04Oct/12

Self Reliance…

One of the biggest misconceptions people tend to have is that they will be taken care of in an emergency situation. During large scale events, this is likely not going to be the case. This is the reason why we prepare. We try to be self reliant so that we don’t have to rely on someone else to get us through.

Think about it. You’re in a small city, say 40,000, you’re probably served by less than 100 emergency personnel. What happens when half of your city needs help? What if you’re in a much larger city? Hundreds of thousands of people. Millions. While there may be more emergency personnel available to help, they are helping many more people. The likelihood that you’re going to be the first helped is directly proportionate to the scale of the disaster, the ratio of help to those needing help, your location in relation to those providing the help, and their ability to get to you.

As you can see, it’s just common sense to have some preparations allowing you to rely upon yourself. Not only will this give you the ability to take care of emergencies while waiting on help, it will also give you the ability to reduce the burden on emergency services. If you can be self sufficient, you are one less person the emergency services need to attend to. For every self reliant person out there, the strain on the system will be reduced.

Without being self reliant you are dependent upon a system that may take longer than you have to reach you. That’s assuming that they can reach you at all. The longer the duration of the event, the longer that you go waiting on help, the more difficult it can be.

Now think about it. If you’re prepared to handle situations that may arise, won’t you feel more secure? To us, the piece of mind is priceless.

“Worry often gives a small thing a big shadow.”
~Swedish proverb

03Oct/12

Mind and Body…

When we think about preparedness we tend to focus on the idea of preparing. It only makes sense, right? After all, prepare is right in the name and it cause you to think about how you will deal with the future. We tend to overlook one very important aspect in this, and that’s how we will implement our preps while dealing with the event emotionally and physically.

In the midst of an emergency our stress levels spike, taking a toll on our bodies as well as our mind. Without prepping both, we may succumb to a number of ailments. Whether it be physical, like exhaustion or a cold, or mental like exhaustion or depression, they can be debilitating.

Preparing our mind and body isn’t a simple act of reading an article or purchasing a piece of gear. No, it’s something we have to deal with on a daily basis, and we have to practice continuously. This would fall under point 3, training, which we’ll get into in another article. It’s the training of our mind and body that will help us deal with the events at hand.

So, how do we get ourselves trained to handle the physical and emotional impacts of an emergency situation?

Let’s start with the physical aspect. It’s easy to imagine a scenario in which you’d have to use your emergency preparations. In these scenarios you might find yourself hunkering down at home, but what we’d like to look at here is if you had to go on the move. Can you get your preps from where they are now to where you need to be? More importantly, can you get yourself where you need to be? What if you have to walk a mile, 2 miles, 10 miles to get to aid? Can you carry yourself and your pack without quickly reaching exhaustion?

Now, we’re not going to say you have to become a body builder, or train for a triathlon, because that’s not exactly necessary. What we do suggest is simple physical fitness. Even I have fallen in the trap of ignoring the physical aspect while working on the knowledge and material preps, so I can see the importance of stressing this now. We should all get some exercise, whether it be a stroll through the park or a 10K run. How far you take it is up to you. It should be noted that if you intend on carrying anything, you should get some experience doing it prior to actually needing it.

Mental preparedness, when it comes to dealing with an at hand emergency, is a little more difficult to attain. No one can really say how they will react under the pressure of an unexpected event. What we can do is increase our ability to handle the things that are thrown at us. The knowledge we gain from research, practicing with out gear, and pondering different scenarios all bolster our ability to handle emergencies. With those in mind, one of the best ways to get prepared is through repetition. If you instinctively know how to do something, when to do it and when not to do it, your mind will endure less stress as it handles the task at hand.

It’s our opinion that only by combining all aspects will you be truly prepared. So, try to keep these in mind as you’re going through your day. It may just ease your discomfort should something happen.

“To keep the body in good health is a duty… otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.”
~Buddha

02Oct/12

Gear Review – Vasque Breeze XCR Boots

One of our favorite past times is hiking, and we believe that the biggest impact on our hikes are the shoes on our feet. They can easily mean the difference between an enjoyable hike and one fraught with discomfort and pain.

When we started out we simply wore sneakers that we had laying around the house, and while we had done some running previously we quickly found that they weren’t exactly up to the task of some of the more off trail hiking. They weren’t snug enough to keep our feet from sliding, sometimes causing blisters. The low cut and pliable sole did very little for stability, and on top of that they weren’t great protection from rocks, sticks, and the like.

This got us thinking. If these shoes aren’t very good on simple pleasure hikes, how would they hold up during an emergency if we ended up having to walk a great distance? What if we ended up in a cross country situation? They may suffice, but we could do better.

When we started researching footwear we made a couple of decisions prior to going shopping. We wanted a mid-cut boot with a stiffer sole. While waterproofing wasn’t mandatory, it was one of those nice to have items we’d opt for if possible. We wanted something that looked good to us, and had a history of being durable. With these criteria and some quality backed brands in mind we endeavored to find a suitable replacement.

Enter the Vasque Breeze GTX XCR Boots:

After trying on a few different pair of boots and shoes I finally settled into these, and I couldn’t be happier with the choice. As I was trying on different makes and models I found myself coming back to the fit of these. Here I must admit I’ve had experience with the vibram soles, but they weren’t the thick / stiff soles like on these boots, and can only partially account for the comfort.

I’m getting a little ahead of myself, so let me go ahead and tell you some of the specifics on this shoe. It’s made by Vasque. The model is the Breeze XCR. The XCR was an early model replaced by the GTX. Functionally there is no change, however it should be noted that the GTX signifies “GORE-TEX®” where the XCR had GORE-TEX® printed in it’s entirety. The XCR was one of the first boots to meet Gore’s standards for breathability allowing the use of the GORE-TEX®.

As mentioned before, the sole of this boot is made by Vibram, and while still being stiff, is lighter than other similar boots. The designed with the arc tempo last, which is more athletic in design. The midsole is molded with a full foot plate. The full foot plate provides for the stiffer feel. All of this weighs in at a scant 2lbs 9oz.

On to the impressions.

At the onset, I found the break-in time to be longer than I had expected with the Vibram sole, but considering it has a full foot plate, I can understand why it took a bit longer. During the break-in period I found that while some discomfort could crop up when worn for longer periods, it wasn’t as prevalent as it had been with other shoes. The uppers and flex didn’t take much getting used to at all. The exception to this is that I did notice that I tended to over tighten the shoe across the bridge of my foot.

Once broken in, the boots have worn very well, and are at home in all terrain. The mid-cut adds a level of support that is almost required with the added traction the large lugs on the sole add. I find myself coming back to the sole over and over again. The material is extremely durable and has weathered many rock scrambles, day + hikes, streams, day to day use, and the rigors of working small acreage.

Along with the soles, the waterproofing is top notch. On a trip through the Appalachian mountains in Maryland it rained profusely and the trail was quickly turned into a creek. The shoes remained dry, despite my keeping them submerged most of the day. While they remained dry, they did pick up some weight, so keep that in mind before you go trudging through water on a long hike.

All in all, I think these are very well rounded boots, and can be used for a multitude of purposes while standing up to the test of time. When it comes time to replace them, I’ll likely end up with the newer GTX. For those of you out there who may not like the mid cut, Vasque does make ankle cut shoes with a similar construction.

“It’s always further than it looks.
It’s always taller than it looks.
And it’s always harder than it looks.”
~The 3 rules of mountaineering.

01Oct/12

Point 2 – Gear…

The second of the three points we at Tri-Point Outfitters believe to be essential in your quest towards being prepared is gear.

There’s an age-old adage that goes, “work smart not hard”. Its this ideal that is best served when knowledge is supplemented with the addition of purpose specific tools, or as we like to refer to it as, gear. We look at it this way, our intellect has afforded us the ability to create things to make jobs easier, essentially working smarter and not harder.

When you start looking at the gear for preparedness there are some things to keep in mind, such as the idea that there is an appropriate tool for the task at hand. While something else might work, it may not be as efficient. In turn there may be a single piece of gear that does multiple tasks adequately, and the trade off may be worth more than having multiple items that perform the task marginally better.

As you begin outfitting yourself for preparedness begin to weigh these pros and cons when selecting each piece of gear, and you’ll quickly figure out what is essential and what can be sacrificed. You’ll see where you will want the highest quality gear you can find, and you’ll also start to understand what can be considered a throw away item. Things like matches, toilet paper, bandaids, and other consumables fit in this category, and  compromising quality to cut costs may not be an issue. Non-consumable items like your pack or shoes would be places that you would want to focus on quality over cost. The same goes for items that you may need to stake your life on, such as a pistol.

I think it’s important to elaborate on the reason we consider most consumables “throw away” items. Is simple. We go through them on a regular basis, and once they’ve been used, you typically throw them away. We’ve found that we can save a little on these without sacrificing any personal security. With that said, there will be some consumables that aren’t throw away items. This would encompass medications, water filters, and items that could cause sickness or death if they failed.

Refer to our cost vs. quality article when you start looking into some of the more important gear. We truly believe spending a little more for high quality gear today will save you in the long run. This doesn’t mean that you have to buy the most expensive item you can find, but it’s likely that you won’t be able to buy the cheapest and still get decent quality.

Now, we see gear as point 2 in preparation, following knowledge as point 1, because without knowledge you won’t know what gear you do and don’t need. Once you have the knowledge you’ll be able to move forward and start to outfit yourself with the gear you need to promote a higher level of ease and comfort as you weather any disaster, from personal to global. So, we urge you to use the knowledge you’ve gained to guide you in purchasing the gear that can take the use of that knowledge to the next level.

“Man is a tool-using animal. Without tools he is nothing, with tools he is all.”
~Thomas Carlyle

28Sep/12

Doom and gloom…

I’ve found that when I start talking to some people about being prepared their eyes begin to gloss over. They begin thinking about global doomsday scenarios. Images begin to flash through their mind. Things like stumbling zombies wandering around or volcanoes erupting and covering the planet in ash take root, causing any preparations to seem fruitless. Let’s face it, we’re just talking about doom and gloom, right?

The fact is that these events are sensational. It’s what’s the movies are made of. The news hypes them and even the government has gotten in on with their efforts to push preparedness. The problem is that the people who see preparing for these as a fruitless effort often can’t see past them to more believable scenarios. This is why we try to push through and talk about more common scenarios to keep them involved and to show them that every little bit can help.

It’s our opinion that the scale, from personal to global, is directly inverse to the likelihood of the event. Meaning, the more personal the event the more likely it is to happen, the more widespread / global, the less likely the event will be. We touched on this a bit in a previous article, but we felt it was necessary to expand on it a bit.

You see, while some items can seem too far fetched or grandiose  most people can relate to personal events. Some examples of personal events might be a flat tire, the loss of a job, a house fire, or a death in the family. When we break it down to the personal level the value for preparing increases. I’m sure many of you feel the same way.

We’ve seen that if you begin on a personal level and show how preparations can ease the strain of the common issues, you can slowly progress. You can move from personal events into wider scale events that affect your city, county, state, region, country, and so forth. It’s easier to take in, and it can allow for the person you’re talking with to come to follow the progression more naturally and with less of the overwhelming sensation.

So, while some of these events may really be about doom and gloom, there are many more that are simply everyday issues that crop up from time to time. They won’t likely cause you the doom or gloom that an asteroid strike might, but they may be uncomfortable and being prepared for them may make things a little easier. Keep it simple, and let the conversation evolve. If someone brings up a doomsday scenario, talk about it, but interject some conversation about some more everyday things. It may get them more serious about things in the long run.

Keep in mind, if you get them preparing on their own, they are one less person you need to worry about.

“Not all is doom and gloom. We are beginning to understand the natural world and are gaining a reverence for life – all life.”
~Roger Tory Peterson

27Sep/12

What’s in a shoe?

When we’re walking, we have to rely on our feet. They are the point of contact that matters, and if they are damaged, mobility is greatly reduced. This is one of the reasons that we choose to wear shoes. They add protection and comfort along with a level of style.  That said, all shoes are not equal.

This couldn’t be more true when it comes to looking for shoes to weather an emergency. The last thing you’d want to do is walk 5 miles in a pair of 2″ high heals because you ran out of gas, or trudge through mud and snow in those fancy wingtips because you got stranded in a snow drift on the way home.

We have some opinions on how to choose some good footwear to weather the emergencies that may occur. We won’t go into specific brands or even tell you that one type is better than the other. This is entirely personal, and will differ from person to person.  What we will give you is some specific information about what to look for.

The first and foremost thing that a person needs to look for in a pair of shoes or boots is fit and feel. If they aren’t comfortable, that will only be exacerbated if you have to put miles under you for any reason. So, you need to look for something that fits comfortably, and they also need to be snug. Don’t confuse snug with tight. Your feet will tend to swell over longer distances, and if your shoes are too tight they will get more and more uncomfortable. The inverse of this, if your shoes are too loose, you will be more prone to blisters.

One of the biggest issues we have with our feet are blisters. Once you have them they can be detrimental. Along with proper fitting shoes, you need to keep them dry. This can be accomplished by wearing some type of sweat wicking material, and changing them routinely. Cotton socks are a terrible choice, but better than nothing. If you are stuck with wearing cotton, ensure you change them frequently.

Another issue we run into when walking is stumbling and the possibility if a sprain or break. It’s due to this that we really need to take into account the stability of a shoe or boot.  What you’re looking for is a high level of support and stability and through the mid-sole, with flexibility through the toe area. You should be able to flex the shoe just ahead of the laces, but the rest of the foot should remain fairly rigid.

The same rigidity should be seen when twisting the shoe. This twisting can lead to a twisted, sprained, or broken ankle. It can also lead to slipping which can further lead to a multitude of issues.

This leads into the sole of the shoe. It should provide traction as well as protection. Let’s face it, when we walk down a sidewalk or the road, we can come across some pretty nasty stuff like rocks, nails, and glass. A good sole can and should protect against the vast majority of these things.

We would recommend shoes with a medium stiffness as opposed to the most stiff shoes or boots out there. While the stiffer boots and shoes are better for heavier loads, they also have a much more intense break-in period. Medium stiffness shoes can typically be worn in comfort after very little break-in, the stiffer shoes should be worn for an hour or so at a time, increasing, until you’ve worn them for 20-25 hours. Of course, if you plan on carrying more than about 50 lbs, you probably want to look at the stiffer shoes.

This leads us into low-cut vs. medium-cut shoes. This pretty much boils down to preference, however there are a couple of things to consider when making your decision. Low-cut shoes will likely be lighter and often times allow for more agility, but offer less protection. Medium-cut shoes / boots will add ankle protection and stability. We think that if you’re route is likely going to be cross country, the medium-cut shoe is the better choice. However, if you’re in an urban setting, the low-cut shoe might be the better choice.

One option you will come across is waterproofing. As with everything, there are pros and cons to buying waterproof footwear. The obvious pro is that your feet will remain dry while walking through wet grass, shallow streams, and puddles. A con would be that waterproof shoes are slightly hotter than their non-waterproof counterpart. The socks you wear can exacerbate or alleviate this to a point. It’s our opinion that the pros outweigh the cons here, and for very little sacrifice, having the waterproof shoe is the way to go. With that said, if you live in the desert, you may opt out as there is very little chance you feet might get wet.

The best thing to do is get out and try them on. We can’t stress enough that fit and feel are paramount when making your decision. Subsequently, the environmental factors should drive your decision as related above. Take your time, and you’re sure to be able to endure should you have to rely on your feet as your only mode of transportation.

“The human foot is a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art.”
~Leonardo da Vinci

26Sep/12

Pets…

Many of us are pet owners. While the type of pet may be different, most of us love them as they are part of the family. With this in mind, why is it that they are often left out of our preparations? Considering that they are as dependent, if not more so, than the rest of our family, this shouldn’t be the case.

When considering our plans and preparations, it’s essential to ensure that our pets are taken care of, whether it be in our our kits or kits of their own. Of course, this is highly dependent upon the type of pet and their ability.

While having their own pack may not work for some animals, studies show that saddling a dog with their can give them the perception that they are doing a job, and even cause them to act in a more calm manner.

No matter where you are putting the supplies, there are going to be some basics that need to be in place for all animals. These aren’t much different than those of humans. The best idea here is to look at what you do with them on a daily basis. The items we believe shouldn’t be overlooked are:

  1. Food
  2. Water
  3. Snacks
  4. Flea and tick repellent
  5. Leash
  6. Brush
  7. Nail clippers
  8. Tweezers
  9. Tooth care
  10. Any medications that they may need.

Remember, these recommendations are for short term emergencies. They can and should be augmented and expanded upon.  Just remember, you’re responsible for ensuring they are taken care of in times of need.

“Many who have spent a lifetime in it can tell us less of love than the child that lost a dog yesterday.”
~Thornton Wilder

25Sep/12

Cash is king…

It was December 8th 2007. The news reported that Oklahoma was in for snow, freezing rain, and heavy icing. As the snow and rain continued to fall throughout the day, many people decided that it would be safer to stay home than to brave the roads, which was probably a pretty smart idea. At approximately 7PM the power went out across a large portion of the state. More than 600,000 homes and businesses (about 40% of the state) were affected. This power outage would last for upward of 10 days in certain areas.

Once the snow and rain stopped falling, and the ice blanketed the ground, people began to realize that they had needs. Things like water, food, toiletries, and many comfort items were running out. As they ventured out to the local stores they found many closed, and those that were open were likely to be without power.

If you’re anything like us most of your transactions involve some form of plastic, whether it be a credit card, check card, or debit card. It’s just convenient. This has become so common place that it’s not unlikely for someone to not touch cash for days, weeks, months, or more.

So, what happened when people made it to a store that was open? Most were met with “cash only” signs. Without power, credit card machines can’t dial out. Gone are the days of the imprint machines. Even stores with generators we unable to accept credit. Along with the power, the phone and internet services were all out, and for those of you who don’t know, processing credit is reliant upon one of these to get to the processor.

No problem, right? We’ll simply go to the bank.

Sorry guys, this was out too. The vast majority of the banks were closed. Without power, phone, or internet, many were just as unable to conduct business as the retail locations. Many are dependent on centralized servers to validate account balances, and process withdraws and deposits.

As you can see, in this situation there weren’t a lot of alternatives. If you were fortunate, you may have known a shop owner who would deal with you on personal credit, allowing you to come back to pay after the power was on. While this did happen, it wasn’t very wide spread.

The other alternative was cold hard cash. It doesn’t require any validation, and is accepted just about everywhere.

It is for this reason that we believe everyone should have some emergency cash on hand. The amount is a distinctly personal question, but it should take into account some of the necessities you may find yourself in need of during an emergency or evacuation. Things like water and food may come to mind, but what if you have to evacuate? Was your car full or do you need to fill your tank before you hit the road? What if the emergency has displaced you, and you need to pay for a hotel? These are simple examples, and the scenarios go on and on. As you can see, having a couple of extra dollars can help you get what you need or get you to where you’re going.

“There’s lots of things that can be solved with cash.”
~Danny Boyle

24Sep/12

Clothing considerations…

When we work toward being prepared we often overlook some of our every day use items. The biggest of these could arguably be the clothes on our backs and the shoes on our feet.

In today’s society where we place significant value in high fashion, we often ignore the need for utility and durability when shopping for our daily attire. This is compounded when you look for attire for special events, and even more so when you try to have a different look every day.

The problem with this is two fold. First, the vast majority of clothes that are designed for fashion do not take utility into account. This causes us to lose the ability to carry with us some of the every day items. The second issue is durability. While the garment may be of higher quality, the materials may not hold up to the abuse that an emergency situation can dish out.

So, what can you do?

The first is try to tailor your wardrobe to have a level of class or fashion while keeping the durability and utility intact. This doesn’t mean that you have to go out and buy a set of BDU’s and go camouflaged every day. We all know there are companies out there who make clothing that’s less likely to have you stick out in a negative manner. Whether it be denim, cotton, polyester, or some other fabric, there are alternatives. That doesn’t mean that camouflage doesn’t have it’s place.

What if the alternatives just won’t work? How can we meet our fashion needs while still being prepared?

No matter how hard we might try, we’re going to end up in a situation where our clothing options are significantly limited. Weddings, funerals, high profile meetings, etc. are all examples. Its in these cases that we have to think outside of the box, or rather, inside the bag.

In a previous article we talked about the 72 hour kit, and we suggested that you should take it with you on a regular basis, that way you can use it should you get stranded on the road. It’s here that we suggest you add a change of clothes and appropriate shoes, along with socks, belts, etc. that you may need to change. This way, if you’re at a social even in attire that’s not suitable for an emergency, you can simply change and be no worse for the wear. Of course this option will also work if you want to wear fashionable but non-utilitarian clothing on a regular basis.

While on the subject, we think it’s important to stress the necessity of breaking in shoes and frequently changing your socks when you’re walking a lot or hiking. Your feet are susceptible to a number of ailments, one of the biggest being blisters from ill fitting or new footwear. This can be exacerbated by damp socks. If there’s a possibility that you may end up having to do quite a bit of walking, it’s best not to have a brand new pair of shoes for the trek.

I base most of my fashion sense on what doesn’t itch.
~Gilda Radner

21Sep/12

Vehicle Emergency Kit…

Most of us have vehicles, and use them significantly. This use has increased over the past 50 years, and with that increase the chances that we’ll encounter an emergency while out and about also increases. Being prepared to handle such an emergency is just good planning.

When coming up with the contents of the vehicle kit, it’s important to think about the emergencies you might face, like breakdowns, accidents, and inclement weather. On top of this you also want to keep those who may be traveling with you in mind. Their comfort during these times can help keep them calm and collected while enduring the event.

Before we get into our recommendations for a vehicle emergency kit, we want to point out that your vehicle should already have some tools on hand to weather one scenario. These tools are the spare tire, lug wrench, and jack. If your vehicle was purchased second hand you should check to ensure you do indeed have these things, and that they are in good, serviceable condition.

There are three categories of items we have when we look at our vehicle kits; Vehicle, personal, and safety. These are pretty self explanatory with vehicle encompassing items used on the vehicle, personal would be things that you will use on yourself, and safety takes care of the items that will promote safety during the event.

The vehicle specific items aren’t meant to allow you to rebuild the vehicle on the side of the road, but they should allow you to face some common problems that may arise due to some accidents or wear and tear on the vehicle. The minimum suggestions we have are:

  • Jumper Cables
  • Tire Guage
  • Can of fix-a-flat and / or portable air compressor
  • Electrical Tape
  • Duct Tape
  • Extra quart of Oil
  • Extra quart of Transmission Fluid
  • Small tool kit
  • Fuses
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Flashlight

The personal items that we suggest will give you some comfort in the event of an emergency. These would be a great way to augment your 72 hour kit without taking up additional room in the kit. Our suggestions are:

  • First Aid Kit
  • Water – A 12 pack of bottled water that’s rotated is ideal for this.
  • Snack food
  • Blankets
  • Gloves
  • Rags
  • Emergency candle
  • Matches
  • Pen
  • Paper
  • Emergency cash
  • Extra batteries
  • Cell phone
  • Cell phone charger

When it comes to a roadside emergency, safety equipment can meant the different between it being simply a minor nuisance and it becoming deadly. The minimum items we believe should be in ever kit are:

  • Road flares
  • Warning triangle

On top of the minimums listed above, there are some other nice to have items that we think you may want to add to the kit if you have room. There are:

  • Extra coolant
  • Small shovel
  • Kitty litter (for traction)
  • Snow chains
  • Tow Strap
  • Bungie cords
  • Poncho or other rain gear
  • Emergency radio
  • Battery booster
  • Hose repair kit
  • Emergency fan belt

Of course, our suggestions aren’t all encompassing, nor are they perfect for every locale, but they are a great start for any kit. As always, we highly recommend routinely going through your kit and making sure everything is still in working order, and to rotate out any consumables such as water, food, and batteries.