordance with NSF/ANSI Standard 42 for aesthetics to reduce chlorine taste and odor by at least 50%. The Brita Bottle averaged 79% with the minimum at 58%.

The NSF requirement for the reduction of particulates is 85% to be a Class VI filter which is 50 to <80 microns. The Brita Bottle averaged more than 99.9% that was also the minimum.

Not finding the Brita Bottle at Wal-Mart and not wanting to drive out-of-town to Target or shop online, I located my blue Bottle at Walgreens. The enclosed directions say to first hand-wash it with mild soap, but knowing soap can leave a residue even when well-rinsed, I used regular liquid dishwashing detergent, instead. The directions also say that everything except the filter is top-rack dishwasher-safe.

After flushing out the loose carbon dust as directed by squeezing a full bottle of water through the filter, I was ready to begin my evaluation. Since I work at home, my interest in the Bottle is for when I'm out-and-about longer than water in another convenient-to-carry bottle filled from my Brita pitcher would last like for festivals, day trips, and travel to areas with safe water.

For road trips, the Bottle will save my having to pack my Brita Space Saver pitcher which is much too large for air travel. Although I haven't flown anywhere since I bought the Bottle, I expect it to be acceptable by the TSA just as my Brita Fill & Go filtering bottle was as long as it's empty when I go through inspection.

The capacity according to Brita is 20 oz. Filling the Bottle to the ledge below the screw thread for the cap, I measured the capacity as 21 oz.

The cap consists of several pieces. First, there is a base cap that screws onto the 49 mm opening large enough to add ice cubes and for easy washing. The filter slides into a hole in the center of the base cap and is held in place by a screw-on, push-pull sport cap. The sport cap is covered by a snap-on hygiene cap.

According to the label and enclosed literature, the filter, Model No. BB02 which also fits Brita's older Fill & Go bottle, needs to be replaced every 128 (20 oz.) servings/20 gallons/75 liters or every two months for proper performance.

Knowing that 128 (20 oz.) servings equals 20 gallons, I was curious how it correlated to two months and did some calculating. By using the Bottle for all of the standard hydration recommendation of 64 oz. per day, it would take only 40 days to consume 20 gallons.

However, after keeping track for a week and learning I average two fillings (42 oz.) per day, I calculated the filter would last 61 days (128 servings x 20 oz. per serving / 42 oz. per day = 60.95 days).

Of course, YMMV, but if you drink an average of two Bottles per day, getting the rest of your hydration needs from other beverages and food, marking your calendar to replace the filter in two months will be both close enough and a whole lot easier than counting refills or calculating the number of gallons consumed.

The Bottle is very comfortable to hold, but once leaked a drop or two because the push-pull sport cap wasn't closed all the way although it looked like it was.

It leaks a lot more if I don't put the large base cap on carefully. I discovered I have to press the carrying loop down while screwing on the cap or it won't go on level. With the loop removed, it still leaks a little unless I unscrew the cap until the threads click before screwing the cap on. It's best to set the Bottle on the counter or other support to avoid squeezing it as the cap is screwed on.

After figuring out these little tricks, the Bottle is dripless no matter how vigorously shaken.

The leaking isn't due to the cap because I can put it on my Fill & Go without having to be careful about it and it doesn't leak, so it must be something about the Bottle.

I suspect it's because the thread goes around only once plus about a third where the ends overlap while the thread on the Fill & Go goes around twice. Wrapping the Bottle's thread with plumber's tape might resolve this minor issue; I plan to buy some, try it, and report back, but it really would be better for Brita to fix this issue for us rather than our having to be so much more careful than with the Fill & Go or trying to fix it ourselves.

[Update 6/2/11 - Too lazy to buy plumber's tape, I tried different tape only to get a small flood when I squeezed to drink. Since I figured out the little tricks required to make my Bottle dripless (other people haven't had these issues, so it just depends on the Bottle or maybe I'm squeezing more vigorously than they are), and I'm very happy with it preferring the new Bottle over Brita's older Fill & Go bottle, I decided against trying the plumber's tape.]

Disliking the plastic taste of my first Bottle of water as sometimes happens with LDPE water bottles I've tried, I put in a couple of tablespoons of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), filled it with hot tap water, capped it without the filter, shook it, and let it sit overnight.

Since my second Bottle of water still tasted of plastic, I dumped in enough baking soda to cover the bottom over 1/4 inch, filled it with hot tap water, capped it without the filter, and let it sit over 24 hours, shaking it occasionally. That fixed it. Subsequent servings of water have all tasted absolutely great.

If I couldn't have gotten rid of the plastic flavor or should I ever want a bottle with a different capacity, I could substitute a recycle code #1 PET/PETE bottle with a 28 mm opening such as is found on standard .5 L, 1 L, and 2 L water and soft drink bottles, Coke products excluded, since the filter and push-pull sport cap fit without leakage on the bottles I tried. A 1-liter bottle would be especially good for foreign travel and preparedness because it's the capacity recommended for most chemical treatments for unsafe water. I'm thinking the Brita Bottle filter will remove any lingering chlorine odor and taste, but don't care to speculate about iodine treatments.

By aligning the filter's arrow-shaped openings with the Bottle's seams for easy tactile detection and keeping a seam underneath the Bottle as it gets empty, I can squeeze out all of the water but a tablespoon enabling me to get a maximum quantity before needing to refill it.

[Edited 6/2/11 - If the seam that is aligned with the top end of the screw thread is downward, the Bottle leaks a drop when I upend and squeeze to drink if I set it on the counter while screwing on the cap although it still doesn't leak when shaken while the sport top is closed. It leaks a lot if I grip it around its middle while screwing on the cap, but less if it's supported on my palm. As a result, I marked the opposite seam with a Sharpie to ensure I have it downwards when I drink so there is no leakage as I squeeze.]

Aligning the filter with the Brita logo on the cap is another option for a visual indicator. Aligning my collapsible koozie seams with the Bottle's seams provides both easy visual and tactile indicators.

The koozie also serves its original purpose as an insulator helping keep the water cool and as a sweat band to collect condensation when ice is added.

[Update 7/30/11 - The Outdoor Products insulated water bottle sleeve, reviewed here, is better than a collapsible can koozie.]

Not only does the Bottle fit into my collapsible koozie and car cup holder, it also fits into the water bottle pockets of my travel purse and other carriers such as my water bottle parka with shoulder strap.

Like other sport caps with snap-on dust covers, the Brita Bottle's hygiene cap is likely to be easily lost. Since this is an on-going problem of mine that isn't likely to change, I attached a 4" cable tie to the carrying loop and Krazy-glued the loose end to the hygiene cap to leash it to the Bottle. Unfortunately, the Krazy Glue did not hold, perhaps because the cable tie was too short and/or too stiff to withstand the stress of movement as I removed and replaced the hygiene cap.

Losing the hygiene cap is no big deal since I don't put the cap in my mouth and figure I can easily use the water's outward flow to rinse it off. Besides, I don't wash my hands every time before pulling the top open and only God knows what germs I pick up from the surfaces I touch between drinks.

However, since I do like having a cover to prevent a fly from landing on the center of the sport cap behind my back, I'm trying another way to make a leash and will post a report on it, later.

Overall, I'm very happy with the Brita Bottle and prefer it to the older Fill & Go except for needing to be careful about closing the cap to prevent leakage. It's easy to use, comfortable to hold, conveniently-sized, and produces great-tasting water.

[Update 9/19/2012 - In March, I bought a two-pack and have had no problems whatsoever. The new bottles are lavender and a pretty blue. The older bottle is a wussy-looking light blue. I don't know if the leakage was peculiar to the light blue bottles or if Brita changed something in the new bottles since they look the same to me. Either way, I'm totally thrilled with my newer bottles!]

I recommend it to everyone wanting an on-demand, aesthetic-filtering, environmentally-friendly, reusable water bottle that can be refilled from any source of potable water.