Skills: A Gear Weight-Loss Program

by Todd Walker

Skills: A Gear Weight-Loss ProgramDoing the Stuff with your gear is the most overlooked skill in the world of prepping and survivalism. In general, we tend to think un-tested gear will get us through any crisis. Just whoop out that new shiny object from your kit… you know, you’ve seen the YouTube videos.

Imagine this…

You and your family are forced, for whatever reason – really doesn’t matter why, to grab your bug out bags and get out of dodge… on foot. You’ve got 5 minutes to get out. Immediately you realize the weight of your bag alone will make your journey impossible.

Time to go on a weight-loss program – for your gear!

As some of our regular readers know, I’ve built a semi-permanent shelter in the woods. It’s my personal space where I go to get centered, re-humanized, and enjoy nature. From a survival point of view, my personal space gives me a convenient location to build skills.

More importantly, it’s a weight-loss center for gear. It does a pretty good job of keeping extra pounds off the body too.

On to the gear weight-loss program.

My first overnight outing in my shelter helped me lose extra gear weight. Granted, it was only a one-night-stand. But that one night with a new ALICE pack (All-Purpose Lightweight Individual Carrying Equipment) was needed to compare with my old 3-day assault bag.

You see, with larger packs, I tend to over pack. The smaller ALICE forced me to downsize and prioritize my gear. Anytime I head out for some dirt time I pack, at a minimum, the first five of Dave Canterbury’s 10 C’s of Survival. This trip was no different with one exception…. I overpacked ALICE to test her fit, finish, carrying capacity, and comfort.

Below you’ll see what I packed, what I actually needed, and what I’ll leave behind next time. I packed way too much stuff for an overnight trip. But remember, I needed to get ALICE in the woods for the first time.

Stuff I Packed

Dave’s 5 C’s

1.) Cutting tools. These items are the hardest to trim for me. My only excuse is that I love sharp stuff!

  • BK2 – A pure tank of a knife with a 1/4″ full tang 1095 steel blade.
  • Mora Companion – I find it more useful around camp for finer knife work. It rides around my neck via a lanyard.
  • Opinel #8 folder
  • Leatherman multi-tool
  • Swiss Army Knife – Stays in my right pant pocket whenever I leave the house.
  • Bacho Laplander –  This folding saw was used for a lot of cuts on my shelter.
  • Ax – Wetterlings 16″ Hunter’s Ax. Small enough to fit into my rolled up bedroll, yet large enough to handle most tasks around base camp.
  • Almost Free Ax – I know, overkill for one night. Told you sharp stuff was my kryptonite.

2.) Combustion. Fire is life out there.

Skills: A Gear Weight-Loss Program

Fire kit fits inside the tin at the top

  • Lighter
  • Ferro rod
  • Flint and steel
  • Char tin and charred material
  • Fat lighter’d (fat wood)
  • Water proof jute twine and other dry tinder material
  • Mini Inferno (water proof fire starter)

3.) Cover. My trapper’s shelter was my cover for the night. However, redundancy give you options…

Skills: A Gear Weight-Loss Program

Morning coffee!!

  • USGI poncho
  • Contractor trash bag x2

4.) Container. For cooking, water, etc.

5.) Cordage. Hard to make in the wilderness – easy to just pack some in your kit.

  • 50 ft. of paracord
  • 25 ft. of #36 tarred bank line
  • 50 ft. of climbing rope
  • Two short bungee cords for my bedroll

The rest of Dave’s 10 C’s of Survival

6.) Candle (lighting)

  • Headlamp for hands free illumination
  • Pak-lite LED Flashlight – Great for lighting your shelter is the weight of a 9v battery
  • StreamLight ProTac 2L – 3 modes: bright, dim, and strobe and will light up the woods – doubles a my EDC pocket light
  • LightSpecs – almost forgot these LED reading glasses that ride on my head

7.) Cotton. 100% cotton rag or bandana can be used for bandaging wounds, char cloth, and many other survival uses.

  •  Large bandana
  • Small squares of bath towel (future char cloth)

8.) Compass for navigation

9.) Cargo tape. This may be the most versatile item in your kit.

  • Gorilla tape
  • Electrical tape from my Cigar Fishing Kit – orange in color for marking trail or signaling rescuers to your path

10.) Canvas needle. From repairing gear in the field to removing splinters.

  • Sail needle
  • Dental floss

That’s the 10 C’s. Now for the other stuff.


Wool blanket with ax tucked into the roll

Wool blanket with ax tucked into the roll

  • 100% queen-size wool army blanket
  • USGI poncho liner
  • Section of the billboard for a ground cloth (already at the shelter)


  • Poached my bug out bag food bag – overkill again
  • Coffee and tea


  • MSR Miniworks Micro filter


  • Springfield XD 9mm
  • 2 magazines
  • No long gun this trip


  • Extra long sleeve shirt and the clothes on my back
  • Homemade wool hunting shirt
  • Boonie hat


Skills: A Gear Weight-Loss Program

Woodcraft and Camping

  • Woodcraft and Camping by “Nessmuk”
  • Journal and pencil

Stuff I Needed

The first 5 C’s

1.) Cutting tools

By far the most used knife was my Mora Companion neck knife. There wasn’t a lot of heavy-duty campcrafting needed so my BK2 stayed in its sheath. I did cut a sapling with the BK2 to mount a frog gig on the end. Also used the packaging tool on my SAK to tighten bank line lashing on the cooking tripod I made.

The Wetterlings ax saw minor action harvesting saplings for the cooking tripod. The Almost Free Ax was never unmasked.

The pliers on my multi-tool was used to remove a container of boiling water from the toggle on the tripod.

The Bacho folding saw was use to harvest dead-fall poplar wood for a bow drill set. To shape my spindle, the Mora was all I needed.

Cutting Tools I’d Leave Behind

  1. Opinel folding knife
  2. Almost Free Ax

2.) Combustion

Used a Bic lighter and feathered fat lighter’d stick to light the camp fire. I was lazy and didn’t feel like practicing primitive fire skills. That’s why I carry a lighter.

Combustion Items I’d Leave Behind

NONE! Fire is life.

3.) Cover (Shelter)

My shelter was already built. I still carried my poncho which came in handy as an extra layer of insulation over my wool blanket.

Cover Items I’d Leave Behind


4.) Container

The cook set served me well alone. With more than one person, a larger cooking pot/pan would be needed.

Container Items I’d Leave Behind

NONE! Add a larger bush pot.

5.) Cordage

The 25 ft of tarred bank line was used to lash the cooking tripod. Since my shelter was already built, no other cordage was needed.

Cordage Items I’d Leave Behind

NONE! Pack 50 ft of tarred bank line next trip.

6.) Candle (lighting)

My LightSpecs, headlamp, and Pak-lite saw the most action on this trip. A couple of times I almost reached for my StreamLight as the coyotes got closer in the middle of the night.

Skills: A Gear Weight-Loss Program

Red light saves night vision

Candle Items I’d Leave Behind

Pak-lite LED flashlight. Although, for the small amount of added weight, I’d probably keep it in my kit.

#7-10 – Cotton, compass, cargo tape, and canvas needle (repair kit) would stay the same.

Other Stuff

It’s really not surprising, at least to me, that I didn’t drop much weight on the 10 C’s. Those items are essential to survivability. With these tools and the knowledge and skill to use them, you increased your odds of comfortably surviving a wilderness or bug out journey.

Lessons Learned

A.) The importance of thermoregulation can’t be overstated – even in 45º temperatures. By 2 AM, I woke up to cold feet. I had let the fire die down and had not collected enough fuel to see me through the entire night. I draped my poncho over the wool blanket to add an extra layer of insulation. This did the trick.

Another point worth discussing is the lack of insulation between me and the ground. Though the ground wasn’t frozen like our neighbors to the north, the ground cloth and poncho liner was too minimalist. My remedy will be to add a foot of dried leaves and straw with the billboard on top of that layer as a moisture barrier.

B.) On firewood: Collect two or three times the amount you think you’ll need for the night. The shelter was designed to capture radiant heat via the reflecting wall and the overhang on the front of the shelter. The cool weather wouldn’t have been a problem if I had harvested enough fuel.

C.) For practice runs of one or two nights out, lose as much gear weight as you comfortably can. Make a note (an actual list) of what you needed and what turned out to be extra weight. Pack accordingly on your next outing.

For instance, I primarily used one knife. That knife should be a full tang, 5 inch high carbon steel blade or longer, 90º angled spine, and non-coated. For me it’s my BK2. Although I use my Mora as a backup.

D.) My water filter wasn’t working properly. I boiled water for cooking and drinking via the bottle cook set.

To loose gear weight, you have to test your stuff. Your bug out bag or bushcraft kit should be in constant state of evolution not a shiny object storage compartment. There’s no such thing as a perfect kit. But that doesn’t stop us from trying to create one.

As skills increase, gear will decrease.

What skill would help you lose gear weight?

Keep Doing the Stuff,


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Thanks for sharing the stuff!

Copyright Information: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.





Categories: Bushcraft, Camping, Doing the Stuff, equipment, Gear, Preparedness | Tags: , , | 6 Comments

Is This Cotton Pickin’ Killer in Your Winter B.O.B.?

by Todd Walker

Hikers and other outdoorsmen are fond of the ‘cotton kills‘ meme. Search these two words and you’ll wonder how grandpa survived frontier life without polypropylene!

An APB has been issued on this serial killer!

An APB has been issued on this serial killer!

The survival and prepping community should take note. If you’re a lover and wearer of killer cotton, the Bug Out Fashion Police won’t be summoned to whisk you off to polypro prison and re-education camp.

Dirt Road Girl and I repack our 72 hour bags for fall/winter each year. If we ever need to grab and go, we know our kits would contain synthetic, wicking base layers from head to toe. Humidity is high in our state and I sweat a lot with a 30 pound pack strapped to my back. Synthetic material against my skin does a great job at wicking moisture to outer clothing layers.

Do we pack killer cotton in our winter kits? Yes. It has its place and uses.

Killer cotton is not lethal. Choosing the wrong clothing for your situation and environment kills!

So how did this natural, comfy fiber get such a bad rap?

The Science of Staying Warm

Cotton gained the label ‘killer’ by distance hikers for its lack of capillary (wicking) action. To explain, I’ll slip on my lab coat and grab some chalk for a science lesson. I’ll do my best to keep this accessible to our non-geek readers.

Before we begin, here’s your 3 key vocabulary terms for this lesson:

  • Conduction – is the transfer of heat when ‘hot’ molecules collide with neighboring cold molecules. Only heat can be conducted because cold is the absence of heat. Ex: I discovered early on that heat travels from the hot end of Mama’s cast iron skillet to the cold handle.
  • Insulator – materials that are poor conductors of heat. Air, cloth, wood, and water are poor conductors but make great insulators.
  • Heat transfer – thermal energy (heat) can be transferred via conduction, convection, and radiation.

What cotton holds against your skin

When dry, cotton fibers create air pockets to insulate your body. Air is an awesome insulator if it’s trapped in an area. However, cotton earns ‘killer’ status when wet.

Here’s why…

Cotton is a stingy absorber of moisture. Once saturated, it holds moisture better than polyester. When you step out of the shower, do you grab a cotton towel or synthetic one? Cotton holds on to what it absorbs.

Cotton soaks up moisture but does a lousy job of moving it away from your skin to outer layers of clothing. Your 100% cotton union suit looses its insulation value when the air pockets in the fiber fill with moisture from perspiration or water. The 50/50 cotton blends only prolong the process a bit. Either of these choices will leave you wet and cold!

The problem with being outside is Mother Nature’s mood swings. She seems to invent ways to make you shiver. If these conditions continue, hypothermia happens without self-directed action to reverse the drop in your body’s core temperature – even when it’s not freezing out.

So to be prepared, plan for the unpredictable.

Layers of Redundancy

Since humans aren’t feathered or fury (up for debate in some cases), the layered clothing strategy creates warm air pockets to slow the heat transfer from your 98.6 degree body to the external frigid temperatures. You’ve seen pictures of Sherpas standing on the top of Mt. Everest wearing a down-filled jacket. It’s not the feathers that insulate, it’s the air space created by the down trapped by the jacket shell.

Remember that heat transfer takes place from hot to cold – not the other way around.

Nature is constantly trying to create equilibrium. Thermal energy (heat) and humidity under your clothing seeks a path to colder, less humid conditions outside your body.

The first step in creating and maintaining that warm pocket of insulating air around your body is to stay dry. Due to its capillary action, I prefer polyester as a base layer against my skin.

On top of that, when conditions are cold but not wet, I wear a long sleeve cotton shirt with a wool sweater.  When it’s likely that I’ll be in wet/cold conditions, or some Doing the Stuff training with my B.O.B., I skip the cotton and go with a light merino wool or wool synthetic layer.

Frugal Tip: Never pay full price for expensive wool sweaters. Shop your local thrift stores and stock up on $5 merino wool. Ugly colors won’t matter when you need to stay warm and dry!

Some lovable wool facts:

  • Wool fiber absorbs up to 36% of its weight and gradually releases moisture through evaporation.
  • Wool has natural antibacterial properties that allow you wear it multiply days without stinking up camp. Not so with synthetics.
  • Wool wicks moisture, not as well as synthetics, but better than cotton.
  • Wool releases small amounts of heat as it absorbs moisture.
  • Wool contains thousands of natural air-trapping pockets for breathable insulation. Just ask any sheep.
Here's a 100% wool army blanket I hand stitched to make a hunting shirt.

Here’s a 100% wool army blanket I hand stitched to make a wool hunting shirt.

Now to add ‘skin’ to your outfit. The outer shell or skin can be anything that repels water. In a pinch, a contractor garbage bag will work to keep you dry. Gore-Tex is pricey. You can pick up USGI poncho cheaply online or at military surplus stores. A poncho in your kit gives you options other than rain protection.

Smart folks are prepared for both wet and cold conditions! Does Killer Cotton have a place in your winter Core Temperature Control strategy? You bet! Here’s my top 5 reasons to pack cotton.

Uses for 100% Killer Cotton

  1. High count bed sheets can be turned into lightweight, waterproof, fireproof tarps.
  2. Bandana or shemagh for making char cloth for your next fire.
  3. Self aid – cotton and duct tape can be used as a makeshift bandage, sling, wound compress, or tourniquet (as a last resort).
  4. Signaling device – orange bandanas contrast well in a woodland setting.
  5. Emergency toilet paper. Ever tried wiping your business end in the wilderness with synthetic material?

Final Thoughts

Our ancestors made it through extreme conditions without modern synthetic clothing. Would they have worn polypro underwear and base layers while forging the frontier? Probably.

Is Killer Cotton part of your Core Temperature Control strategy? Stay safe and warm out there!

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,


P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube and our Facebook page… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network on PinterestGoogle +, and Facebook.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there…

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Copyright: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

Categories: Doing the Stuff, equipment, Preparedness, Survival | Tags: , , | 14 Comments

Jim’s DiY Fuel Transfer Pump: Don’t Spit or Swallow

[Todd’s note: I love Texas! My maternal grandfather came from the Lone Star State. A lot of great patriots and preppers call it home.

One of our readers, Jim, from somewhere in Texas, read my post about the Shaker Siphon hose and sent me a note on his fuel transfer system. I like it! I thought you might too.]

Thanks Jim for adding value with your Doing the Stuff Tutorial!

How to transfer fuel without ‘swallowing’

by jim w, somewhere in TX

Here is my electric fuel transfer board.

DiY Fuel Transfer Pump: Don't Spit or Swallow

Jim’s compact DiY Fuel Transfer Pump wrapped up and pulled from storage

The board is plain pine that is 18″ long and 11.5″ wide.  It has a 3″ long by 1″ wide hand hold cut in the top of it to grasp it easier.

Jim's DiY Fuel Transfer Pump: Don't Spit or Swallow

Fuel board set up and unwrapped

I painted the board OD GREEN to go with my military equipment I collect.

It has a MR. GASKET diesel micro electric fuel pump #12D mounted to it, via two holes drilled and one bolt, two washers and one nut per hole that holds it in place.  I also used the inline fuel filter supplied by Mr Gasket, though you could choose another type if you wanted to as there are lots of them available.

Here is the description from Advance Auto Parts website –   (I have NO AFFILIATION WITH THEM – I just surfed the web until I found a description I liked). On this website, they list the price as $59.99 – including the inline fuel filter:

Jim’s DiY Fuel Transfer Pump: Don’t Spit or Swallow

12-volt electric diesel fuel transfer pump is safe for diesel fuel use. Simple 2 wire design, self priming, includes 100 micron in line filter. 4-7psi 35GPH, small universal design allows easy set and installation anywhere. Solid state worry free electronics, 12 volt negative ground systems only.

Once the electric fuel pump was wired with an additional 6′ of wire, I added two alligator clips.  I then attached the inline fuel filter to the fuel pump. Next I added two lengths of 1/4″ fuel hose.  On the outgoing side, I put a 7.5′ piece of fuel hose.  On the incoming side, I put a 6.5′ piece of fuel hose.  That gives me a total of 14′ of fuel hose from source to destination.

Auto Zone sells fuel hose by the foot for $1.29 in my area:

It works great.  I either use a battery in the vehicle I’m transferring fuel to OR carry a spare battery along when I’m out in the middle of nowhere to run this pump.

While 35 GPH (gallons per minute) sounds fairly slow (and it is), MOST fuel tanks these days are 20 gallons or less.  So you could fill a 20 gallon tank in about thirty to forty minutes.

Please be aware that these days, new vehicles have some form of ‘anti-siphoning’ device built into the fuel filler tube before it reaches the tank.   If, on the other hand, you drive military vehicles like I do, that is never an issue.  Plus if you are just transferring fuel from one of your own fuel canisters, this is an easy, clean way to do so.

If you do not have ANY of these items on hand, as I did, your overall cost would be around $110.   That does not include the battery to run it.

  • Pump $65
  • Fuel hose $20
  • Board  $5
  • Two nuts/bolts & four washers $5
  • 6′ wire and 2 alligator clips $10

With the exception of the fuel pump and hose, I’m guessing on the cost of the other pieces.  I ACTUALLY HAD everything but a new pump on hand and splurged the $50 for it.  I made this several years go and it works every time I hook it to power.  I also have these installed in my military vehicles, one of which I’ve owned more than four years.  They all work every time you turn the key.

If power is an issue, for fuel stored in barrels, I recommend a rotary hand pump.    – that link is for a ‘Fill Rite’ from Northern Tool company $200  (again, NO AFFLIATION, I just got mine there). Not cheap but will last for your lifetime.

I hope that helps give insight into OTHER choices other than the fuel pump [Shaker Siphon] displayed here earlier.  It’s a good alternative, but if you are serious about your preps, a great fuel transfer pump is the way to go.  Whether you are transferring 5 gallons or 500, not having to do it by ‘sucking’ is a good thing.

This Doing the Stuff Tutorial contributed by WALLEW (aka – jim w – from somewhere in TX)


If you have a Doing the Stuff project you’d like to share, drop me a line via email ~ survivalsherpa (at) gmail (dot) com

Keep Doing the Stuff!


P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, and our Facebook page… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network on PinterestGoogle +, and Facebook.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there…

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

Categories: DIY Preparedness Projects, Doing the Stuff, equipment, Preparedness | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

A DiY Survival Sling Shot with Big Game Capabilities

by Todd Walker

Could you survive in the wilderness with only a sling shot as your weapon?

A DiY Survival Sling Shot with Big Game Capabilities

A DIY Survival Sling Shot with Big Game Capabilities

Lots would depend on your survivability. Having a means to harvest protein and animal fat would surely increase your chances.

In a perfect world, the sling shot would not be my first choice. But having options makes one more robust.

When Dave Canterbury first talked about hunting big game with a sling shot, I thought he’d lost his mind. But then again, I’ve seen him do amazing things with common, everyday items. [Note: Check your local hunting regulations before hunting with a sling shot.]

I first saw his video on his pocket hunter over three years ago before he was co-starring on Dual Survival. I was impressed. So much so that I turned my wrist rocket into a DIY version of his now patented Deluxe Pathfinder Pocket Hunter Kit

My version is rough, but functional. I have three points on arrows for my sling shot: fishing tip, broadhead, and judo points. Here’s a look at a judo point on a wooden arrow.

A DiY Survival Sling Shot with Big Game Capabilities

Judo point ready to slay a spud.

The purpose of the judo point is to snag on brush, grass, or the ground and flip the arrow up to make finding a missed shot easier. It’s used for hunting small game animals.

The smallest game I could legally hunt today was Mr. Potato Head. Dirt Road Girl offered up a sacrificial spud. The hunt was on!

A DiY Survival Sling Shot with Big Game Capabilities

Use the same draw technique as you would with a traditional bow.

A DiY Survival Sling Shot with Big Game Capabilities

Dead spud at ten yards!

Both field points and broadheads penetrated this target about 5 inches at ten and 15 yards. Just like finding your anchor point in archery, shooting sling shots are no different. I anchor at the right corner of my mouth and aim instinctively.

Back when I built my pocket hunter, I secured a Whisper Biscuit between the arms of my sling shot with wire ties. I can fold the arrow rest down to shoot ball bearings or pebbles.

My arrow with the fishing tip is carbon. I secured a piece of nylon bank line to the arrow. This line is attached to the line spool on the PVC pipe on the wrist rocket. I mounted the pipe on a piece of aluminum plate screwed into the base of the wrist rocket. When shot, the line peels off the spool perfectly.

A DiY Survival Sling Shot with Big Game Capabilities

Bow fishing set up.

The main drawback of my pocket hunter is carrying full length arrows. Dave fixes that issue with take down arrows.

You can check out his kit at his Pathfinder Store. The Three-Piece Take Down Arrows are sold separately. I’ve added them to my wish list. This allows you to carry a silent, but deadly, weapon in your survival kit – all in one self-contained bag. Brilliant!

A DiY Survival Sling Shot with Big Game Capabilities

I use an old military surplus medic IV bag to store and carry my pocket hunter. Just need those break down arrows to complete the kit.

As I said in the beginning of this article, I would prefer to have a long gun for wilderness survival. But the pocket hunter is another option for redundancy in harvesting game quietly in a survival scenario. Options are good!

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,


P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, and our Facebook page… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network on PinterestGoogle +, and Facebook.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there…

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

Categories: Bushcraft, equipment, Self-reliance, Survival | Tags: , , , , | 31 Comments

All American Sun Oven: Off-Grid Cooker Review and a DiY Version

by Todd Walker

This past April I was contacted by Billie Nicholson of All American Sun Oven asking if I’d be interested in testing their solar appliance. It just so happens that my 8th graders were getting ready to study solar energy.

“You bet! I’ll test it at home and with my students.”

Below are two tests I ran on the All American Sun Oven. First, school with hotdogs. Second, home with hot wings.

Too cool for school

solar cooker, All American Sun Oven,

The All American Sun Oven at my middle school.

The Sun Oven arrived in the middle of a unit we were teaching on solar energy. Perfect! I was immediately impressed at its quality construction, simplicity, portability, and general idiot-proof-ness (the one-piece reflector was genius). The shipping box contained the basic get-started paperwork plus an instructional CD with hundreds of suggested recipes and advice.

Being the frugal teacher I am, I talked my co-teacher into bringing the food for our first test. He brought hotdogs. Turns out he’s cheap frugal too.

We set up just outside the classroom on a partly cloudy day. Focusing the oven to collect the most solar energy was easy. The Sun Oven has two alignment holes on the top of the oven to help you focus the sun’s energy for the best cooking temp. There is an adjustable alignment leg (self-contained in the unit) in the back to give the proper vertical angling of your cooker. Aligning the sun with the ‘focus’ holes on top and the up or down of the back leg, we were ready to cook in no time. For windy days, the cooker comes with two stakes to anchor the alignment leg to the ground.

I placed the oven out around 30 minutes before our class began. [Note: Follow the Pre-cooking instructions before you cook your first meal. They recommend you place a container with three cups of vinegar in the oven, place cooker in the sun, and wait 90 to 120 minutes before cooking a meal.] This brought the temperature up to 250 degrees with the sun peaking in and out of the clouds. When the sun cooperated, the temp would reach 300 plus with no problem.

We placed the cheap hotdogs in a Pyrex dish with a lid, set it on the Duel-Purpose Leveling Rack, shut the lid, and realigned the oven every 30 minutes. I was afraid that even a simple meal like hot dogs would not cook on a partly cloudy day.

I was wrong. We cooked the meal for an hour and a half with sporadic sunshine. The hotdogs were too hot to eat as steam rushed around the Pyrex lid when we brought the dish inside.

Most of the students were really impressed – as impressed as microwavable middle schoolers can be at the end of a school year.

The performance task for the solar energy unit was to build their own solar cooker. We had some creative and interesting units built. Below is one I was particularly proud of that was modeled after the All American Sun Oven. It turned a chocolate candy bar into mush. That’s all they brought to cook.

diy solar cooker, student built solar cooker

Student built solar cooker modeled after the All American Sun Oven. They used a milk crate, cardboard boxes, aluminum foil, plastic film, shredded paper for insulation, and duct tape (an essential for any good DiY project).

Sun Hot Wings on the All American Sun Oven

To test the Sun Oven at home, I prepared my chicken wings as I do anytime I grill hot wings. They marinate 24 hours in the special sauce before going on the Big Green Egg. I pulled six wings out to cook in the Sun Oven.

sun hot wings,

Sun Hot Wings ready to cook in a covered dish on the leveling rack.

I focused the Sun Oven and left the wings to cook. The oven reached 315 degrees in my backyard. Tip: Find a spot that gets full sun for several hours so you don’t have to chase the sun with your oven. I had to move the oven three times to escape the shade cast by trees.

As the Sun Oven worked its solar magic, I cooked the larger batch of wings on my BGE. Dirt Road Girl and I enjoyed the meal and washed the dishes when I remembered the Sun Hot Wings outside.

One of the benefits of the All American Sun Oven is that your can’t burn your meal. The oven is designed to heat evenly and hold the moisture in the food. Good thing, because I forgot about my Sun Hot Wings. They’d been cooking for two hours.

Here’s the thing I hate to admit. The Sun Hot Wings were better than my standardly amazing grilled hot wings! The only drawback to the Sun Oven wings was they didn’t have the grill marks. Other than that, they were ‘fall off the bone’ tender and full of juicy flavor.

There’s so many uses for the Sun Oven. There’s many recipes on their website and even more on the CD that comes with the oven. From asparagus to turkey, if you can cook it in your conventional oven, you can bake, steam, or boil it on your Sun Oven. Even if the extent of your kitchen experience is ‘cooking’ a bowl of instant oatmeal, you’ll look like a real chef with the Sun Oven.

Cleaned, closed, and ready for storage.

Cleaned, closed, and ready for storage.

Off-Grid Cooking Benefits

  • No fuel needed – runs on free sunshine
  • No smoke or fire if OPSEC is ever a concern
  • Compact, light weight, and user-friendly
  • Even without focusing the oven every 30 minutes, it will still slow cook your meal like a crock pot
  • A great cooking alternative for car camping
  • Use the Sun Oven even with the grid operating to save money on electric or gas stoves
  • Pasteurize or boil water to purify for drinking in an emergency
  • Dehydrate food for long-term storage

The one con of the All American Sun Oven happens to be its most appealing feature – fueled by free sunshine. Without direct exposure to sun, you’ll have to use another method of cooking. However, free solar energy is the most plentiful and inexhaustible source of energy we have around.

The Sun Oven has been used around the world to provide off-grid cooking alternatives to people in all kinds of situations. From feeding orphans in Uganda, to North American hunters who love moist venison, it gets the job done. One of my favorites place the Sun Oven has been used is by Sherpas at base camp on Mt. Everest. Not any deadwood there for a camp fire.

I highly recommend one as an off-grid cooking alternative and long-term money saver if you have funds available. The basic model runs around $300. Their website offers more models and lots of other accessories you can check out here.

I hate to send it back to the company. I may have to save my money and keep this one. I’d always considered building a DiY solar cooker. But I don’t think I could match the All American Sun Oven’s performance.

Keep doing the stuff,



If you’ve made an effective DiY solar cooker, please let us know how it worked. Maybe you could share it on a guest post here.


Categories: equipment, Preparedness, Resilience, Survival | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Are You a Desk Jockey? Stand and Deliver

My standing workstation in my classroom.

By Todd Walker

When I took a stand two years ago, I’ve never sat at my classroom desk again.

Research has shown prolonged sitting to be neither healthy or natural for us. I built my standing desk out of a throw away desk and some scrap plywood, added paint, and mounted it on top my sit down desk. Being on my feet all day wearing minimalist shoes while teaching, has helped my posture.

It’s rare that I’m behind my desk during class anyhow. However, when paperwork and bureaucratic pencil-pushing call, I stand and deliver – literally.

To refresh my mind and get my blood pumping, I knock out several sets of push ups behind my desk on my PVC DiY push up handles.

Easy and cheap PVC pushup bars

Easy and cheap PVC push up bars

Doing push ups outside in the sunshine is my favorite place. Time constraints and weather don’t always allow me to do so. These bars are sturdy and allow me to twist my wrists to a natural angle during exercises.

Oh, and here’s a closeup of the poster on my wall behind my standing workstation.

The Primal Blueprint Pyramid

The Primal Blueprint Pyramid

You’re turn to stand and deliver. Got any stuff you do to blend health and fitness into your daily work routine?




Categories: equipment, Frugal Preps, Survival Education | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

Confessions of a Flashaholic

“Hi, my name is Todd and I’m flashaholic.”

I’m addicted. Is there a recovery program called Flashlights Anonymous?


Two StreamLights: (L) Stinger LED; (R) Protac Tactical Flashlight 2L ~ my EDC torch

Dirt Road Girl stumbles upon my hidden stash, rolls eyes, and offers up a little prayer for intervention. She reaches for an ink pen only to find what she thought was a writing utensil is… you guessed it… a freaking flashlight!

Disclosure: I don’t advertise or make money from this blog. Any products or links mentioned are for educational purposes only. If I like a product, I’ll recommend it.

Just last week, a student asked me if that was a flashlight clipped into my front pocket. Even at school, I can’t seem to break the habit. Is it a disease? Maybe it’s the choices I’ve made. The company I keep. Maybe, as an infant, I was breast-fed too long or not enough.

Seriously, I’m drawn to lights like a moth to a flame. I see no way of breaking free. Nor do I intend to.

I own 3 or 4 pair of reading glasses with lights. These get the most use of any of my torches. During lessons in my classroom, I often turn the overhead lights off for easy viewing on the active board. To help a student at his/her desk in low light situations, I often illuminate their work with my LightSpecs. At first, kids made fun of my “glowing glasses”. Now, its old hat for Mr. Walker to light up their work space.

We recently lost power at school and the backup generator failed. My interior room with no windows was pitch dark. I simply reached up, hit the switches near my temples and then grabbed my EDC torch from my back pocket. The howling stopped.

Tacticool Flashlights

By far, my LightSpecs see the most use. They’re not a defensive tool per se.  Wearing them switched “on” would give an aiming point for a gun-wielding thug.

A “tactical” flashlight is needed for self-defense applications. I’m not a fan of tacticool stuff. I want my stuff to be functional and dependable. Depending on your budget and individual preference, there are many lights to choose from. Before buying, keep these tips in mind.

Size Matters

You want a torch that fits in the palm of your hand. Like a concealed carry gun, if it too large, you’re likely to leave it at home. It should easily fit in your pants pocket or attach to your belt or purse. A 3 D-cell Maglite makes a great blunt force object but not an everyday carry item.


Most experts recommend 100 + Lumens. I own a couple of Streamlight flashlights. I acquired my first while on the road, literally. The flashlight gods dropped it in the middle of the road last year on our way home from school. I yelled, “FLASHLIGHT!”, did an immediate U-Turn, and saved this torch from destruction. DRG shook her head in disbelief at my addiction and driving. The strobe feature is designed to disorient and confuse an attacker with 125 Lumens. The battery is rechargeable. No need to get all the bells and whistles. Press on, press off with enough Lumens to temporarily blind a threat is all that’s needed to give you time to fight or flee. Here’s the charging cradle I just received…with a spare battery always trickle charged.

Streamlight charging cradle for my found Stinger and spare battery

StreamLight Stinger LED in the charging cradle with a spare battery


If all you can afford is a plastic flashlight, buy it. True tactical lights are lightweight metal, waterproof, and durable. If employed in striking with the bezel end, it’s sure to leave a mark on the threat.

Sticker Shock

You don’t have to mortgage you home to buy a quality torch. I’ve got some disposable lights – the ones you buy that come three to a pack at the box stores for 10 bucks that would make great barter items. For a quality light, you’re going to have to spring for a little more. I just ordered a few more of the Streamlight 88031 Protac Tactical Flashlight 2L. A 180 Lumen light for $44.00. I use mine for EDC – Every Day Carry. It clips into my left front pocket. The other two will make great stocking stuffers. Correction. DRG has just added one to her purse.

  • For more research, check out CandlePowerForums, a site with more information than you can shake a flashlight at. That’s right. There are entire sites that feed my addiction.
A few "drugs" for fellow flashaholics

A few “drugs” for fellow flashaholics

Little Lights

Button Lights

DRG has a small button light on her key chain. You can find these at camping stores, online or brick and mortar outlets. They’re useful for finding stuff like keyholes or dropped items. I carry a button light designed to clip on web gear on my “Get Home Bag“. It emits a blue light powered by a small LED bulb. Clipped on my boonie hat, it offers just the right amount of non-white light when getting set up in my hunting stands.

Pak-lite LED Flashlight

I first heard of these on a review at SurvivalBlog. These little LEDs on a battery get rave reviews. EagerGridlessBeaver Blog has an extensive write-up on testing these simple lights. You’ll want one after reading it.

Pak-lite LED Flashlight, Basic Economy

Head Lamps

These offer hands-free illumination. I keep them in my kits, BOB, and toolbox. Remember to keep fresh batteries on hand.

The Light Emitting Diode is your friend. Don’t leave home without ’em.

Keep Doing the Stuff!


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Thanks for sharing the stuff!

Copyright Information: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

Categories: Camping, equipment, Gear, Preparedness, Self Defense | Tags: , , , , , | 12 Comments

Chainsaw Use and Maintenance for Beginners

It’s Sunday. No better day to catch up on your reading. Grab a hot cup of coffee, adult beverage, or both and crank up your chainsaw skills. Caffeine to keep you alert – alcohol to sanitize the chainsaw gash in your thigh. Joel also wrote a bit recently called What I believed when I was a little boy. Enjoy.

Chainsaw Use and Maintenance for Beginners

by Joel over at Joel’s Gulch

Here’s TUAK’s very first (and possibly last) how-to essay. If you already know how to use and maintain a chainsaw, or if you just don’t have one, proceed no further because this is rather long.

If you do own one and are feeling a bit uncertain on some related matters, click away.

BTW, if you do take the time to read this for information and find it inadequate, please leave a comment as to how it could have been improved. When writing a piece like this it’s very easy to make assumptions about what readers do and don’t already know. Y’know?

This is my Chainsaw. There are many like it, but this one is mine.

The thing to remember about a chainsaw, in terms of its maintenance, is that any time you’re using it you’re beating the hell out of it. A good saw will give you years of good, trouble-free service just like any tool. But that’s only if you treat it right. You just can’t ignore maintenance and expect it to keep running, because a little abuse and neglect goes a long way.

Consider the engine, for example.

That tiny little single-cylinder, two-stroke sucker can only do its thing under full-throttle, at which it’s cranking something like 13,000 RPM. The frictional loads it has to deal with are enormous (more on them later.) It has no liquid coolant, no bath of crankcase oil, and it will drag six feet of sharpened chain links through hard, seasoned wood all day long. Or not, depending on whether you do your part.

So let’s go through the parts of the chainsaw, and what care it needs to keep running right.

Read the rest here

Categories: equipment, Preparedness, Self-reliance | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

I’ll NEVER Running Naked Again!

I’m a minimalist kinda guy. Two years ago I took the cast shoes off and started running with naked feet. Even wearing minimalist shoes to my teaching job hurts my feet. The purpose of this article is not to convince you of the benefits of running barefoot.

The “running naked” I’m describing is unarmed running. Yesterday morning I walked out of my middle class home onto my ‘safe’ neighborhood street to do my weekly sprint workout. I jogged about a half mile to warm up and stopped on the flat stretch of road where I normally sprint.

It’s dark at 6 a.m. After one stretching squat the fun began. I saw out of the corner of my eye a large four-legged creature charging my way without barking. I’ve encounter dogs on runs many times. Usually their bark is more dangerous than their bite. I usually call their bluff and they back off.

This one was different.  There was enough light to see that this was huge beast, maybe 100 pounds or more. The only weapon I had on my person was my iPhone. Stupid right? I’ve yet to find an app to stop charging four-legged critters. I could have used it as a projectile I suppose. My options for self-defense were limited. There was no nearby trees to climb. The available trees are mostly old oak and hickory with high limbs out of jumping distance. White men can’t jump anyway.

Fortunately, these massive trees drop limbs and our good neighbors pile them on the curb for pickup. I grabbed the first rotting limb off the pile near me and threw it rabbit-stick style at my attacker. He stopped 5 yards away as the stick twirled inches over what appeared to be his washtub-sized head. I reloaded. Cujo’s owner materialized from the shadows of the garage. With a less rotten piece of oak in hand, I yelled at the owner to leash the beast. After several less than authoritative commands later, Cujo disappeared with his unapologetic owner to their fenced backyard.

Emotionally rattled, I proceeded with my sprints. I had an extra kick in my step with thoughts of Cujo on my heels.

I’ll continue to run naked

I’ll just never run unarmed again! The prepping tip for me, and hopefully for you, is to never be lulled into complacency by familiarity. I’ve run my neighborhood streets for years and know lots of neighbors and their pets. My familiarity bred contempt and could have turned into a morning mauling. This encounter prompted a new SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) for me and Dirt Road Girl: Carry pepper spray on all runs/workouts in the neighborhood. I always conceal carry on walks with DRG. Pepper spray will now accompany us for non-lethal encounters with four or two-legged vermin.

I’m searching for workout clothing for concealed carry. Also considering handheld tasers. I’d rather have a cattle prod to put a little distance between me and Cujo next time. Anyone got ideas or links? If so, I’d love to hear from you!

Categories: equipment, Preparedness, Self Defense, Self-reliance | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

5 Shiny Objects Every Prepper Should Buy

by Todd Walker

SOS – Shiny Object Survival lures preppers into a false sense of preparedness. You see it. You even lust for it. You gotta have it. You start imagining how cool it would look strapped on your back. You save up to buy that SHTF-proof bug out bag with a built-in Rambo Night Vision Navigational System. Congratulations! You’ve got your fist in the coconut.

I remember telling the story of hunters in Africa using shiny objects in a coconut to capture monkeys to Sunday School class years ago. The hunter would drill a hole in the anchored coconut large enough for the monkey to fit an open hand in and grab a shiny trinket. With the object clinched in his fist, he hears the hunter approaching, but is unwilling to escape to safety with an empty hand. His unwillingness to let go lands him on the dinner table.

I have no clue if they hunt monkeys this way. But it paints a parable of many modern preppers suffering from SOS.

Shiny objects use to reek havoc on my attention like a kid with ADHD in Ms. Higginbothom’s 45 minute lecture on the importance of participles. It is hard not to want the latest gadgets shimmering on your computer screen. In the midst of Great Depression II, I ask myself and the reader, does it make sense (cents) to buy shiny objects?

Five Shiny Objects Every Prepper Should Buy or Make

Here are five areas where buying shiny objects makes survival sense and cents. Dave Canterbury has a video on his 5C’s of Survivability here. His system is based on the ability to conserve hydration, core temperature, and calories.

1.) Cutting tool: In any survival situation, a cutting tool is on top of the list. It can be used to make the remaining four C’s listed below. When buying, find the best you can afford. The “best” doesn’t always mean the most expensive. I own several knives in a variety of price ranges. My go to blade while camping and hunting is my Mora neck knife. I paid under $15 for it a few years ago. You can spend more on a knife, but my Mora has held up to the dirt-time-test (actually doing the stuff).

Don’t mind the toes inserted. It’s how I roll.

Love this inexpensive knife!

2.) Combustion: You don’t have to be a pyromaniac to appreciate the importance of fire. Boiling water, cooking, controlling core temperature, and signaling rescue are just a few uses. Making fire for survival burns lots of calories without modern combustion devices. While you could go all hardcore pure-primitive and stick to only bow drills, I think you’d be making a big mistake to not buy fire starters.

I have the Sparkie Fire Starter Orange in a couple of my kits. I like this fire gadget because it allows me to start a fire with one hand if I had to. Pack several different fire starters for redundancy: strike-anywhere matches, butane lighter, fire steel, etc.


Don’t forget to pack quick starting tender. I’ve used cotton balls soaked in petroleum jelly, but prefer my DIY tender: jute twine saturated in melted wax or crayons. Fat wood (called fat lighter’d where I came from) is a great fire starter. It’s the resin rich heart in dead pine trees. The key is having something that lights YOUR fire with ease in crazy conditions.

Cordage: I can make my own cordage. But it makes sense (time, energy, and money) to stock up on commercial cordage for emergencies. So I keep copious amounts of paracord in all my kits (BOB – bug out bag, GHB – get home bag, hunting bag, car kits, and survival bracelets). The many uses of cordage include, but not limited to: traps, tarps, medical slings, water procurement, DIY hammocks, lashings, sutures, climbing, and for the fashion conscious – matching survival bracelets :). Buy it!

Covering: I’m a tarp man. You may be a tent woman. Whatever you choose, it must be something that offers weather protection. Controlling your core temperature is priority. “But I could build a debris hut,” you say. That’s a fine skill to have and practice. However, building shelter from scratch burns a great deal of calories that could be conserved if you packed a tarp in your kit. In hot, humid climates, dehydration is possible in your prized debris hut. Plus, they aren’t mobile. Buy covering!

Container: It’s just a cup! Taken for granted, the humble container is in Dave’s five C’s for good reason. His TV partner, Cody Lundin, notes that entire civilizations have been built around containers. Again, you could make a container for cooking in the bush after you finish your debris hut using natural cordage you cut with the flint-knapped knife you crafted, but only if you didn’t pack this essential shiny object.

It’s great to be able to make all of these items if you have the skill and time. If not, go buy these five essential shiny objects! You’ll be glad you did.

Doing the stuff,



Categories: Bushcraft, Camping, equipment, Preparedness, Self-reliance | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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