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Basic Survival Kit to Bring When Camping – What to Pack

The purpose of a survival kit in this kind of situation is to keep you alive and to help you attract attention of rescuers.

With these aims in mind the kit suggested has options for spending money on proprietary equipment and options for home-made equipment that is just as effective but, in these credit crunch days, cheaper or free. I’m going to describe a generic all-weather survival kit for camp; obviously use your own common sense if you are planning on going somewhere ‘extreme’; the Sahara and the Arctic will require different approaches to a North American wilderness camping trip or a charity trek along the ‘Freedom Trail’ across the Pyrenees

Firstly let’s look at kit for attracting attention.

1. It is worth considering an emergency battery/charger for your mobile phone. Remember if you do pack one to update it each time you upgrade your mobile. You can’t make these yourself (unless you are an electronic engineer) but there are plenty of inexpensive generic models even before the standardization of charger plug sockets which is due in 2011.

2. A signalling mirror is always worth having, it will ‘carry’ across several miles, even in low light conditions. DON’T get a glass mirror, they break too easily. Get a steel one, if you want to go for the home-made option you can use a sheet of metal (or the inside of the lid of your survival kit if you are using a tin). Rub it with valve grinding compound or auto colour restorer to achieve a mirror polish.

3. Hi-viz tape is very good for creating words (HELP or SOS) or for making direction markers. It is available from hardware stores and builders merchants.

4. Bizarre though it may sound a brightly coloured kite, one shaped like a modern parachute, is also a good way to attract attention in rural areas. Most toy shops and gadget shops sell ‘pocket’ kites for a few dollars that squish up really small and are therefore perfect for a survival kit.

5. Smoke is also a good attractor of attention so you need to both have fire making equipment AND a knowledge of what fuels make good smoke; damp straw and damp leaves make good smoke, as do many plastics. It doesn’t matter if the smoke is black or white, just so long as it is thick enough to be seen.

OK, now let’s look at the things that are worth taking to keep you alive; you need heat, water and first aid

6. Fire will help you to stay warm at camping site as well as perhaps helping you to eat, purify water and attract attention. You need to have something to start a fire and the simplest option is to pack a disposable lighter! Yes, it is a bit non-purist but when you are trying to survive you can drop your principles. If you want to be more ‘authentic’ then you can go for weatherproof matches; make your own by using non-safety matches and dipping the head and top quarter inch in melted candle wax. You can also get a ‘flint and steel’ from pretty much all camping shops if you really want to go for the cave man survivalist approach. One of these will outlast a disposable gas lighter by several years so if you are going to end up stuck on a desert island it is a good bet! Getting a spark is only half the battle, you need something that is going to start to burn quickly and hot, short of learning all about shaved birch bark and may dust the simplest and best thing is lighter fluid. You can sometimes buy little rubbery pods of lighter fluid which you can squirt onto your main fuel for a fast start fire, failing that pack a small atomizer of lighter fluid. A tampon is highly compresses cotton wool, which, when teased out can also be used as tinder.

7. You need to be able to collect and carry water, and you need to be able to purify it to drink. A couple of standard party balloons are excellent water carriers, especially if you also pack a couple of those clips that you use on freezer bags to seal them with (tying a knot in the top of a balloon is OK but knots in balloon rubber are almost impossible to untie!) Some people reckon condoms are better but they have two distinct disadvantages; firstly they are more expensive and secondly, they tend to come with spermicide or lubricant which rather mars the flavour of the drinking water. Purification tablets can be bought from most camping shops or even a purification straw though they are still quite expensive. You can also boil water in the tin of your survival kit to sterilise it. A sheet of thin polythene about two feet square will allow you to either collect rainwater or make a ‘survival still’; an emergency rain cover of the type you often get in hotel guest packs is just the thing.

8. In terms of first aid I’d recommend taking a short course NOW, even if you just buy a DVD for a couple of dollars and take an hour to watch it; you never know when you will want to save the life of your spouse, partner or offspring at home, never mind out in the boonies! Into your survival kit pack needles and thread (this is a first aid essential as well as a repair essential for clothes), add a small collection of sticking plasters and a small vail of disinfectant, let’s face it, it might help if someone hears you scream as you dab it on to your blisters cuts or grazes. A small pair of tweezers for removing stings or debris in wounds is also worth adding. The tampon mentioned above in point 6 can also be used as cotton wool on small injuries or, in the case of a puncture wound, can be inserted whole to staunch blood loss. Some sugar lumps or sachets and salt sachets from any take-out food store are vital to replace your body’s losses if you get diarrhea.

9. There are some miscellaneous things that may be worth having as well.

a) a reduced size guide to useful things such as morse code, first aid, building a survival still, building a shelter. Make one up, reduce it to the smallest type you can and print it on the thinnest paper.

b) a magnifying glass. This can be one of those flat, credit card style plastic ones; they are small and light, you can use it for reading the guide in a) above, for focussing the sun’s rays to start a fire or for spotting stings, barbs and grave in wounds. These one are often available as free gifts at opticians and bookstores, alternatively a small glass one from a toyshop will be fine.

c) a knife; I’m not talking about a World War III Rambo/Crocodile Dundee type knife, but something sharp that will fit into the kit. You want the sort of thing you can cut string with or shave bark for kindling rather than something to chop down a tree. A single edge razor blade or a short vegetable knife with the handle cut down is perfect.

d) a wire saw for cutting firewood and shelter supports, splints and stretcher bars.

e) about 20 feet of very thin nylon string. You aren’t going to shin down cliffs with it, you want it to make a shelter, a splint, a snare or to replace boot laces.

f) one of those tiny key ring torches about the size of a coin, especially one with a red LED, you can usually get them at gas stations for a couple of dollars

You’ll notice that there isn’t a compass….the best thing to do in a survival situation like this is to stay where you are and draw attention to yourself. A compass is worth little if you have no map or don’t know where you are on the map. If you remember to look at the map before you set off and you know, for example, that wherever you are you can head south and reach a main road then a compass is of use.

Finally…don’t pack this in your rucksack, bike pannier or canoe stow bay…put it in your pocket, preferably a pants pocket; that way if you lose everything else you still have your survival kit, and let’s face it, it is when you’ve lost everything else that you really need it.

What is Army Basic Training Really Like?

Army Basic Training is different for everyone. There are no two people who experience it in the same way. Ever. That being said, trainee attitude and perceptions and preparations can make a huge difference in what can only be described as a physically demanding, mentally challenging, life changing experience. You will discover abilities you never knew you possessed. You will learn how to lead your peers and how to work as a close-knit team. And you will be tired.

You Will Be Very Tired

You will be more tired than you have ever been. You will run, jog hike, swim, climb and every other possible form of fitness activity to get your body in its best shape ever. Sleep when you can and start getting into shape now. Don’t put it off. Start sleeping on the schedule, and in the time zone, wherever you will receive Army Basic Training.

Go to bed at 9:00 p.m. and get up at 3:00 a.m. and start working out. You will need strength and cardiovascular trainings. Army Basic Training means plenty of push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups and lots and lots of running. You will be running long and hard, so start getting used to it. Just don’t hurt yourself. Be sure to stretch, warm up and cool down with each workout. Lift some weights every other day. Building your muscles and your stamina will have a major impact on your Army Basic Training experience.

Start carrying water around with you and drink it. Start eating a healthy diet that focuses on whole grains, fruits and vegetables and healthy oils, such as canola oil or olive oil. Quit smoking. Do whatever it is that you need to, to be better prepared for the physical demands of Army Boot Camp. You can gasp, wheeze and ache your way through Army Basic Training or you can rise to the challenge of this rigorous and exciting experience.

Yes, You Will Get Yelled At

Everyone gets yelled at, so don’t take it personally. Learn from it. The Drill Instructors know what they are doing. Drill Instructors are skilled professionals, helping you to do your best. You will be pushed to your self-imposed limits and beyond. Later, you’ll be glad the Drill Instructors yelled. For now, just watch the recruit that can’t seem to figure it out. They always end up doing many, many push-ups…

It’ll Be Worth It

You will be sleep deprived, muddy, gassed, injected, and given impossible-to-solve tasks, all to hone you into a precise, articulate, modern day warrior. You will have the latest skills with the most cutting edge technologies. You will be able to lead and follow effectively. You will be proud of who you are and what you can do. You will graduate from Army Basic Training standing taller, knowing that you are now the member of an elite fraternity of men and women whose teamwork, fitness and precision protect liberty around the world.

What Should I Pack For My Ski Vacation?

To know what to pack involves knowing where you are going and how many days will be involved. Going on a fun vacation means taking a decent variety of clothing along. But when a person goes on a ski vacation, it involves more as we have to not only pack for skiing, but for the trip to and from the resort, dining out, and evening wear – all of this needs to be known in advance before pulling out the suitcase. The important thing to know is, when packing for skiing, more is better than not enough.

The first outfit to pack is the ski “stuff” if you have them – boots, skis, and poles – and if not, the resorts rent them. Clothing involves several layers of clothing to stay warm on the slopes, and to remove when you begin to warm up. Thermal underwear, long-sleeved shirts or turtle-neck shirts, thin socks that are moisture-wicking will be the first layer closest to the skin.

The heavier layer involves sweaters, sweatshirts, water-repellant pants, thicker socks such as “smart wool” that are moisture wicking. The outer-essentials for first removal when heating up will be a ski parka, hat, gloves, muffler or neck warmer as the day goes on. Also important will be sunglasses or goggles for sun and snow glare. On ski resorts, temperatures will change a lot during the day, so even sunscreen will be important for the glare from the sun and snow also.

If you plan on going sight-seeing or go shopping, simply changing into clean dry pants and comfortable boots will be enough, or just going to the lodge for something to drink after coming off the slopes will find this clothing acceptable. The only time you will need to worry for something fancier is during the evening hours. If the town is small and quiet, the pants and shirt will be enough for the evening. BUT, if your choice of ski town is more formal, with fancier pubs and bars, then fancier evening clothing will be needed. By formal, khakis or a nice pair of pants or jeans, attractive shirts or sweaters, and a coat.

If you plan on booking a week or more, pack your clothing and personal items, then call the ski resort and tell them you are shipping your stuff to them, and have it held at the desk. If you are flying or have a small vehicle with little room – especially if several people are traveling together, this is an option for you. Shipping can be overnight, two day, or three day depending on how far it must travel. Depending on how much the box weighs, you will usually pay less than fifty dollars to ship a package in the continental United States….which is a lot less than you would pay an airline for extra baggage!

What to Take to the Beach

Yes, summer is on its way, and if you are going to the beach you will need to take a number of important items. The following is a list of all the critical things you need to have at the ready to make the most of your day on the coast.

Everybody needs sunscreen these days, whether you’re young or old, fair or dark. The thing you need to look out for with sunscreen is the SPF rating, this is important. In particular, you should make sure that it has a high SPF rating, because this provides more protection.

Sunglasses are another vital item, particularly if you plan on bathing in the sun all day. Any quality pair of sunglasses will provide you with UV protection, this is essential to protect your eyes.

No matter what pair you end up getting, you should have them on the whole time you are exposed to the sun to ensure eye protection. The last thing you want is to do some long term injury to your eyes because you forgot to wear them.

Another thing you will need is some kind of sunburn ointment whenever you are at the beach. You never know, even though you are protect, you could still get burnt.

The thing is, the quicker you apply these sunburn ointments, the better they can work. Even if you don’t have one, you can apply many other home-based remedies like aloe vera.

Another thing to watch out for is making sure you have enough water. Sunshine causes perspiration and a day at the beaches will draw a lot of fluid out of your body. Let’s face it, you don’t want to get sun stroke just because you did not drink enough water.

Lastly, you need to bring enough towels, not just for after swimming but to shade yourself too. They can be a real life saver if you don’t have any other cover and the sun is too hot, they can be turned into a temporary shade really easily.

Hiking Safety Tips

Hiking is fun and good exercise. You get to leave the stresses of city life and rejuvenate your spirit in nature. However, there are potential hazards on the trail and the unexpected can happen.

Here a few commonsense tips to help you prepare for any incident and make your hiking experience more enjoyable.

First Aid Kit

For non-critical emergencies while you are outdoors, carry a first aid kit that includes medicines or supplies for such things as bee stings, poison ivy, scratches, scrapes or even headaches. If you have medications for a medical condition, be sure to bring those along with your backpacks.

Food & Drink

When you are out on the hiking trail, there may not be a place to purchase food or water for miles. Consider packing a small meal or snack to take along. Energy bars can help you sustain your fuel needs without feeling full. Take along enough bottled water to prevent dehydration.

Map & Compass

A map and a compass are essential while you are on your hike to ensure you know where you are going and don’t get lost. Study the map before you make your journey. Find the answers to any questions you might have about where you are going. Know where the rest stops or restrooms are, locations for food and water, and emergency or medical help.

Flashlight, Pepper Spray, Cellular Phone & Radio

You might need a flashlight if it gets dark where you are hiking. A cellular phone is crucial if you are in the middle of nowhere and you have an emergency. Make sure it’s fully charged, and if possible, have back up batteries. A radio will keep you informed of weather condition or the news. Some national parks have emergency radio stations you can tune into for critical park information. Carry pepper spray in case you need to use it in a self-defense situation. A Swiss Army knife is a practical tool you might find useful. Don’t forget to bring your watch so you’ll know what time it is.

Clothing & Shoes

Wear what is appropriate for the weather. It’s good to wear clothing in layers. When it gets too warm, you can take off a layer until you feel comfortable. Wear good hiking boots to keep your feet protected and to be able to walk uneven terrain. The socks you wear should be cushiony enough to prevent blisters. Extra pairs of sock are a good idea.

Tell Family & Friends about Your Trip

Make sure a responsible family member or friend knows the details about your hiking trip. Tell them where you are going and when you should be back. Give them the number for the cellular phone you will bring with you on your hike. Work out a plan with them in case the unthinkable happens.

Pace Yourself

Easy does it. Try to enjoy the scenery. Conserve your energy so you will make it to your destination without burning out.

Although these tips may appear to be commonsense, following them and any other safe practices you can think of may help you avoid some tragic situations some people have gotten into on hikes.

5 Ways to Host a Backyard barbecue on a Budget

Want to throw a summertime party, but you’re pinching pennies? Invite a few friends over for a backyard barbecues, take advantage of simple summer fun, let mother nature do the decorating and enjoy! A backyard barbeque is both simple and budget friendly if you follow these 5 money saving tips:

  1. Menu – Always check the grocery ads before planning your menu! Grocery ads come out each Wednesday in your newspaper and online, and prices are good through Tuesday. If ground beef is not on sale, but chicken thighs are…guess what you should be serving!
  2. No sales, no worries – the all American hot dog can be the star if you dress them up with a fixins’ bar: cheese, onions, chili, relish, slaw, ketchup and mustard.
  3. Don’t shy away from store brand condiments and chips because they’re easily disguised in serving bowls, and they’ll save you an average of 25%!
  4. Grocery ads will also help you choose the best bargains for soft drinks, beer, chips and side dishes. Be nostalgic and serve a variety of ice cream bars for dessert!
  5. Guests – Let your guests know that you’re providing the meat and beverages, and you’d like them to bring a side dish or dessert. When they r.s.v.p., ask what they’ll be bringing to avoid having a party with all desserts and no side dishes! Actually, if you have all desserts, invite me!
  6. Utensils and Paper Products – The Budget Diet was recently featured in the June 27th issue of First for Women touting the dollar store as the go-to place for bargain utensils and paper products. A bag of 48 forks, spoons or knives is just $1 compared with the $8 box of 150 pieces (50 of each utensil) at superstores. You’ll find similar savings on paper products.
  7. Activities – Take advantage of simple summer fun like a water balloon toss, watermelon eating contest, horseshoes, croquet or whatever yard games you may have. How about coming up with some Minute to Win It challenges – it’s budget friendly fun and entertainment!
  8. Decorations – One of my favorite budget friendly table decorations is a simple glass bottle or glass soda bottle with a flower from your garden. Cost: $0. If you entertain outdoors frequently, it would be worthwhile to invest in oilcloth for table covers. You can cut it to fit, no hemming is required and it’s easy to wipe clean and reuse. A simple red and white check oilcloth which would come in handy for BBQ’s, picnics or Italian dinners. Oilcloth is sold at fabric stores for about $5 a yard, but be on the lookout for coupons or sales.

7 Great Gifts for New Mommies

Being a new mommy can be overwhelming. Taking care of a newborn is not only exhausting, but can be stressful to a first time mom. She is so unsure of what to do with that tiny bundle that has been entrusted to her and afraid of making mistakes.

Give the new mommy some much need peace of mind with a thoughtful and practical gift just for her. A little bit of pampering with a bit of rest and relaxation is the perfect prescription!

Here are a few gift ideas that are sure to thrill her:

    1. Spa Day – A gift certificate for a day of pampering will make her feel brand new. It can be as simple as a manicure and pedicure or a full day of pampering. It’s amazing how a little bit of special treatment can make you feel like a million dollars.
    2. Prepared Meals – Put together a few meals that can be frozen and thawed as needed. This little gesture makes a huge difference. Putting together a nutritious meal when you have a new baby can be tough.
    3. Cleaning Service – This is a fantastic gift for new mom. Keeping up with the laundry alone is difficult with a newborn. For someone so small they can make quite a mess. Pay for a cleaning service to come in once or twice in the first month after the baby is born. Or offer your own services to help out doing the laundry, dishes, and general cleaning around the house.
    4. Babysitting – Offer to baby sit a couple of times during the day or weekend. It’s healthy for mommy to get a break from baby. This gives her the opportunity to recharge and feel refreshed.
    5. Run Errands – Offer to grocery shop, walk the dog, go to the dry cleaners, etc. Every little bit of assistance is helpful.
    6. Shopping Spree – Give her a gift certificate to her favorite store so she can buy something especially for herself. There’s nothing like a little bit of shopping to relieve some stress!
    7. Girlfriend Get-Together – Plan a fun-filled day or night with a few close friends. Take the new mom to lunch or dinner and a movie while dad baby sits.

The new mom will really appreciate your thoughtfulness when she receives one of this great gifts for mothers. Giving her the opportunity to relax and pamper herself will give her a much needed break from being a new moms.