Survive and Thrive in the 21st Century

Opinions, Experiences, Gear and Inspirations to Make the Most of a Complex New World

Preppers are no crazier than “normal” people.

Some people have never heard of “preppers”, however among those who have, there is a percentage that believes we are fringe-dwellers, somewhere on the way to becoming hermit Una-bombers or social outcasts.

In most cases, nothing could be further from the truth.

First, let’s define what prepping actually is (keeping in mind that everything you read on this blog is simply my opinion).

So if you stock your fridge with enough food for a week, you keep a supply of toilet paper in the house, you have clean clothes available to wear, congratulations, you are actively engaging in a simple form of “prepping”. That is, you are looking forward and making sure you have supplies enough to last for a certain period of time, and to cover certain contingencies. In fact, humans have been prepping since we first learned to walk upright and store food to last beyond the meal we were currently eating.

So that covers the basics.

Where the waters start to get a little murkier is when we look at those of us who want to go beyond day-to-day situations, and who believe we should prepare for the unexpected.

Again, that doesn’t make us fringe-dwellers. If you drive a car, it has a spare tire; you are prepared in case of a flat. You keep a flashlight in the house? You are prepared in case the power goes out. Simple stuff.

But let’s take it a step further. I’m not going to get into nuclear holocausts or alien attacks. No serious discussion or exploration of prepping could prepare anyone for every contingency that could possibly occur. But let’s just look at actual history.

2003, power went out across the entire eastern seaboard. For days.

Who was ready for that? Cell phones were blacked out, gas station pumps couldn’t do their job, radio stations were down, until they could get emergency generators going. This wasn’t the result of some alien or foreign attack, this was just a day in the life.

Personally, we had enough camping gear in the basement that we were able to use to ensure an almost hassle free disruption. Of course the first thing was to collect as much water as we could in every available container, including the bath tub.

After that, it was a matter of firing up the Coleman stove for coffee and meals, getting the lanterns and candles going to get us through the dark hours, and ensuring the house was secured against unwelcome visitors.

Having a few camping basics saw us through what could have been a much harsher period.

Now that was a fairly extreme case, and we haven’t seen a repeat on that scale in more than a decade.

But what do you have with you on a normal day that can help you get through unexpected situations? I’m not going to get into get-home bags or bug-out bags in this post, because they each deserve to be examined in depth.

But what about EDC? Every Day Carry.

If you are a woman with a handbag you already have the advantage, and could probably survive if dropped into the middle of Antarctica. But I am amazed at how many people routinely leave the house with absolutely no tools to handle the unexpected.

So I’m going to quickly go over my personal EDC, those things I carry on my person, not packed in a bag somewhere.

In no particular order:


Contains driver’s licence, insurance, health card, debit and credit cards.


I need to know what time it is.

Para-cord bracelet:

I always have 10 feet of cordage with me, which can be stripped down to individual strands for clothing repairs, suturing wounds, fishing line, and a hundred other uses.


I carry a SOG Aegis clipped on the inside of my right hip pocket. Lightweight, easy to deploy one-handed, and an invaluable tool in many situations.


Many different brands, but again I favour SOG just because. Decent pliers, file, knife, scissors, screwdrivers and a ton of other stuff.


Fenix PD35-TAC. Small, tough, bright, and doesn’t take up much room on my belt.


Apart from house and car keys, also keep an old style English boy scout signal whistle and Nite Eyes Do-hicky.


Sure we live in a cash-free society…until the power goes out. And it drives me nuts when I am at work and someone is selling cookies for their kid’s fundraiser, and I have to listen to a co-worker explain they don’t even have five bucks in their pocket because they only use plastic, or worse, Apple Pay.

Cigarette lighter:

Either my indestructible Zippo, or at least a couple of Bic disposables.

Tactical pen:

I always carry my CRKT Tao tactical pen, because you never know when you might want to write tactical stuff. Seriously, I travel a lot and obviously the knife doesn’t go well through airport security, but a good tactical pen is TSA-friendly, and is, well, just a pen. Until you need it to be more than that.

Leather belt:

Because you never know when 3 feet of indestructible strapping will come in handy.


Because you will never find my in sneakers or flip-flops.

And that’s it. Not a lot of stuff, but a lot of function to handle most situations with a minimum of inconvenience.

Hope you enjoyed this, and it gives you some food for thought.


The Art of Getting Home Safe

I travel a fair bit for work, sometimes flying, but more often driving long distances into Michigan or Ohio. One way trips can be anywhere from four to six hours, and my preference is to get in, do the job, and get back, which can result in up to twelve hours on the road in a single day.

My preferred route is to take the 401 to Windsor and cross into Michigan from there, but sometimes it makes more sense to take the 402 and cross at Sarnia. For anyone who knows the 402, you know both east and westbound it’s about a hundred kilometres of two-lane highway with nothing but scrub, bush and some farmland to either side. It’s the place where, a few winters ago a snowstorm trapped three-hundred some drivers for several hours. When the rescue teams arrived many of the drivers couldn’t be extracted because they weren’t dressed for the weather, so could not be driven out on the back of the rescuers’ snow mobiles.

So last week, that was my trip. The weather going in was pretty good, dry and warmer than average for the first day of March. But coming back, late evening, after the sun went down, was a different story. After crossing the border at Port Huron and getting on the 402, the next seventy kilometres became a challenging drive complete with an unlighted highway, ice pellets, wet snow and high winds. Miles ahead I could see red taillights, and miles behind the headlights of another traveller, but around me, not a living soul.

As a “prepper” I had set out equipped with my get-home bag, my everyday carry I guess you could call it. Apart from my laptop, charging cables and mobile office the bag also contains my version of the SAS survival kit: compass, mylar blanket, water container, portable stove with fuel, signalling devices, water purifier tablets, and fire-making supplies, plus emergency food, instant coffee and hot chocolate. In deference to cross-border travelling I had left my SOG Aegis clip knife at home, but my bag did contain my SOG multitool.

Sounds pretty good, right? In the event of an emergency I could stay warm, stay sheltered (in the car), stay fed, and signal for help.

Except I made several big mistakes:

  1. As the day had started out warm, I had on only my tweed sports coat, and had brought no winter coat. By evening the temperature was approaching zero, with a high wind chill factor.
  2. I hadn’t brought any water. Instant coffee and hot chocolate aren’t much use without water.
  3. My gear was stowed in the trunk of the rental car. Not much use if I had slid off the road or became trapped in the car and couldn’t reach it.
  4. When I drive alone I habitually leave my cell phone on the passenger seat beside me. In the event of a roll-over or collision my most valuable communication tool would have likely been thrown out of reach and quite possibly damaged beyond use.

So for all my eagerness to prepare, in the event of a real emergency I could probably have been as stranded and helpless as any other driver who never gives their security a second thought.

Preparedness is more than having the right equipment at hand; it also requires the right mindset to envision what could happen, and be ready to react. You have to keep asking yourself “what if?” until you can cover as many possible scenarios as you can reasonably imagine, and then you will stand a good chance of coming out of any negative situation relatively whole.

What do you carry?

It’s no accident that the motto of one of the most influential youth development organizations of the last century-plus, The World Organization of the Scout Movement,  consists of two simple words that say so much: Be Prepared.

What does that mean to most people? What does one prepare for?

It’s not always about a zombie apocalypse or devastating plague. In its simplest form, preparedness is about being aware of what could go wrong and having the means to deal with it. You could go to the extreme end of the spectrum and start talking about off-grid living, sustainable farming, alternative power sources and on and on and on. But for most people these scenarios have a doomsday connotation that bear no link to daily reality.

So how do you prepare for glitches in a normal day?

No one can foresee every possible event, but there are basic tools that can be used to deal with multiple situations, and these are things you should keep with you all the time. This is what we call Every Day Carry, or EDC.

My basic EDC is simple:

My Watch: A Rolex Oyster Perpetual Submariner. I can’t figure out people who don’t wear a watch, even with the advent of cell phones that have become more than our constant companions, rather electronic extensions of our brains. Also it never needs winding, and if I end up 1000 feet under water at least the watch will survive.

My Pen: It’s a CRKT Tao Tactical Pen which writes beautifully and since it’s made of 6061 aluminum, will pretty much last forever. It’s also nice to have when navigating dark parking lots late at night.

My Lighter: A Zippo silver body with snake-skin inlay, given to me for my birthday years ago, because being able to make fire is always a handy thing.

My Flashlight: This was another gift, the Fenix PD35 Tactical Edition, 1000 lumens of brilliance in a pocket-sized package. What will you have when the lights go out? (Also note: if something is described as “tactical” it’s probably a good gift for me, if anyone is wondering.)

My Knife: This is a simple SOG Aegis with assisted opening technology, which means it can be opened one handed faster than it takes to think about it. It’s a low profile carry that clips to my right hip pocket and never gets in the way.

My Multi Tool: Again from SOG, the Powerlock has 19 tools built in and contains a solution for almost any situation.

And that’s pretty much it. Of course, as a photographer I have extensive kits of equipment that I carry on a selective basis, but for day-to-day use, these six items go with me everywhere, and cover pretty much any eventuality.

Although I was never in the Scouts, it’s safe to say I am prepared.


Preparing For, and Surviving Everything

american_alligatorThese days you can find an immense amount of information about every aspect of this subject: Urban Survival, Backwoods Survival, Surviving Natural and Man-Made Disasters, Surviving Terrorist Attacks, Surviving Off-Grid, Surviving On-Grid but Under the Radar and on and on and on!

I will probably wander around among all these genres, and then some, as I am as interested in skinning squirrels as I am in surviving a terrorist attack.

There has always been something in me that wants to be outside, under the trees, exploring, being self-sufficient. Maybe it started when I was a kid, heavily influenced by classic stories of Robin Hood, or immersed in a huge leather-bound book of Norse myths borrowed from a neighbour.

There just seemed something right about at least knowing how to live like they did, even though I actually inhabit a world where food comes from a store and shelter is a brick house made by someone else, and security comes in the form of a uniformed police officer.

Life wasn’t always like that, and it may not be like that again, some time in the future.

So for anyone interested, that is what I will be concentrating on in future posts.

For the uninitiated, my first introduction to the survival way of thinking came when I picked up a copy of the SAS Survival Guide by John “Lofty” Wiseman. The link will take you to their website, but I found this illuminating tome long before the internet was public knowledge.

So anyway, stay tuned for more, if you are interested, or dismiss me as a loon and move on, if you are not.

Until next time, stay safe and be prepared.

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