Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Online resources for preparedness

Any given day will find me looking at least once or twice online at some survival topic or another. Various blogs, podcasts, YouTube channels, and the like are in my regular rotation, with more being added all the time. My Amazon wishlist is constantly growing as I add new items or reading material to it. And then there are just conversations with friends by email, Facebook, or here. I figured it was high time to mention a few of those I use regularly. I'll be adding to this on as time goes on, so check back once in a while. And please share yours in the comments below.

When on the road, whether in a car or plane, I like listening to podcasts about as often as I do music or NPR. They're a great way to soak in information while I'm otherwise occupied.

The Survival Podcast - When this podcast began 4 or so years ago, there wasn't much out there, and what was out there was sporadic. Since that time, Jack Spirko has inspired others and actually makes his living now off this (mostly) daily show. The motto of the show, "Helping you live a better life if times get tough, or even if they don't" sums it up nicely, and fits my personal thoughts on the matter of preparedness. Episodes cover everything from gardening, solar power, financial lessons, firearms, buying property, and a mind boggling number of other topics. Some cherry picking is good here, and while some of the early episodes have poor audio quality, they have good info. You can search for topics of interest, but you'll likely find his easy, no-nonsense style of broadcasting pulling you in more and more. Highly recommended

The Preparedness Podcast - I have less time than I once did to listen to podcasts while commuting, as I now mostly work from home. While I was, I would occasionally listen to this podcast to supplement the one above. Another point of view, not too far off from Jack's, but they do sometimes disagree. I find this one has less rants and stays on topic more, but can pound a topic too hard. I like it, but only tune in once in a while now. Worth Checking Out

There are a lot of these, and they vary in approach and point of view. Some of them are far to one fringe or another, honestly. I use forums largely as place to get a number of options all at once. I've tried to be more active in some of these in the past, but I honestly find I don't have the time to keep up.

TSP Forum - This is the forum of the above mentioned Survival Podcast. The community Jack has built is fabulous, and the moderators keep flaming and trolls to a minimum. There is a TON of information here, with real world successes and failures to draw on. Honestly, this is now the only one I check in on, I haven't found a need to venture to others. Highly Recommended

Survivalist Boards - This board has been around a long time and has quite the following. It's pretty decent, though some topics get derailed and there are the "grizzled veterans" that way in on everything. It's still a nice place to go in and poke around, especially if you have a specific topic in mind. Worth Checking Out

I've been spending more and more time on YouTube and, no surprise, there are a lot of channels out there dedicated to preparedness and survival. Here's a few to which I subscribe

Analytical Survival - I added this one a while ago but only recently realized how cool it really is. Each episode is essentially a PowerPoint presentation on a specific topic. Topics vary. A recent favorite of mine was on creating Emergency response Protocols for the house, along with a link to what the host created. Highly Recommended

- This is not really a survival channel, but instead deals with alternate energy and DIY projects. I personally tie those 2 together, but some don't. I enjoy the straight forward approach and the fact that the host shows every step along the way. Highly Recommend The Nutnfancy Project - You may have noticed that I like gear. I also like getting reviews about it before I buy. That's how I found Nutnfancy. It really is mostly reviews, with occasional other topics. The items are gear, knives, and guns, with a strong pro-2A bias, so it may not be for everybody. Worth Checking Out

Bug Out Vehicles - I originally added this as his early posts were around getting out in a SHTF scenario. He's since gone towards an odd mix of useful info and...Armageddon fan-fic? I still tune in sometimes to see what he's got going on, but earlier videos are better. Maybe Stop By

The Survival Bookshelf - Analytical Survival turned me on to this channel and I love it! The host has a good way of breaking down the books he reviews, gives you a chance to peak at what is inside, and then lays out whether you should get it. He also recommends other books that might supplement or compliment the book. Finding this has inflated my Amazon Wishlist dramatically! Highly Recommend

I actually don't follow a lot of survival blogs, but that's something I plan to fix. You can look to the right here => to see a few I recommend. I'll be adding to this list moving forward.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Cargo and tactical pants, the everywhere EDC

Those who know me know I love being able to carry things with me. It is a serious consideration when getting a new clothing, packs, and the like - how much can I carry with this? This led to my discovery and love of Utilikilts, something I wear quite often. But when I'm on a motorcycle or dealing with work, I find pants preferable for a few reasons. Since my work often includes the use of tools or air travel, I've gravitated towards cargo pants.

As a child of the 80s, I know too much about cargo pants. They were all the rage for years. In Scouts, our uniform pants were based loosely off the military BDU. In fact, surplus BDUs became for many of us the unofficial pants when we didn't have to be in uniform. Camo pants also came into fashion, many of them with multiple pockets. Still, these styles didn't always fly in the work world and stuck out in everyday life. Eventually, jeans became acceptable in more and more places and Carpenter's jeans became popular. Just enough room to tuck a cell phone, but few of us ever needed that hammer loop.

Move forward to today and you can see that cargo pants are still popular, but have moved into more mainstream styles. Very often in solid colors, it is not uncommon to see them in the work place. Additionally, many companies have begun catering to the "tactical" lifestyle stemming from private contractors utilized in the most recent US wars. These individuals desired pants similar in function to military versions, but appearing more relaxed and mainstream. The popularity of them has spread to the common populace once more. I own way more cargo pants (really tactical pants) than I should probably admit. A few of them are in camouflage patterns for playing airsoft, but most of them I use for everyday work attire. Let me lay out how I use them, some pros and cons, and which ones I favor.

I carry a cell phone everywhere, as most of us do. Actually, I sometimes carry 2. I've tried the belt carry option before, but the it gets stuff on my seat belt or makes me too wide for comfort in a plane exit row. It now goes into a pocket. But I hate things that are to thick in my front pockets as it will dig into my thighs when I sit. Putting that phone in a side pocket works out very well for me, especially with the thicker cases on iPhones. Additionally, I carry a wallet (now part of my phone case), keys, multi-tool, cash, and often a flashlight. When I travel I have these items with me, as well as earbuds, gum, my boarding pass, tissues, and sometimes snacks. That's a lot for limited real estate in dress slacks or jeans. I also don't like back pockets if I'm going to sit for too long, so moving thins further down the leg makes good sense.

Cargo vs. Tactical
The recent slew of tactical pants appear, in many ways, like cargo pants but have a few improvements. The large side pockets often have internal pockets designed to hold a gun magazine, but conveniently sized for a smartphone! They can be great for keeping items closer to the leg without bouncing around, and I will often slip pliers and other tools into them. Many also have more pockets and/or pockets designed for easier access. These pockets are sometimes less obvious, having zippers and being placed along seams. While put in place for carrying a small concealed weapon, I find them perfect for cash or other items I want to keep closer to me, especially in areas where I fear pickpockets. In fact, the pair I am wearing right now has such pockets where my hotel key and cash are safely out of sight. This morning when hit up for help by a stranded couple looking to get gas, I was able to pull out some change without tipping them as to my current cash level.

Let's break down pros and cons. On the plus side, you get a lot more room to carry things. That's the biggest one right there. I've also found that the big name tactical pants are better constructed and reinforced in stress areas, a definite plus. They are also more readily available in odd sizes than most pants, since many are made by military contractors who have to serve a broad range of body types, so my 36" inseam doesn't keep me from pants that fit (a major reason I like kilts!)

On the other hand, let's face it, cargo pants look like...well, cargo pants! You certainly wouldn't wear them to an interview, though there are a few that look more like regular work slacks. You're also likely to get a pat down at the airport with the back scatter machine as the extra fabric will show as an anomaly. Plus, more pockets can mean not knowing where everything is. I'll sometimes have to go through each one to find my car keys. I'm working to combat this by placing things consistently in the same place, but it still happens.

Which pants I like
I do like most of the cargo and tactical pants I've worn, but a few are my favorites. While I own a pair of the "Covert Khakis" I linked to above, I don't like the material. As most of the time I'm wearing these pants in an office or airplane environment, I'm most comfy in cotton. If I'm going to be outdoors a lot I'll opt for a poly-blend to shed water. The Coverts are, however, static builders of a level I don't find enjoyable, so they only come out when I need to look more professional but still need to carry tools, like at a trade show.

The style I have the most of are the fairly standard cargo look. Pants such this pair from 5.11 have a specific cellphone pocket large enough to handle smartphones. The fit is nice and comfortable. I've recently picked up a pair of Vertx pants based on the recommendation of a friend. Though I think these are more comfortable and the pockets more subdued, the improved flexibility in the knee is fairly blatant. This undermines subdued nature of the pockets. They do include one of the zippered right front pockets, and I like the flaps in the back pockets to keep your wallet in. You know, if I kept my wallet back there.

My current favorites are also made by 5.11, their Covert Cargo Pants. Having a side zipper pocket on both sides and zipped cargo pockets, they stick out a little less in a work environment. They're also cotton which is comfy for regular day wear. both pockets also have a reinforced area for those of us who carry pocket knives. The side zip pockets have divisions in them for pistol magazines that fit a money clip or hotel key very well. They also come in a nice variety of work friendly colors.

There's certainly nothing that says you need to wear lots of pockets when you're into preparedness, but it does expand your options for what you carry. When I don't (or can't) have my EDC bag with me everywhere, I take comfort in knowing that I have the room to take what I need with me. This is especially true on a plane where I may want everything to keep me comfy during a flight within easy reach. How about you?