Dec 8, 2008

Product Review: Streamlight Sidewinder

I just recently purchased the Streamlight Sidewinder, and all I can say is, "Cool!"

Streamlight claims that the Sidewinder is the most versatile light in the world, and the more I play with mine, the more I tend to believe them. This little light is literally 20 lights in one. There are two versions that you can purchase, but there is only one little difference. One of the versions has an IR (Infra-red) light, and the other has a green light in the IR's place. I purchased the one with the green light, since I currently don't own any night vision devices. The light has 4 LED lights, each with 4 brightness settings, and each with a strobe setting. The different LED's are: white, red, blue, and either IR or green. There is a push button on the side of the angle head that controls everything from on/off function, brightness settings, and to activate the strobe feature. One click simply turns the light on or off, push and hold to adjust the brightness, or simply double click the button to turn on the strobe. The pull and turn rotator on the outside of the push button changes the color of your LED, and is large enough to operate with gloves on.

For me, one of the best features of the Sidewinder is that it requires two AA akaline or lithium batteries. If you remember from one of my previous articles, it is a good idea to have everything run off of the same type of battery. Since my digital camera, GPS, and hand held radio all take AA batteries, it was a no-brainer to pick up one of these ingenious lights.

Here are some of the more detailed specifications of the light from

*Mounts to MOLLE or ACH for hands-free use
*High-impact, super-tough nylon case
*Battery polarity indicators for easy replacement in the dark
*Unbreakable, gasket-sealed polycarbonate lens with scratch-resistant coating
*O-ring sealed for waterproof operation. Meets MIL-STD-810F, Method 512.4
*Tethered tailcap to prevent loss
*Cord attachment hole supports up to 25 lbs
*Articulating 185° rotating head
*Clip can be mounted on either side of the light
*Dimensions: 4.63" High; 2.31" Wide
*Weight: 4.96 ounces
*Available in Coyote Tan and Green
*US and foreign patents pending
*One year limited warranty

Overall, I'm very pleased with the Sidewinder, and it will be a permanant addition to my "bug-out-kit". Being able to use different color and brightness settings along with every color being able to have strobe capabilities will definitely help you live to see tomorrow.

Dec 2, 2008


How do you remember what to do, or how to do something when all heck has broken loose? Some people might be able to just remember, others may need a little reminder. Acronyms are great ways to help remember important tips, tricks, or even skills. Here is a small accumulation of some that I feel are important to remember, and a couple that I've put together myself.

METT-T: This is an old military acronym for how you will go about with staying alive.
M: Mission. Whether it's a military mission, or just the goal of surviving, stay focused on the situation.
E: Enemy. Again, whether we are talking about people, or just obstacles, keep track of what you might be up against.
T: Terrain. What kind of terrain are you operating in? Know your surroundings.
T: Troops. Who do you have with you, and how can they be of importance to the mission/goal?
T: Time Available. What is the time frame for the mission/goal. Long term survival or a short military raid? You need to determine how much time is on hand.

SURVIVAL: Keep this acronym handy for when you might get lost or abandoned in the elements.
S: Seek Shelter. Depending on the elements (weather, altitude, etc..) your body can only survive for a short amount of time. Shelter should be the first priority on your list.
U: Unpack. Once you've established some sort of shelter from the elements, unpack everything you have. Take inventory of whats there, and then repack with the most essential items within easy reach.
R: Recon. Explore the immediate area around your shelter. Look for water sources, food sources, firewood, game trails, or anything that might help you get out of your situation, or make the situation better.
V: Vaccinate. Take care of any cuts, scratches, and anything else that can get infected. Even the smallest scratch can get infected and cause a ton of pain and troubles later.
I: Ignite. Start a fire. Even if it's hot out, nights get cold, even in the desert. More than anything, a fire can boost moral, signal for help, boil contanimated water, and cook food. Make sure you have plenty of firewood to last through the night.
V: Visualize. See yourself surviving and making it out alive. Your mind can be your best friend or your worst enemy. If you have the will to live, and can see yourself living to see tomorrow, you have a huge advantage.
A: Action. Don't just sit there and wait for somebody to come along and save you. Continue to collect firewood, food, water, and continue to make improvements on your shelter. It may be awhile before somebody finds you. You can also venture a little farther from your shelter every day, so you can see whats around the next bend. Just be careful not to get injured or lost again.
L: Listen. Whenever you have the chance, listen to your surroundings. If you haven't found a water source, maybe you'll be able to hear a river or stream. You might be able to hear dogs if there is a search party out looking for you. Even the sound of birds and chipmunks can boost moral and let you know there aren't any predators in your area.

Never Eat Soggy Wheat. A good way to remember where the points on a compass are.

Never: North

Eat: East

Soggy: South

Wheat: West
If you make a circle and start at the top; that is where North will be. Going clock-wise, the far right of the circle will be East, the bottom is South, and the far left of the circle is West.

SHELTER: Here is an acronym that I came up with to you help you build a good shelter.
S: Sturdy. Make sure your shelter is safe and sturdy. If you find a cave, make sure the roof isn't going to cave in, or that fallen tree isn't so rotten that it will crash down on you.
H: High ground. You don't want your shelter in a low spot where rain water will channel through or pool up, making for a long and wet night.
E: Entrance. You'll want to be able to enter your shelter easily without the risk of knocking down part of it, but you want to keep out as much of the cold are also. This part might take some trial and error, but keep working at it, because a good shelter may be the only thing you have going for you.
L: Level. Unless you like to sleep on a slope or on top of rocks, try to keep your shelter on level ground. Look for any uneven spots and flatten them until you think you'll be comfortable. Lay down and try it out before you build. The last thing you want is to finish your shelter and find a huge rock right in the middle that you can't unbury.
T: Time. In some situations, you might have to make a hasty shelter. (Just something to get out of the downpour.) But, if you know you are lost and might be there for a couple days, take your time and build a good sturdy and dry shelter. Heck, this is your new home for a few days; might as well make it as comfortable as you can.
E: Escape. You might want to make an escape route out of your shelter. If a predator decides he likes your shelter and doesn't like the idea of sharing it with you, you'll probably need an alternate way out.
R: Relax. Once you're satisfied with your shelter, take some time to lay in it and relax. More than likely, you spent a ton of energy building your shelter. Don't forget, there is still lots and lots of work to do to live to see tomorrow.

KISS: Another acronym stemming from the military, but it basically tells you to keep things simple.
K: Keep
I: It
S: Simple
S: Stupid
Keep It Simple, Stupid. Sometimes, the best solutions are the simplest. If things seem to get too complicated, then go back to keeping it simple. It's like trying to pack a survival kit. You can't carry everything including the kitchen sink, so keep it simple and train with what you can carry.

I hope these few acronyms will help give you an idea on how to simplify remembering certain terms. You can also make up your own if it's easier for you to memorize. As long as it works for you, then it's the right way to do it. You never know, maybe this will help you live to see tomorrow.

Nov 24, 2008

CTS Defensive Handgun Skills 1 Class

"INDEX!", "HEEL-TOE, HEEL-TOE!", "OVER THE TOP!" These are just some of the phrases I heard yelled at me on Saturday while attending Center Target Sports' Defensive Handgun Skills 1 class, taught by CTS's founder/owner Edward Santos in Post Falls, Idaho.

I was a little hesitant to attend this class at first, but after the first hour, I realized I didn't know nearly as much as I thought I did when it comes to defensive shooting. Mr. Santos is a retired Army officer, author, and a reserve deputy for Kootenai County, Idaho. Throughout the 8 hour class, Ed was able to point things out that I have never thought of, much less considered when drawing, firing, and re holstering. The class is limited to 10 students, cost $150 to attend, and you have to bring your own 250 rounds of ammunition, (you can buy it at the class or bring in your own from another store) a holster, spare magazine, magazine carrier, and hearing and eye protection. The first 4 hours of class is in a classroom environment, but believe me, Ed makes that 4 hours fly by like nothing. His antics and teaching strategy keeps your attention and really makes you think hard about your own shooting habits. After the first 4 hour segment (every 1 hour of class time, you get a 10 minute break) you break for a 1 hour lunch. You can bring your own lunch, but there is a variety of fast food chains within a few blocks of Center Target Sports. When you return for lunch, everybody meets in the classroom with all your range gear and move to the indoor tactical shooting range. Once inside the range, Ed will brief everyone on his safety rules, and then you jump right into the practical exercises. For the next 45 minutes or so, you will learn Ed's way of drawing, drawing and moving, changing magazines, changing magazines and moving, shooting while moving, and then learn how to put all these into one fluid movement. Once Mr. Santos feels comfortable with everyone in the group, you go straight into the live fire portion of the class. Most of the shooting involves draw and move, dynamic grip, sight picture, fire, and re holster. After the stationary firing, Ed puts out targets that require you to move from your firing line, and he also makes some of the targets move and come towards you. If you are like me and carry a .45 caliber with a 7 round magazine, you will become VERY proficient with changing magazines compared to the guys/gals with high capacity magazines. I found myself dealing with mis-feeds and magazine changes a heck of alot more than I wanted to throughout the day. Ed also displayed his ability in shooting, and all I can say is, I'm glad I was on his side of the barrel. (Even while he shot his Glock holding it upside down.) I don't want to spoil the whole class for you, so I will finish by saying, Edward Santos and Center Target Sports earned a lifelong customer out of me and Ed will see me in a whole lot more of his classes, including this one. (You can repeat any class you've already attended for the rest of your life for free.) Thank you for your professionalism and time Ed.

If you would like to attend one of Edward Santos' classes, please visit: to view his class descriptions and schedules, or call 208-773-2331.
If time and finances permit, take some of these type of classes so you can be more prepared to live to see tomorrow.

Nov 18, 2008

Situational Awareness

Do you notice that guy walking around with a winter coat on when it's 95 degrees outside? Do you know what direction your plane is flying when you cross the country? See the person driving in front of you talking on their cell phone and drinking a cup of coffee at the same time? Do you remember which way you went when there was a fork in the trail? These are all examples of situational awareness. The term basically means, knowing what is going on around you and taking notice of the small details. In this post, I will discuss different ways you can have more situational awareness, in both the wilderness and in urban settings.


Terrain: When you're out hiking, take in the surrounding areas, not only for the beauty and scenery, but also for the sake of finding your way back. If you're hiking on trails, make sure you take note of any turns or forks you follow, and also the terrain you are hiking in. Terrain features are areas that stand out like, ravines, valleys, hilltops, cliffs, and even rivers and lakes. Watch for terrain features as you are hiking, that way you have something to
recognize when you return to that spot.

Weather: Anytime you are out in the wild, you want to watch the skies. Bad weather can move in without much warning, and when that happens, you will want to be as prepared as you can. Listening for thunder can also be a life saver. If you hear thunder in the distance, you either want to start heading back to the car, camp, or in the worst case, build yourself a shelter to endure a long wet night. If you are out during the late fall, watch for the first tales of snow falling. Not that hiking or camping in the snow is a serious threat, but if you're not prepared for it, then you need to think about getting out of there.

Animals: I pretty much already covered this area in an earlier post, but just to recap. Watch for animal droppings while you are out and about. If you start seeing alot of bear, moose, cougar, or any other large animal droppings, keep your eyes and ears open for more signs of the animal itself. Also, watch for snakes, bees, and any other creature that you might not want to come across while you and your family are out enjoying the afternoon. A rattlesnake bite can ruin a picnic real quick.

All in all, while you are out enjoying the great outdoors, don't fall short because you wanted to walk and "veg out". Always keep your senses open and even let your imagination run a little bit. You'd be suprised at how many times my imagination actually helped keep me and my family out of danger.


Convenience stores: If you go into the gas station late at night to buy yourself a candy bar and you notice a person wandering around with his hands in his pockets and his eyes are shifting back and forth nervously, take note and watch this person. Or pay as soon as you can and get out. (Sit in your car for a few minutes to watch and see what happens. If the person robs the place, you can call the police. If they buy something and leave, you didn't do any harm by watching the store clerks back.) If you are in the store while it's getting robbed, remain calm and try to stay out of sight. If you are comfortable confronting the suspect, then by all means, use YOUR best judgement and make the move. (I will not be responsible for your actions in these situations.)

ATM's: When you go to your local ATM to withdraw some money, just take a look around and see who's watching you or hanging out around the machine. If you see someone that looks like trouble, then most likely they are trouble. Find another ATM. Your life is not worth risking over the $300 most banks allow for a days worth of withdrawals.

Weather: Again, weather can be a huge factor on what we do everyday. If you want to go out shopping, but the weatherman said there is a possibility of a tornado in your area, you should probably save your money and wait for another day. Most major weather systems are seen before they hit major urban areas (except earthquakes) so when you wake up in the morning, turn on the weather channel or check the weather on the internet before you plan your big day out on the town. If you are already in town and some serious wind and rain come in, just be aware of your surroundings, because this type of weather will affect everybodies patience and judgement.


Airplanes: Whether you are flying from the east coast to the west coast, or flying across the Atlantic Ocean, you should always be aware of the direction of travel. It may seem easy, but the plane does not always fly straight east or straight west. I once flew to South Korea from Seattle, and the plane went north toward Alaska before heading west. Most flights offer a up to date map of where the plane is, which direction it is flying, and when you will reach your destination. If possible, look out the window and watch the ground. See if you are flying over mountains, water, or desert. This way, in the event of a crash, you will know what kind of terrain you will have to deal with in order to find help or survive the long wait until help arrives. Lastly, listen to the flight attendants and pilot. They have been doing their job for awhile and probably know what they are talking about when they tell you to keep your seatbelt on and your trays in the upright position.
Boats: Cruise ships, sailboats, and ski boats all have one thing in common. They can sink. Hopefully you have the proper life vests and signalling equipment, but it still might be awhile before help arrives. As with flying, know which direction you are travelling and which way it is to dry land. If you are the captain of the boat, make sure you watch the water for debris or anything that can damage the hull of your boat. The last thing you want to do is turn your ski boat into the Titanic because you were watching the babes on the jet skis. Also, boating is a very important time to watch the weather. If the weather seems like it's gonna turn foul, by all means, turn back and go out on the water another day. We have all read to many news stories about family members drowning in the lake, because their boat capsized on a windy day. Think safety and think about making home to your family.

Driving: Here's the tricky one. Everybody that drives gets distracted. Distractions can cause accidents. But, here are some tips on keeping situational awareness while travelling by automobile, motorcycle, or even bicycle. If you need to talk on your cell phone, pull over where it's safe to and make/take your call. Don't ever text message while driving your vehicle. Eating food while driving is another major distraction. Try to keep eating in the car down to snacks and not meals. It's alot easier to eat a candy bar then it is to hold and eat a double bacon cheeseburger. Loud music can also be a huge distraction. You may not hear the sirens of an emergency vehicle, or you might get into your music to much and worry more about singing along than paying attention. When you are driving down the highway, watch your mirror for traffic coming up behind you and to the side of you. If you want to change lanes, don't depend on your mirrors alone; you have blind spots. Take that extra second to turn your head and check your blind spot. USE YOUR BLINKERS! They aren't there for looks. They let other drivers know what you intend to do before you do it, whether you're changing lanes or turning onto a side street. And for goodness sakes, don't turn your blinker on while you are turning. Turn it on before you get to the intended turning point. When you approach intersections, check for other vehicles or pedestrians that want to cross that intersection. You don't know what they are thinking, so be prepared for the worst. If that person decides to pull out in front of you, being prepared for that, may be enough to brake and avoid a collision. Watch for any animals that might be on the side of the road. I've avoiding hitting numerous deer, just for the simple reason, I saw them and was prepared for them to jump out in front of me. Same goes for dogs, cats, raccoons, or any other animal that might get in the road. Weather can be the most dangerous to us when mixed with driving. Snow, fog, rain, and even a hot dry day, can affect our driving skills. The best advice I can give here is SLOW DOWN. And, for you SUV and four wheel drive vehicle drivers; all four tires spinning helps you get started, but four wheels locked up on ice is just that. All cars have four wheels, and all cars and brakes on all four wheels. FOUR WHEEL DRIVE DOES NOT HELP YOU STOP! It's a proven fact that fog makes drivers go faster. It has to do with depth perception, so watch your speedometer and keep it slow. As far as the hot days go, keep hydrated and well rested. Heat has a tendancy to make you more tired, and long driving trips can wear you down quickly. Whatever situation you find yourself in while driving, remember that it's always better to show up late, then it is to never show up at all.

I know I've just barely scratched the surface of situational awareness, but I hope that this gives you a small idea on how you can watch your surrounding to help you and your family live to see tomorrow.

Nov 13, 2008

First Aid Kits

First aid kits are like survival kits; you can't carry everything, but you need to be able to carry enough. What's enough? That depends on you and your family's medical needs and how many people are in your family or group. Is there anyone who has special needs or medications that need to be packed along with the other normal medical supplies? Does somebody have diabetes, allergies, or are they just plain clumsy and might need extra bandages or splints?
The best advice I can give you on this, is to buy a large commercial first aid kit from a store like REI or an outdoor sports type, get home and empty the contents onto the floor or table. Sort through the band-aids, ointments, and other supplies, figure out what you need or don't need, then add your own supplies. (Specialty items for people who need them.) If you determine that the commercial kit just needs more bandages, then go to your local pharmacy and pick up more bandages or whatever else you deem necessary to add to your first aid kit.
Here is a small list of some items that I've added to my kit:

SAM Splint (good for almost any broken or dislocated extremity)
Tylenol (childrens and adults)

Benadryl (for poison oak, sumac, ivy and other allergies)

Medical scissors


Extra Band-Aids (a great remedy for the kids' scrapes and scratches)

Cough drops

Super Glue (works great for deep lacerations that require stitches)

Small hand sanitation gel tubes

Snake bite kit (we have poisonous snakes in my area)
Sting Away (for bee stings, nettles, bug bites, etc)

Glow stick (for night injuries)

This isn't my whole kit, just things that I've added in order to satisfy my families needs. This is in our large first aid kit that stays in the vehicle at all times.

You will also want to make a small first aid kit for everyone's backpack or EDC (everyday carry) bag. This should be a smaller and simpler kit. The EDC first aid kit should contain items that you might need right away, like aspirin, large bandages, band-aids, Super Glue, snake bite kit, Sting Away, and anything else you might think would help the injured until medical care arrives or you can get them to the larger kit.

Every family or group is different, so make sure you can atleast take care of you and your immediate family. If you take the family out for a day hike and someone uses part of the first aid kit, make sure you replace what was used immediately upon returning home. Disasters and emergencies happen in an instant, and you don't want to be caught short a cravat because someone thought it would make a good headband while out hiking and you forgot to replace it.

Everytime you go to the supermarket or sporting goods store, look around their medical/first aid sections. You might see something that you never thought about before and realize that it would make a great addition to your arleady exsisting first aid kit. The more prepared and thought out your first aid kit is, the better chance of living to see tomorrow you'll have.

Nov 10, 2008

Product Review: Kelly Kettle

This weekend I got the chance to use one of the most sensible pieces of survival gear I have yet to run across. It's called the Kelly Kettle. Although, not a lightweight, packable item, if you have to bug out with your vehicle, then the Kelly Kettle is a must have.
The whole kit is comprised of 8 pieces. First is the kettle; an ingenious design with a spout and an internal "stove-pipe". The kettle has a wooden handle for pouring and carrying, and a cork for the pour spout if you want to transport the kettle with water in it. Next is the fire base; a small base where you put any kind of combustible material in to make a fire. The base has a small hole on one side so you can add fuel, or to stick a match through to light your fire. The hole also allows air to fuel your fire once it's burning. The kettle sits on top of this base to boil the water that is inside. You can add fuel (wood, sticks, pine needles, paper, etc.. ) through the top of the stove-pipe, and it falls straight down to the base. The next item goes along with the fire base. It's just a simple two piece screen to set on top of the base if you want to cook right over the fire. Fourth, is a pot stand that you can put onto the top of the "stove-pipe". It does exactly what it says. It holds the cooking pot over the stove-pipe, so while you are waiting for your water to boil, you can also cook or heat up some food. The next 3 pieces are the cooking pot, the lid, and the pot handle. All pretty self explanatory. All of the items listed are made out of a high grade aluminum. The last item is the carrying bag. The bag is made of durable nylon with a drawstring at the top to cinch it closed.
The kettle itself holds approximately 5 cups of water, and once your fire is going in the base, it takes just over 3 minutes to get all 5 cups of water to a boil. To pour the water into your cup or bowl, simply lift the wooden handle to 90 degrees (DO NOT HOLD IT OVER THE STOVE-PIPE!!!) and use the chain to lift the kettle and pour. The stove-pipe acts like a furnace, so all the heat from the fire shoots straight up the pipe and out the top. Once again, DO NOT HOLD THE HANDLE OVER THE STOVE-PIPE!! My dad (it's his Kelly Kettle) cut a small groove into his wooden handle so he can use a knife or stick to pick up the kettle and carry it while the water is boiling. WARNING! Do not boil water with the cork in the spout. We cut a standard 2x4 into a 5 inch piece, then split it into small kindling. Half of that was enough to boil the 5 cups of water, so as you can see, it doesn't take alot to get this thing hot.
Overall, I'm very impressed with the Kelly Kettle and I will be adding one to my long term survival kit soon. Everything nestles inside of the kettle for easy storing and transporting. The only downside to this kit I found was, the cooking pot got stuck inside of the fire base. We were able to get it out, but not without damaging the cook pot itself. This is a great cook set if you plan on being out in the wilderness, or without electricity for an extended amount of time. You don't have to worry about packing numerous fuel canisters, or waiting for your firewood to dry before you can have boiling water. Just add anything combustible, and enjoy hot water in under 5 minutes. Visit for more information on pricing and ordering. Don't forget, moral is a huge part of living to see tomorrow.
Thanks to my dad, for letting me try out his Kelly Kettle, so this product review was possible.

Nov 7, 2008

Battery Operated Items

GPS? Check. Flashlight? Check. Walkie Talkie? Check. Digital Camera? Check. Spare Batteries for everything? Che... wait, how many different types of batteries do we need? AA's? CR123's? AAA's?

Spare batteries are always overlooked when people go hiking, camping, or building a survival kit. IF you do remember to pack the extra batteries, do you really want to carry two or three different types? Today's society has gotten caught up in the "coolness" of high end flashlights, GPS's, and digital camera's, but the problem lies in the batteries. What if you keep it simple and buy these items, so they require the same battery? Most GPS's run off of AA batteries, and there are numerous flashlights on the market that take AA's as well. Your camera selection should also lean towards one that requires AA instead of the CR123 battery. If you already have a digital camera that takes a specialized battery, and finances allow, buy another one just for your "kit".

The biggest reason for my advice here is, if your batteries die in your GPS, you can take the ones out of your camera to run your GPS. It could be the difference between staying lost, or getting back to your car. If you carry spares, you only have to carry one type, thus saving space and weight. Of course, this isn't the only way to do things, but to me, it's the easiest and most practical. I own flashlights that require special batteries, but I keep those in my tactical kit, because that is what they are intended for. As far as my survival and hiking kits, I will continue to keep everything simple and use only one type of battery.

My kit includes:

1 Garmin Etrex GPS

1 MagLite AA flashlight

1 Canon digital camera

1 Motorola Talk-About 2 way radio

1 Maxpedition Volta battery case

All these items require 2 AA batteries and the Maxpedition Volta case can carry 8 spare batteries.

Remember, one of the keys to survival is simplicity, and this is just one small way to keep your survival kit simple and easy. People tend to overthink these types of things, so keep it simple and live to see tomorrow.