I have recently started a new project taking select military FMs and TMs in the public domain that are available as PDFs but hard to find and/or expensive as hardcopies and releasing them as affordable hardcopies for people to add to their prepping libraries. Let’s face it, if the SHTF one of the first things to disappear will be the internet and shortly after that electronics will run out of juice without reliable electricity. The advantage of hardcopies is paper doesn’t have to be recharged.
I have the first ff these already available. It is the Operator’s and Direct Maintenance manuals for the M1911A1 .45 pistol. The -12 and -35 in army parlance it is available through Createspace at: https://www.createspace.com/6456315
The next will be FM 23-35 Combat Training with Pistols and Revolvers from Oct 88. I will probably be releasing these at the rate of one every other month or so for a while as I have a list of about 30 manuals I would like to make available. There is a dizzying array of manuals that the military has put together over the years and not all of them deal directly with closing with and destroying the enemy. Many are directly relatable to non-combat prepping tasks. I will primarily be using the Army versions of these manuals because they are what I personally am most familiar with.
If anyone has ideas for good manuals that should be available as hardcopies but are not lets discuss which ones should be out there. Thoughts?

NAT Geo just made all USGS maps easily printable from Home

I posted about free downloadable USGS maps of the United States last year here: USGS Topo Maps for Free.  The official USGS site is great for finding accurate small-scale (1:24,000) topo maps of whatever part of the US you would like to have.  The problem with the site, or at least the maps you can get is that they don’t easily print at home because the sheets are sized for large format printers that are typically only found at commercial printing centers forcing you to download the files and pay to have them printed.

National Geographic Maps Page

National Geographic Maps Page

National Geographic has fixed that with the debut of a new site on their page called PDF Quads that lets you search for and download home-printable copies of every USGS quad for the US.  NatGeo has packaged each quad into a 5-page package that includes:

  • Page 1 is an overview map showing the Quad in context
  • Pages 2 through 5 are the standard USGS Quads cut in quarters to fit on standard printers
  • Hillshading has been added to each page of the PDF to help visualize the topography

They are sized such that you can print them from home, cut off the white edges, and tape them together to have a navigation ready map of the quad you want.  The page includes and interactive, zoomable map similar to the google maps interface that lets you quickly find the map quad you are looking for and download it.  I have included the PDF file for Mine Mountain in the Nevada test site so you can look at it and see what the NatGeo file looks like.

To repeat, the link to the NatGeo maps page is PDF Quads.

Mine Mountain Map PDF file

I am on the lookout for map products as useful the USGS quads for the rest of the world but while there are some good map sites out there, I have yet to fins free map products anywhere else in the world that come even close to matching what the USGS provides for the United States.  If anyone knows of some good sites please eave a comment.

USGS Topo Maps for Free

Did you know you can get USGS Topographic Maps for free?  I didn’t either until I started screwing around on the web looking for maps.  The place to go is the USGS Map Locator & Downloader.  From that page you can find the map you want and download it to your computer or device for browsing or printing.  The interface is quite simple and and it is easy to download.  You can either print the maps out at home or take the file to a print shop and you can get the whole sheet printed on a plotter so you can laminate it.  I even found a shop near me that will print large maps on waterproof material so I don’t have to screw around laminating them and making them bulkier than they need to be.

The USGS Map Locator interface page

The USGS Map Locator interface page

A Lightweight First-Aid Kit for Major Traumas

I have spent several years in Europe while in the Army and one of the things that is required in every car is a first aid kit filled according to DIN 13164, which is just the German legal norm.  I have toted one of these around in my car ever since my first tour in Germany in the early 90’s.  I have only ever had to use it once, but when I did I managed to save a guy’s life who had wrapped his car around a tree.

This is an excellent kit for dealing with major trauma.  I thought of this recently when I was considering what first aid gear I want in my BOB beyond the list I already have.  I am a firm believer that First Aid and wound care should be a priority when packing a BOB or GOTH bag.  If you are lucky, it is gear you will never use but by God when you need it, you really need it and I think that major trauma is going to be one of those things that we are going to have to be able to deal with on our own post SHTF.

The First Aid Kit pouch

The First Aid Kit pouch

Thinking of this I went looking for my car kit and discovered that I actually have three of them.  The one I decided to use for inclusion in my BOB is made by a company called Leina-Werke Gmbh.  It is packed in a red, zipper pouch and filled it measures 5½ in. H X 8½ in. W X 3 in. D.  It is pretty light so I weighed it and it comes in at 412 grams, which is slightly less than a pound.  It has a selection of everything you need to treat a major wound except for a splint.

Opened up to display the contents

Opened up to display the contents

The official list of the required contents is here at the German Red Cross website (In German).  The translated list is below:

Quantity  Quantity (Article) designation Explanation / Details
Pre-2014 2014
1 1 Adhesive Tape (DIN 13019-A) Tape roll, 5 m x 2.5 cm
8 4 Emergency Bandage (DIN 13019-E) “Bandage” 10 x 6 cm
0 2 Fingertip bandage 12 x 2.0 cm
0 2 Band-Aid 1.9 x 7.2 cm
0 4 Band-Aid 2.5 x 7.2 cm
0 1 Compression Bandage C (DIN 13151 – K) K = Small, 3 x 6 cm
3 2 Compression Bandage M (DIN 13151- M) M = Medium, 4 mx 8 cm
1 1 Field dressings G (DIN 13151- G) G = Large, 4 mx 10 cm
2 1 Dressing cloth (DIN 13152- BR) Small 40 x 60 cm
0 1 Dressing cloth (DIN 13152- A) Large 60 x 80 cm
2 2 Fixative Bandage DIN 61634- FB 6 Individually, dustproof packaged, elastic 4 m x 6 cm
3 3 Fixative Bandage DIN 61634- FB 8 Individually, dustproof packaged, elastic 4 m x 8 cm
1 1 Emergency blanket Mylar Emergency Blanket: Minimum: 2 100mm x 1600 mm, Thickness 12 microns
6 6 Wound Compress Sterile wound dressing, max. packed in pairs, absorbent 10 x 10 cm
2 2 Triangular Bandage (Cravat) DIN 13168- D If necessary, individually packaged dustproof
1 1 First aid kit scissors DIN 58279- A 145
0 2 Wet wipe to clean intact skin
4 4 Medical Gloves DIN EN 455-1 to -4 Dust-proof (max. 4 pcs) packed, seamless, single-use
1 1 First aid booklet First aid information Booklet German Red Cross
1 1 Contents Contents Listing


I started to look to see if these kits can even be bought in the US and I found a couple of places that sell them.  They are pretty pricey at anywhere from $12-$45 plus shipping.  I even called my mother-in-law in Germany to have her price them there for me and In Germany they run about 15€ each and you can buy them just about everywhere.  Here are the few places I found that will supply them or at least ship to the US.

  1. The Draper Din 13164 First Aid Kit on Amazon
  2. Holthaus Din 13164 Monza First Aid Bag also on Amazon
  3. Rapid Online has the Blue Dot European Motoring First Aid Kit- DIN Standard 13164 and will ship to the US from the UK

Johnny Cake # 2

Here is the report on Johnny Cake.

First off, let me describe the Johnny Cakes that comes out after cooking. Mine came out as lumps abut 1 ½ inches around. Much like Hardtack, after you let it dry and cool completely it actually crumbles into chunks with a little effort. Johhny cakes are 95% corn meal with a mixture of milk and oil to hold it together while cooking. My pieces all weigh between 40 and 50 grams each. According to the USDA degermed, enriched, yellow Cornmeal provides 370 calories per 100 grams. Doing High School math that means that it has 3.7 calories/gram so a piece of Hardtack between 40-50 grams has provides roughly 148-185 calories, that is a tiny bit more than hardtack. Like 2-3 calories more. A bouillon cube provides roughly 5 calories per cube. As with Hardtack I use two cubes for two cups of broth. It totals out to a Johnny Cake and broth meal consisting of two bouillon cubes and one Johnny Cake providing 162-205 calories, not much, but not insignificant either and if you use two pieces of Johnny Cake you get a decent mid-day meal that you can easily supplement with jerky or something else as Civil War soldiers commonly did.

The fixings in a civilized garage

The fixings in a civilized garage

Johnny Cake as I have it packaged

Johnny Cake as I have it packaged

I cooked it up in the same way I did the Hardtack. I used 2 cups of water, brought it to a rolling boil and then dissolved 2 cubes of chicken bouillon in it. Once the bouillon cubes had dissolved I added the crumbled up Johnny Cake to the broth and boiled it for another 5 minutes. I vacuum packed my Johnny Cakes and added an oxygen absorber to each package because since they are made with milk and oil they will probably go rancid a lot faster than Hardtack will. I also came up with the bright idea of sing the butt end of my camp knife to crush the cake up while it was still packed to hopefully avoid a huge mess and losing most of the Johnny Cake to scattering. It actually worked out quite well as you can see in the video.

The finished product

The finished product

As to eating it. Johnny Cakes actually add a little flavor to the broth unlike Hardtack which essentially tastes like cardboard. The difference is the same as the difference between eating a piece of white bread and eating a piece of cornbread. The Johnny Cake also softened up better. Where Hardtack tended to just turn into a doughy mass, the Johnny Cake breaks up into smaller chunks and has a more gruel like consistency. I think of the two Hardtack and Johnny Cakes, I prefer the Johnny Cakes as they simply taste better and are more palatable. Johnny Cakes are bulkier than Hardtack though so they take up more space, even if they don’t weigh any more than Hardtack. I will probably end up packing slightly more Hardtack than Johnny Cake in my BOB and GOTH bags simply because I think Hardtack will keep better in the long-term than Johnny Cake.

Plan on supplementing Hardtack and Johnny Cake with something else. I personally have sugar, salt, some dried beans, and jerky in my kit as well several cut down MREs and some commercial rations. In my BOB I only have about three days’ worth of hard rations but in my GOTH I have about two weeks’ worth of hard rations and a selection of salt and spices to make food taken from the wild taste better. In all I have about 25% of the load in my GOTH bag is food or food prep items.  My GOTH bag is going to get totaly repacked and reconfigured in a month or so when my ruck mod gets back to me though.

All that being said, neither Hardtack nor Johnny Cakes are nutritionally complete as the armies on both sides of the civil war recognized. Hardtack and Johnny Cakes were just one component of a daily camp ration that consisted of: 12 oz of pork or bacon or 1 lb. 4 oz of fresh or salt beef; 1 lb. 6 oz of soft bread or flour, 1 lb. of hard bread, or 1 lb. 4 oz of cornmeal. Per every 100 rations there was issued 1 peck of beans or peas; 10 lb. of rice or hominy; 10 lb. of green coffee, 8 lb. of roasted and ground coffee, or 1 lb. 8 oz of tea; 15 lb. of sugar; 1 lb. 4 oz of candles, 4 lb. of soap; 1 qt of molasses. In addition to or as substitutes for other items, desiccated vegetables, dried fruit, pickles, or pickled cabbage might be issued. The marching ration consisted of: 1 lb. of hard bread, 3/4 lb. of salt pork or 1 1/4 lb. of fresh meat, plus the sugar, coffee, and salt. Source for both ration lists is the “The Civil War Dictionary” by Mark M. Boatner III.

Johnny Cake # 1

I made my Johnny Cake on Monday.  I used the below recipe to make it.  One thing I have to say up front is that the recipe says you should be able to use a spoon to drop it onto the baking pan.  That was not my experience.  When I mixed everything up it was kind of sticky but more clumpy than liquid.  I ended up making balls of the dough with my hand and putting them into the pan like that.  There was also more waste than I thought there would be as you can see from the picture of the finished product. I have not tried to prepare them yet so I can’t speak to how they taste.

The Fixings

The Fixings

Mixed up in the bowl

Mixed up in the bowl

Just before going into the oven

Just before going into the oven

Regarding storage I am not sure these are as amenable to long-term storage as Hardtack because they have both milk and oil in the recipe.  I am going to vacuum seal these just as I did the hardtack but I think I’m going to throw an oxygen absorber into each package in an attempt to extend the shelf life.  I will probably have one for lunch next week sometime and put the video of that together and post it then.  I also have video of making Johnny Cake but I have not put it together yet.  It will go up as soon as I am done editing it as well.  As usual, I will put up a post when the video is posted.

Here is the recipe I got from the Arkansas History Hub at: http://www.arhistoryhub.com/civil-war-make-your-own-hardtack-and-johnny-cake/

The Finished Product

The Finished Product

Necessary Supplies for Johnny Cake:

  • 2 cups cornmeal
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Mixing bowl
  • Cookie Sheet

Instructions for Making Johnny Cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Lightly grease a cookie sheet with butter or vegetable oil.
  3. Mix all dry ingredients together in the mixing bowl.
  4. Add all wet ingredients to the dry.
  5. Mix together until the batter is very stiff.
  6. Use a spoon to drop the batter onto the cookie sheet, very much like making “drop biscuits.”
  7. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the biscuits are lightly browned.
  8. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.


Hardtack -How to Prepare It & Eat It

I had the time today so I decided to go out to the garage and prepare some hardtack to eat for lunch.  Two reasons for this. 1. I wanted to know if it was worthwhile for me to make more (if it tasted like shit I was not going to add it to my BOB/GOTH) and 2. I wanted to see how long it would take.  I made it using the gear I would use in a collapse and do use when I go camping.

Campingaz Twister Stove and Canister

Campingaz Twister Stove and Canister

The stove I have is a Campingaz Twister+ that I bought in 2003 before I deployed to Iraq.  I used it throughout my tour there for coffee and other stuff and have used it ever since.  I bought my stove in Europe and have not been able to find the same stove in the US although there are similar stoves out there and I can at least buy gas bottles here.  The closest thing I have found is the Coleman Exponent F1 Ultralight Stove and I can use the Coleman Butane / Propane gas canisters with my stove.

Implements of destruction

Implements of destruction

I used my Olicamp Mug and initially attempted to use an MRE spoon I have used for years but it melted in the boiling water so I pulled out my combo utensil fork/spoon/knife to finish with.


Hardtack and Bouillon vacuum packed

Hardtack and Bouillon vacuum packed

I have taken and vacuum packed my hardtack and bouillon cubes for storage.  I chose to pack them in essentially single serving packages.  That is, one or two squares of hardtack per package and two bouillon cubes per package. The red cubes are beef bouillon and the yellow cubes are chicken.  I used Wyler’s chicken bouillon cubes because those are the one I like the best flavor-wise.  I got them at the local grocery store but if you want, they can also be ordered online at a significant markup from what you will pay in the store.

The recipe I used for making my hardtack came from an article on the Arkansas History Hub at: http://www.arhistoryhub.com/civil-war-make-your-own-hardtack-and-johnny-cake/

Here it is:

Necessary Supplies for Hardtack: 

  • 2 cups flour
  • ½ to ¾ cup water
  • Salt (5-6 pinches)
  • Mixing bowl
  • Rolling pin
  • Cookie Sheet
  • Fork

Instructions for Making Hardtack

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Add all dry ingredients into the mixing bowl, and then add wet ingredients. Mix all ingredients together. Use extra flour if necessary to make sure the dough is no longer sticky. However, be careful not to make the dough too dry. If you add too much flour, add slightly more water.
  3. Knead the dough until it is easy to work with.
  4. Spread the dough onto the ungreased cookie sheet.
  5. Use the rolling pin to roll the dough into a rectangular shape. Hardtack was around a half inch thick, so don’t worry about making the dough thin.
  6. Bake the dough for 30 minutes.
  7. Take the dough out of the oven and cut it into large squares (around 3 inches by 3 inches). Use a fork to poke 16 to 20 holes into each square.
  8. Flip the squares and return to the oven for 30 more minutes.
  9. Allow the hardtack to completely cool inside the oven. Be careful when biting into a cracker, as they do get very hard when completely cool.

Now, let me describe the hardtack that results.  It is a three inch square roughly 3/8 of an inch thick and hard as a rock.  After you let it dry and cool completely it actually crumbles into chunks with a little effort.  Hardtack is essentially wheat and salt.  My pieces all weigh between 40 and 50 grams each.  According to the USDA white, all-purpose, enriched, unbleached Wheat flour provides 364 calories per 100 grams.  Doing High School math that means that it has 3.64 calories/gram so a piece of hardtack between 40-50 grams has provides roughly 146-182 calories.  A bouillon cube provides roughly 5 calories per cube.  I use two cubes for two cups of broth.  It totals out to a hardtack and broth meal providing of two bouillon cubes and one square of hardtack providing 160-200 calories, not much, but not insignificant either and if you use two pieces of hardtack you get a decent mid-day meal that you can easily supplement with jerky or something else as Civil War soldiers commonly did also.

MY cup with tick marks

My cup with tick marks

I prepared the broth first.  I made two cups (16oz.) of broth.  My cup has handy tick lines on the side to aid in measuring the liquid in the cup.  To make the broth you first heat the water to a rolling boil and then drop the bouillon cubes in and stir until they are dissolved.  Reduce the heat to simmer the water and then crumble the hardtack into the broth.  Keeping the broth at a simmer let it boil for another 5-10 minutes so the hardtack soaks up the water.  After you remove it from the heat let it sit for a bit (another5-10 minutes) so that it cools enough to eat it.  The hardtack should soften to the point where you can chew it.


Prepared Hardtack

It actually does not taste very bad.  The broth itself is pretty good and the hardtack had essentially no flavor so it soaks up the broth flavor.  The hardtack takes on the consistency of rubber and is quite chewy when you rehydrate it.  The best description I can think of for their consistency is shitty dumplings.  Think dumplings from Chicken and Dumplings that are not quite cooked all the way and are therefore rubbery and sticky at the same time.  They don’t taste bad, they essentially taste like nothing.  I can see why Civil War soldiers hated it so much.

Hardtack will keep you alive but it is food you will get no enjoyment out of.  Since keeping you alive is the point of survival food and flavor is at best a secondary concern hardtack is suitable.  I will be making more hardtack and adding it to both my family’s food storage and putting some in both BOB and GOTH bags.  It is light, compact, and calorie rich.  The perfect survival food.

The next experiment is making Johnny Cake.

Hardtack -How to Prepare It # 1

How to prepare hardtack and a taste test coming soon. I am eating it for lunch right now and putting the video together. I hope to have the video edited and uploaded by this afternoon but it will go up by tomorrow at the latest. It depends on how much my video editing software fights me on it. The below picture is what it looks like prepared in broth.

Prepared Hardtack

Prepared Hardtack

It is better than I thought but not something I want to eat every day. I can totally understand why Civil War soldiers hated it. I am going to be making Johnny Cake later this afternoon.

The Mundane of Everyday Survival-The Sewing Kit


GOTH Sewing Kit on the left and BOB Sewing Kit on the Right

In line with my contention that most prepping sites spend an awful lot of time talking about politics and/or weapons here is an attempt on my part to change that. Just about every BOB/GOTH list out there has a sewing kit on it. What they don’t really talk about are minimum content requirements.
At a minimum, the items in your sewing kit are dual use. That is, if you can sew up a ripped pant leg with it then you can equally sew up a ripped leg. The thread and needles in a typical sewing kit are not designed for sewing up flesh but when needs must, they can double as a suture kit in a pinch although I would not necessarily plan on using it as such except in the complete absence of suitable suture material. The danger of introducing infection by using the thread in your kit is pretty high but in my book the risks of bleeding to death because you don’t suture a wound versus maybe getting an infection from dirty thread kind of balance out and there is a lot you can do as far as wound care to lessen the risks of infection even further.

I actually have two different sewing kits, one in my GOTH kit that has more in it and another, smaller kit in my BOB. I bought both at Exchange Military Clothing Sales stores while I was still in the Army but kits that are substantially the same are available commercially. My GOTH sewing kit is an ACU/ABU sewing kit from Vanguard and I have added some things to it and also repacked it a little. Rothco has a GI Style Sewing Kit that is almost exactly the same as my original kit except for the carrying pouch. My small kit in my BOB is a Raine Military Sewing Kitand can be bought commercially although the price on Amazon is about double what I paid for mine. There are plenty of other kits out there and which one you carry is really a matter of personal preference.

My GOTH sewing kit is 4in X 4.5 in X 1 in thick and weighs 65g while the one in my BOB is 3 in X 3 in X ½ in thick and only weighs 40g. I have a random stuff pouch on my BOB and that is where I keep my sewing kit. I am still in the process of tweaking my GOTH setup (and waiting for my new ruck to get back to me), so I have not finalized where it will be there but probably somewhere synonymous.


My handy matchbox needle carrier. I am sure you could find a small aluminum or plastic case for this but the matchbox works just as well and did not cost anything.

Let’s talk about contents. The absolute minimum gear you should have in your sewing kit are a needle, thread, and some spare buttons. My GOTH sewing kit has more than that, actually quite a bit, but my BOB kit has just the basics.  One thing I have done is put all the small loose items into small Ziploc bags to keep them from floating around inside the pouch and potentially getting dropped and lost when you open the pouch.  I also took all the needles and pins in my GOTH Sewing Kit and put them into a matchbox I had laying around.  This keeps the needles together and keeps me from sticking myself with them when I am digging around in the kit.

Here are the lists:


BOB Sewing Kit opened

BOB Sewing Kit Contents

  • Carrying Pouch – The pouch has three internal pockets to keep stuff organized
  • Thread – 2 spools; one black one green
  • Sewing Needles – 2
  • Safety pins – 2
  • Stick Pins – 2
  • One pair foldable scissors
  • Fatigue Buttons – 5

GOTH Sewing Kit opened

GOTH Sewing Kit Contents

  • Carrying Pouch – The pouch has one internal pocket and a bunch of elastic loops inside to keep stuff organized
  • Thread – 8 spools; 3 black, 2 green, 1 tan, 1 yellow, 1 white
  • Sewing Needles – 6
  • Safety pins – 4
  • Stick Pins – 4
  • One pair small scissors
  • Various Buttons – 12
  • Thimble
  • Needle Threader – 1
  • Measuring Tape – 5 feet long

Of Course here are the Amazon Links to sewing kits similar to the two kits I am using and have modified

Excellent Food Planning Link

Ran across this excellent resource today run by the USDA – the National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference. This database has over 8,000 different foods in it and contains detailed information on all of them to include calorie counts and nutritional content such as vitamins, proteins, and fats. This could be an invaluable reference when planning what to pack and store to get the most nutritional bang for your storage buck. The website is here: http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/

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