SHTF Equipment Review

So the storm is raging, it’s dark outside and inside, and you think you’ve got your SHTF gear ready.

Ha, now that’s funny! Because you probably don’t. Even good ol’ Rivrdog didn’t remember to stage his stuff where he needed it and had to drag it in, by himself, during the storm.

My stuff was in the garage. However, I had recently been going through and packing my tools for winter storage and had a dozen or so boxes stacked on top of what I needed to get. Must remember for the future, SHTF gear stays in it’s own stack.

The funny anecdotes and other general descriptions of happenings during the situation are in the post below this one. I’m looking at this little situation we went through as a trial run of sorts, so in this post I’m going to cover the basic areas included in Stay At Home SHTF Gear: Food, Water, Heat, Communications, Light and Weaponry. Even though it was barely 48 hours without electricity, it took a little getting used to.

Follow me below the fold.

Food: 

We had warning of the incoming storm and stocked up on things I could grill. Yes, you read that correctly; I grilled my way to a full stomach. We ate hot dogs, hamburgers, casadillas and even pizza cooked on the 12×18 el-cheapo Wal-Mart grill in the garage. I took the tank off the big grill that sits on the patio and installed it onto the smaller one. I know that a full tank on the small grill will last for a minimum of 14 days, three meals a day (when the wife went off to visit relatives, I had to cook for myself, so I took the opportunity to test it a couple years ago).

In this instance, just positioning the grill near the garage window and opening it up a bit sufficed for proper ventilation of the carbon monoxide, especially the way the wind was moving around. It did get chilly quickly though.

The freezer in the garage was never opened, but the fridge out there yielded soda and the occasional Sam Adams. The weather only got colder as the days went on, so I was still pulling ice cold Cokes out even after we got power back.

The food in the kitchen refrigerator/freezer was still 41 degrees when the juice came back on so, except for a container of sour cream and a 1/4 gallon of milk which were tossed as a precaution, everything in there made it through. It is a nearly new appliance, so I don’t know if this will be the same for everyone.

Water:

We had running water to wash with and flush the commode, and for drinking water, we had a few cases of bottled in the garage, as well as the kitchen’s water cooler with the classic 5gal jug on top. I also had ice cold pop and beer in the garage, so the H2O was going to last at least a week, even if the running water stopped.

Heat:

Other than an 8in X 8in space heater, none. The gas furnace and water heater are hard-wired into the electrical box. If I wasn’t renting this house, that would be different. The house would also have had at least a pellet stove installed if I owned it. The gas was flowing but we had no electricity to run the furnace fan. It got cold, but we compensated with polypropeleyne and wool when we weren’t using the space heater. We were fine.

How I ran the space heater comes along in one of the sections below.

Communications:

No land line phone service. Period. Too many trees down.

Little to no Mobile Phone service. The towers need electricity just like you do. I knew the power was close to coming back on when my phone stopped trying to go to “Roaming”. Most of the time I had Analog Roaming, though it was very spotty with me being able to hear the person calling but them not being able to hear me. The times I had Digital Roaming were few and far between.

Anyone whose phone has switched to roaming knows that it sucks the juice at around four times faster than when you’re in a service area. I found myself charging my phone up whenever I turned my power source on.

In the two times I separated from the house, we were able to use the hand-held Cobra radios. They have a 10 mile radius and I don’t think I ever got more than five miles away. Two thumbs up for those.

Also thumbs up on this cheapie wind-up/solar powered AM/FM radio w/flashlight.

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Leave it on a window sill during the day, and the give it a few cranks around midnight to make it last until dawn.

Light:

Other than the fact that I nearly buried my SHTF packages with the storage stuff, going through my boxes of miscellany a couple weeks previous did yield a rather excellent find. This groovy little lantern.

PC180005.JPG

I don’t remember when I bought it, though it was probably over a decade ago. I don’t remember when I installed the batteries that were in it (4 D-Cells), though I can guarantee you that it was over four years ago. I do know that it is still using it’s original bulb because I found the unopened pack of spares in the same box. I also know that Coleman doesn’t make this model any more because I’ve gone to their site and just about everything that runs on batteries is fluorescent. In spite of all that, the thing clicked on and worked like a champ, providing non-retina-tampering light for getting squared right after the power went off and then some.

Cyalume light sticks hung from the celing with fishing line and a thumbtack worked to provide ample light for moving around the house without a light source in-hand. However, you will only want to do this if you can touch your ceiling, otherwise you will need a ladder or chair to climb on. Probably not exactly fun to do in the dark.

We also used tealights for small area light, like the bathroom (the powers out, the house is cold and the wife isn’t happy. The last thing you want to do is miss the bowl). IKEA sells tealights in bags of 100 for around $3. The wife is a candle addict and has 4-6 bags at all times.

The wife and I each had a 3-D-Cell MagLight and a shake light available, and the lantern was handed off for things like grilling. I always buy battery powered items in D-Cells for the same reason I buy pistols in .45ACP: Commonality.

But the absolute star of the show was this item I call “The Jump Box”.

PC180001.JPG

It is made by Husky and weighs around 15lbs. It has 3ft jumper cables and and an air compressor hose on the back. On the front, it has the air compressor controls, a light and, magically, a three-prong 110v plug with onboard inverter. This thing has, in the past, jump-started both Grimm and my 1998 F150 with nary a gripe. You just need to plug an extension cord into the back of it to charge up its super deep-cell battery. Takes about six to eight hours for a full charge.

I plugged a surge protector into the socket and charged my cell phone, ran two lamps, a portable CD Player, and a small space heater for 20 hours on a 4/5 charge (I had forgotten to fully charge it before the storm) and it still had over half a charge on it when the power came back on.

It fell into my hands after a co-worker forgot to secure it when camping and it fell off of his truck’s rear bumper doing about 25-30 mph. He bought himself a new one and asked if I wanted it. Duh! Score one for me! The compressor doesn’t work anymore, but I’ve got one of those in the truck anyway.

If the power would have stayed off for another 24 hours, I would have finally fired up the generator for four hours at a time to keep the inside refridgerator cold and recharge the Jump Box. Until I get a furnace that I can plug into, I just don’t see a need for kicking it on within the first 48. But then again, when I do get my own house that I can modify anyway I want, I’ll have installed a pellet stove and hopefully a low-RPM diesel generator that would be wired into the electrical box. 

Weaponry:

As I predicted when I posted on Saturday from The Mom’s place, things got ugly at gas stations and food stores. I have little doubt that if there were still no power today, there’d be people hospitalized and/or dead in this area of the state. The ATMs in the neighboring town were out of cash by Friday evening and some gas stations were out of gas by early Saturday AM.

If you have warning of a probable coming disaster, doing all of that, plus shopping for food before hand, in a civilized manner, is advisable. I do have to admit that my opinion of my fellow Northwesterners has fallen even lower than it was before all of this. They had at least three days warning of it and they ignored and/or laughed it off. I don’t trust strangers as it is in normal life. During hard times, I see them all as very likely wanting my stuff (aka: Potential Predators).

Which is why, within 15 minutes of the power going out, I had opened the gun safe and had armed myself and the wife with a pistol and long gun each. After creating sufficent light, I then positioned an SKS every room of the house, in discreet locations, and their ammunition was kept with in a separate location in the room in those handy-dandy 200rnd bandoliers.

I had my 870 with 18 1/2in bbl and the 7+1 extension, and my 1911. The wife had the S&W Model 14-4 and the newly red-dotted 10/22 w/30rnd mag (the only rifle she is comfortable with and she really likes the red-dot optic).

The truck rifle was brought into the house along with its ammo, the chainsaw, the double-bit axe, and the 8lb sledgehammer (you don’t to arm want to arm the incoming hordes, do you?). The rifle, ammo and chainsaw were taken back out to the truck before going anywhere.

Of course, I didn’t have to use any of them, but safer is better than sorrier.

As it is in most states, it is illegal to use booby-traps in Washington, so I forgot if I did or not. But they were pretty neat and home made.

One thing I forgot about toting a long gun around the house while trying to do “Household” things is that you must have a sling. I had a sling on the 870 a while ago, but it sucked for practical use, so I removed it and never replaced it. I ended up having to break into my box of “Spares” and fetch one of my extra SKS slings and install it. It doesn’t hold ammo, but it works very well and I’m keeping it until I find something better. I then found a spare set of sling swivels and put one on the 10/22. The wife was mucho-smiley for that.

I also learned that I need to buy a new pistol. This one must have a rail to mount a flashlight. The Novak nuclear dots on my 1911 are just too damn small for me to see in pitch darkness, especially the front one. I’m looking at a later model Glock 21. There is a long story involving me absolutely hating the professionally worked on DAO trigger on the Glock 30 I used to own, but it is too long to tell here; and that is why I don’t own Glocks (or any other DAO guns). But now I think I’ll have to get one.

Conclusion:

I hope that some of this information helps folks out in the future. Like I said at the beginning, I saw this as sort of an abbreviated test run. 48 hours without electicity or hot H2O is a good and relatively safe testing platform for the Stay At Home SHTF preparations. I learned something, I hope you all did too.

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22 Responses to SHTF Equipment Review

  1. Tom says:

    Glad to hear you’re safe and sound. I got stranded in the Portland airport trying to get home on Thursday. They said maybe they could route me through Seattle on Saturday. *%#@ that! Gimme my money back and I’m renting a car… made it home to Spokane safe, and got really good gas mileage with that tailwind 🙂

    We were 10 days without power back in 95(ish?) during the “ice storm”. It really wasn’t bad at all, we had gas hot water and a gas fireplace (no fan, but it heated one room at least). Fridge contents were moved to coolers on the back porch, cooking done on the coleman white gas stove on the porch.

  2. Rivrdog says:

    What kind of space heater ran on that power unit? I’m curious because I thought the inverter in those was limited to about 400 watt output and I’ve only ever seen one space heater with a 400 watt setting, and that is the spendy Marine model that West Marine sells. I’ve had a number of those “heat cube” heaters, and the lowest setting on them consumed a minimum of 750 watts, with most of them being 1000.

    Most curious about that Husky unit, can you give me a model number or other reference to it?

    BTW, my experience with running resistance heating on batteries is that’s it’s a no-no. Even if the inverter will take it to the start, you quickly run into the heat limit of the inverter, shortly followed by the low voltage limit of the batteries.

    On my previous boat, I had a main battery-to-AC system consisting of 4 group 31 batteries (130 amp, 12VDC) and a Heart Freedom 1500 watt inverter-charger. I actually did a heater test once, and actually got the system to run for 12 minutes before it shut down (the total load was 1850 watts).

    Maybe that heater was running on the fan-only position, in which case it probably only drew 50 watts or so.

    You didn’t run a genset, but in your neighborhood, you’d not be able to sleep with it running, or it would develop legs.

    I ran my genset because I could, no other reason. I am prepared for this shit, and when it comes down, I will, by God, stay in the 21st century.

  3. Phil says:

    Glad to hear you made it home safe, Tom. I don’t fly anymore, but I’m sure that you laughed when you finally got home.

    RD, I followed BobG’s link (thankee Bob) and found this

    http://www.homedepot.com/prel80/HDUS/EN_US/diy_main/pg_diy.jsp?prod_id=100096992

    It doesn’t look like they make it any more, which explains why I wasn’t able to find it on their website. I’m thinking that I’ll be looking them up on eBay or Craig’s list in the future after the aftermath of this sitation dies down.
    As for the heater, it was this little gray jobbie that I’ve already packed back up (and I’m currently at work, so) but if I hadn’t been running it off the JumpBox, I’d have been disappointed in it. It should probably been advertized as a desktop hand warmer as it had no fan and I doubt you could make toast with it.

    I ran my 1/2in Ryobi hammerdrill off of the JumpBox when I installed the black diamondplate toolbox in Grimm’s bed and I decided that I was too lazy to unroll and then re-roll an extension cord. I figured that if it’ll run that and/or my circular saw, it’d run the link of stuff I had on the power strip.

    Btw, the lamps had those flourescent spiral bulbs in them, so I’m sure that helped a bit.

  4. Gerry N. says:

    For pleasant light and useful heat in the house, buy an Aladdin lamp and keep fresh kerosene for it. We were without power for less than twleve hours, but the aladdin going in the front room gives about the equivalent of a 40W electric lamp. I have mine shaded to reduce the annoyance factor. The Aladdin also generates enough heat to keep the front room warm. I open the fireplace door and kitchen window an inch to provide cross ventilation and there’s a CO detector nailed to the ceiling.

    I also keep a couple of plain jane wick lamps in a back cupboard. I also keep fuel for them separately. Kerosene deteriorates amazingly fast if exposed to air so I keep the lamps dry and fuel them as needed. We’ll burn up the fuel in them over the next few nights. I’ve already refilled the kerosene can stored with the lamps. I thought about a diesel ganset, but diesel, too has limited shelf life. If you’re using it often,and the fuel is replaced frequently, then fine. But for long term storage? If I’m in error about this, I’d be glad to hear it. I’ve been thinking of installing a propane fired genset for emergencies on the assumption that propane is fairly long lasting in storage. I do have a 2KW portable genset that I’ve fitted a small automotive muffler to. Nice and quiet. I fuel it out of the can I use for yard equipment so the fuel is always fresh. I’ve also run it on 2 cycle mix left over from fishing season. A little smoky, but what the hey.

    So. For at home emergencies, power outages especially:
    Aladdin lamp & 2 wick lamps stored dry with 2 gal. closed metal container of kerosene.

    2 burner propane camp stove and six 16.4 oz. cylinders kept in the locker with the kero lamps. A box of kitchen matches in the stove.

    A small portable radio and a fresh pack of alkaline batteries for it in the same locker.

    2 small el-cheapo AA flashlights with a spare fresh pack of alkalines for them. You got it, in the same locker.

    Several boxes of 12″ dinner candles are in the candle cupboard with half a dozen cheap candle holders. SWMBO doesn’t like walking down the hall to a dark throne room. A candle in there helps with odor control too. I also buy up as many dinner tapers as I can find after Christmas. Prices often drop to less than a dime each. 100 12″ candles is a hell of a pile.

    There’s always forty gallons of water in the 5th wheel tank as well as a few three and five gallon containers in the garage for camping and shtf.

    Food’s no biggie, nor is hot water for a few weeks. The 5th wheel has an on demand propane heater for showers, and if things go for a long time, the fifth wheel is very liveable itself. There is a decent supply of propane in the tanks, and more out back for the BBQ.

    Around our house, this kind of emergency is just a woosed out camping trip. Hell, I got to sleep in my own bed with SWMBO, Ozzy(100# staffordshire terrier,) and three cats. Some hardship.

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  6. Firehand says:

    Where’s your crank/solar radio from?

  7. Greg says:

    Good to hear you made it fine! I’m just to the north of you guys(BC) and had the same wind to deal with. We had power knocked out for the first storm, but stayed up for #2. We’re hoping #3 that’s coming doesn’t knock our power out.

    The part that made me take note was your bit on perimeter booby traps. They’re illegal here as there, but something to consider is that the best booby traps are simply informative in nature: This can range from a trip wire simply ringing bear bells to punching a flare up into the sky. There is no prohibition on setting devices that warn of approach.

    You can even adapt a simple hunting camera’s motion detector to act as a silent sentry. The key is to set it to flash repeatedly upon detecting motion, which gives you the double benefit of knowing that you’ve got “trouble in the wire”, but handy photos for the Crown if they aren’t deterred by suddenly having flashbulbs go off. As well, if you’re trying to sneak up on people, the flashes will kill the ole night vision in the approaching party.

    Nice blog!

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  9. Michael says:

    Very good post. A lot of people are not prepard for even simple events. Like a storm or power lost. I am also in your boat as a renter, which adds chanllenges to prep’ing. But over a very good post.

  10. mgdavis says:

    Hi Phil. This might sound kinda weird, but whereabouts in Washington are you located? I’m located on in Kitsap County and got hit by the same storm. Our power was out for approximatly the same length of time, I was wondering if we’re close to each other.
    I know that you don’t know me from Adam, so no feelings hurt if you decide to ignore this. I post under the same screen name on thefiringline.com, thehighroad.org, armedpolitesociety.com, and totalmotorcycle.com if you want to check me out a bit. Shoot me an email, or a PM if you’re on any of those sites. The name is Mike, BTW.

  11. BryanP says:

    Great writeup. Interesting stuff.

    One question: where might I find one of these “Jump Box” items?

    Also, if you don’t care for the Glock might I suggest a Springfield XD-45 instead? I love mine.

  12. Brian says:

    stupid question:
    Can you plug your furnace into the husky “jump box” to run the furnace fan, or will the furnace fan draw too much power?

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  17. Thanks for the good read. I truly enjoyed it! I don’t usually comment on blogs but this one really was interesting. I will bookmark for later.

  18. Wall Hooks · says:

    just buy high quality power strips and do not use power strips that are not UL certified ;;

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