Survival Themed Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas

Survival Themed Valentines Day Gift Ideas

This post is by Bernie Carr,

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner.  Instead of the usual flowers and chocolate, consider giving a useful gift he or she will use for an “everyday” emergency or to survive a disaster or two.

Inexpensive to Moderately Priced:


Gerber Multitool2

Priced around $22

Swiss army knife

Swiss army knifePriced around $25


Weather Radio with Flashlight, Solar Power and Cell Phone Charger
Weather radio and cell phone charger
Priced around $28

Fold’n Go 2-Burner Stove
Fold and go stove
Priced around $79

Berkey Sport Bottle

Berkey Sport Bottle

Priced around $25

Solar Watch
Solar watch
Priced around $27

Pepper Spray

Pepper sprayPriced around $10

Higher priced:

Food Saver

Food SaverPriced around $120


Gerber Knife

Priced around $60

Backcountry First Aid Kit

Backcountry First Aid Kit

Priced around $60

Indoor Herb Garden


Priced around $140

Hopefully, the above list can give you some ideas on what to get your significant other for Valentine’s Day.  You can also choose an educational gift such as a firearms safety course, a canning class or a survival training weekend.

© Apartment Prepper 2016

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BYB Portable LED Light Review


I had an opportunity to test the BYB Portable LED Light.


It came in wrapped in plastic in a plain white box.  It is a mini lantern that has handles that you can hang.  There were no instructions on the box, just a thank you for purchasing.  However, the lantern looks really easy to operate, so no instructions are really needed.


The bottom part of the lantern unscrews and inside is the battery compartment.  It did not come with batteries.  It uses three AA batteries, which I keep around for emergencies.  I placed the batteries and resealed it.

There is no one/off button or switch.  To activate, you just slide and pull the light out.  You can adjust the brightness by how far you pull it out.  If you want a super bright light, slide it out all the way.


I must say it gives out a very bright light when pulled out at maximum.


-very bright


-small size but lights up the room just fine.


-it is said to be waterproof but I did not see any seals that would keep water out.  That said, I would not be submerging this lantern anyway.   I used it next to the shower, simulating rain, and it worked just fine.  Water can get trapped inside but it drains out.

The Pros definitely outweigh the Con.  I like the lantern enough to take it with me on my next camping trip.  And I will definitely keep it around for emergencies.

Disclosure: This is a professional review site that sometimes receives free merchandise from the companies whose products we review and recommend. We are independently owned and the opinions expressed here are our own. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

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How Do You Know if Your Water is Safe?

How do you know if your water is safe

This post is by Bernie Carr,

The news about the contaminated water in Flint Michigan has been very disturbing to say the least.  It is bad enough their drinking water has been polluted for the last couple of years, but they are still being billed outrageous amounts of money for water they are barely using.  Now there could potentially be another town that has lead contamination in its water supply.

How do you know if your tap water is safe?

Examine your water

Color  In my last residence, the water coming out of the tap had a brownish tinge and had a lot of sediment.  At first I thought we had old pipes, but I talked to the neighbors who had lived in the neighborhood for years and said their water always had sediment.  They said this was normal and were not too concerned about it.  I read up on it and found that a reddish or brownish tinge in water indicates manganese or iron in the water.  The presence or iron and manganese is generally harmless, but they may also cause a metallic taste or smell.  This brings me to the next things to look for.

Smells and Taste  Notice the smell of your tap water.  Generally, I notice a heavy chlorine smell, caused by the processing of water in the treatment plant to kill bacteria and viruses.  You should be wary of rotten egg smells or chemical smells as they may indicate contamination.  The water should not have any odd tastes or smells.

Because I did not like the color and taste of the water, I started using my Berkey water filter on a daily basis.  I even posted about it here.  I have since moved away from that area but continue to use the Berkey.  

You need to continuously monitor your water.  Last week, I noticed the water coming out of the tap in the kitchen and bathroom was brown when I first turned it on.  I called the building manager and he said the water company flushed out all the fire hydrants in the area and the brownish water resulted.   He said their own water in the office was the same brownish color.

How does this happen?   Fire departments flush hydrants from time to time to ensure the hydrants have adequate flow and pressure.  When a hydrant is flushed, the flow reverses in the water main.  The sediment in the system enters the residents’ pipes, resulting in brown water.  The brown water may include sediment and rust particles but is considered safe.  Nevertheless, residents are advised to let the water run clear before using the water.  We did let the water run for a while and it eventually turned clear.

Here is an article I wrote a while back regarding water contamination and backflow:  What You Need to Know about Water Contamination

Review your water quality report

Public water suppliers are required by law to provide their customers with an annual water quality report, also known as Consumer Confidence Report.  If you live in an apartment you may not receive one directly and you will have to check with your building manager for a copy.  Or, ask the manager for the name of your water company and find the report through their website.

You can also access these reports via the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

If you get your water from a well in your property, you will not get this report and may have to get your water independently tested.  Here is some additional information on private water wells

Have your water tested

You can have your water tested by an independent testing laboratory .  You can find a list of Certified Laboratories here. 

Or you can call the Safe Drinking Water Hotline at (800) 426-4791 to find To find a state certified laboratory in your area.

Home Testing Kits

The TDS EC Meter is one way you can test your water and is available from Amazon.

The Berkey Guy carries water testing kits as well:  WaterSafe Water Test Kit for Lead, Water Safe City Water Test Kit and WaterSafe Well Water Test Kit

Before purchasing your water test kit, take a look a this PDF for some additional information:  Home Water Testing

Additional Resources

Water is essential to survival; arm yourself with as much information as possible about this resource.  Read The Prepper’s Water Survival Guide by Daisy Luther, whom I interviewed here.

© Apartment Prepper 2016



Money Mondays: Quick Cash for Unused Gift Cards


Quick Cash for Unused Gift Cards

This post is by Bernie Carr,

Welcome to another Money Mondays, our weekly feature where we discuss savings strategies and ways to make extra cash so you can buy emergency supplies or become more financially prepared.

Today we are looking at a quick way to get cash for unused gift cards.

I am sure everyone has received a gift card or two and never got around to using them.  You might consider re-gifting them throughout the year.

There are sites such as Giftcardgranny or Cardpool where you can sell them online.  But if you want cash on the spot, the Coinstar Exchange may be an option for you.

I had previously used Coinstar for trading in loose change, but a new Coinstar Exchange was installed at one of our local grocery stores.  I tried it out just to see how it works, using a gift card I knew I would never get around to using.


How does it work?

  1.  Scan gift card via the bar code or reader.  The first time I tried it, I had an old restaurant gift card from two years ago and neither the typed bar code number nor the reader worked.  I called the 1-800 number on the card at it still had value in it, just that the reader would not work.  I had another, newer gift card that I received last Christmas and the new one worked.
  2. Next, you identify the brand of gift card on the screen.
  3. CoinStar Exchange offers you an amount and you decide if you want to accept their offer.  In my case, my gift card had a value of $25, and Coinstar Exchange offered $15.25.
  4. You are then instructed to insert your driver’s license, and the screen asks for a phone number and email address.
  5. You insert the gift card into the machine and get a receipt.
  6. Present the receipt at the store’s customer service desk.
  7. They again ask for a driver’s license for security reasons.
  8. You get paid what you were offered.

All in all, I felt I could have received more for the gift card by selling it online, however, I appreciated being able to receive cash right on the spot.  I also wanted to try it to see how it worked so I can post this article  :)  If you try this, you would have to decide if the offer is worth your while.

To find a Coinstar Exchange in your area, try the kiosk finder in their website.

© Apartment Prepper 2016

If you like more money saving ideas and frugal ways to prep, read my latest book:

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Green Belly Meal2Go – Review


This post is by Bernie Carr,

I am always looking for various types of foods to add to our food storage.  When I received in invitation to try GreenBelly Meal2Go, I thought, “Why not?”   A nutritionally balanced meal bar would make a good addition to an emergency food stash.  Plus, I am always looking for lightweight meals that I can take backpacking or hiking.

First, a little background from the company:

What is Greenbelly?
A ready-to-eat super meal that provides 1/3 of your daily nutrition.
How is Greenbelly unique?

Nutritionally Complete. A 650 calorie meal, not a 250 calorie bar.

Ready-to-eat. No preparation and No cleanup.

Healthy. 100% Natural and Gluten Free.

Greenbelly Overview
An easy, healthy and nutritionally complete meal for adventurers. Something for executives working through lunch and cyclists riding through breakfast. We worked with a food scientist and French trained chef last year to develop our three flavors. Each meal provides a tasty and all natural one third of your daily nutrition for six core nutrients: calories, carbs, protein, sodium, fats and fiber. We quickly got orders from all 50 states and then launched a Kickstarter campaign in April 2015. Since April, we have scaled to a larger production facility, improved flavor profiles, new website, new resealable packaging and a growing team. We have the most convenient and nutritionally balanced meal on the market.
Founder’s Story, Chris Cage
Chris Cage, the founder, quit his accounting job in 2012 and spent two years teaching English in Thailand, volunteering at an orphanage in Cambodia, bicycle touring 3,000 miles of New Zealand and finally hiking the 2,185 mile long Appalachian Trail.   He found that nutrition was a constant struggle. Whether it was cycling 100 miles in NZ or hiking 20 miles on the AT, he was burning up to 5,000 calories a day. On the road, getting a proper balance of nutrients required extensive preparation and meal planning. Fast food was unhealthy, fresh fruit was perishable, 250 calorie protein bars weren’t filling and cooking was messy and time consuming. Creating the perfect meal became his mission.
Read More here.

Now for the taste test.


I tried the Cranberry Almond first.

To be honest, I have not found very many food bars that I can rave about.  The ones I have tried tend to be dry, crumbly or have an aftertaste.  I wasn’t sure how this one would fare.

Surprisingly, the Greenbelly bar has a great taste.  You can really taste the fruit and nut pieces, which makes you feel that you are eating something more substantial than a bar.

The bar is also more dense than other bars that I have tried.  It is generously packed with fruit, nuts and grain, and I did not feel it was skimpy at all.  Because of this, I felt more satisfied after eating one bar.

Finally, I did not mind the texture of this bar.  It was moist enough to eat, but not too sticky.

Each meal packet contains two bars, as pictured.  I felt full after just eating one bar, so I saved the other bar for later.

I had Mr. Apt Prepper and Apt Prepper son test out the other two flavors.  They found the same thing as I did, but both ate the two bars in one sitting.

Greenbelly-Mix 3

All three flavors: Dark Chocolate/Banana, Cranberry Almond, Peanut Apricot. Source of photo: www.

All in all, I’d recommend Green Belly Meal2Go for hiking, backpacking, camping and snacking.  As for food storage, the company has tested that it will last up to six months; or longer, if you can freeze it.  However, if you are storing in room temperature, you should rotate them every six months, just as you would cereal and granola bars.  If I had to eat these at least every six months, I would actually look forward to rotating them.  Give them a try!


© Apartment Prepper 2016


Disclosure: This is a professional review site that sometimes receives free merchandise from the companies whose products we review and recommend. We are independently owned and the opinions expressed here are our own. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

Please Welcome our New Sponsor: LifeStack Storage

LifeStack banner 3

This post is by Bernie Carr,

Water, which is crucial for survival, also seems to be one of the most challenging things to store for small space dwellers.  You need a lot of it (at least one gallon per person per day), but you quickly run out of storage space.

That’s why I am excited to welcome our newest sponsor, LifeStack Storage.

LifeStack Storage containers are stack-able one gallon containers that would help small space preppers store water in tight, out of the way spaces.  The containers themselves, pictured below, are lightweight, durable and BPA-free.


LifeStack Storage 1 gallon containers

I have already done a thorough review of the LifeStack Storage containers for water storage and found them well suited for small space storage.   At $10.49 each, they are already reasonably priced, but LifeStack Storage offers discounts for 5, 10 or 20 container purchase.  The more you buy, the more you save.

Please visit LifeStack Storage today and tell them Apartment Prepper sent you.

LifeStack banner 3

© Apartment Prepper 2016



Is the Food Saver Worth It for Apartment Dwellers?


This post is by Bernie Carr,

Avoiding food waste is one of our goals in our household and it is always a challenge.  At the same time, living in a small space makes me evaluate whether an item or gadget is worthwhile to have while using up precious counter space.

When Apt Prepper Daughter got a FoodSaver for Christmas, I was excited for her to try it.

She did the most basic test to see whether meat frozen in a FoodSaver pack would last longer than meat that was frozen in a zip lock bag.

The meat tested was fresh ground beef.

One half was stored in a zip lock bag, and the other half was stored in a FoodSaver vacuum sealed package.

Both packages were stored side by side in the freezer section of the apartment refrigerator.

After three months in the freezer, this is what the ground beef looked like:

Meat stored in the zipped bag:


Meat stored in the FoodSaver vacuum sealed package:foodsaver4

You can tell there is a big difference.  The meat that was vacuum sealed had no freezer burn at all, while the other one had a lot of freezer burn.

In terms of making your frozen foods last longer, the FoodSaver delivered.

When I think about how much money we have wasted from throwing out freezer burned foods over the years, I wish we had used one sooner.

What about using the FoodSaver for long term food storage?

I personally have not tried packaging food for long term storage in the FoodSaver, but one of my trusted bloggers, Gaye over at Backdoor Survival has written all about it.

Read all about it here:  How to Use a Food Saver for Vacuum Canning

If the FoodSaver can help me prevent waste AND help me with long term food storage, then I am in favor of having one.  Although I have had some reservations about having a FoodSaver unit taking up counter space, I can see how the benefits of having one for everyday purposes as well as preparedness uses.

© Apartment Prepper 2016

Money Mondays: Save Money in a Week


This post is by Bernie Carr,

We had an unexpected car repair and the expense threw off this month’s budget.   To find additional funds to add to the prepping budget, we went on a “No spending week.”

Here is what we did:

  • Take out enough cash for gas during the week.  You know roughly how much gas you use to get to and from work, and possibly an errand or two.  That’s it.
  • Pay bills that are due normally (I would never recommend getting behind on your bills-that would set you back further.)
  • No spending for groceries for the whole week.  We used whatever was already in the freezer, refrigerator and pantry but did not break into the emergency food storage.
  • No eating out.
  • No shopping for any new items
  • No spending on movies, or any other entertainment.
  • Avoid spending even on small items such as request for birthday lunches for coworkers, cookie sales etc.

How did we do?

We did surprisingly well.  To tell you the truth, I wasn’t worried about the no shopping and no entertainment spending but I was dubious about not spending any money on groceries.  I always end up running to the store for milk or other ingredients I forgot about but this time I stood firm about not buying anything at the grocery store.  I found enough ingredients in the freezer and pantry to create menu items, substituting when necessary.  We ran out of chips and other snacks but otherwise did not feel deprived at all.  I needed to send a birthday card in the middle of the week, but instead of going to the card shop, I created a handmade card instead.

Cash savings:

No Grocery shopping:  $100

Not eating out:  $40

Gas savings from limiting errands  $20

Total saved:  $160

I’ve received emails in the past from readers who feel they are unable to prep due to lack of funds.  I hope this idea helps others find other ways to save money for prepping.  I honestly thought this would be too difficult for a family to do, but it turned out to be very doable.

Give it a try – you might find you are able to save more money than you thought.


© Apartment Prepper 2016


How to Avoid Catching Dengue Fever and Zika Virus

How to Avoid Catching Dengue Fever and Zika Virus

photo credit: zancudo via photopin (license)

This post is by Bernie Carr,

Lately there have been a slew of mosquito borne diseases in the news.  Hawaii has had an outbreak of dengue fever, and now, the Zika virus is causing illness and even birth defects.

Even if you don’t live in areas where dengue and Zika virus are prevalent, there are other dangerous diseases that can affect you:

  • Malaria
  • Brain inflammation/encephalitis
  • Yellow fever
  • West Nile virus
  • Chikungunya

A simple bite can cause severe itching and rashes.  Pets can also fall victim to mosquito borne diseases:  dogs and cats can get  heartworm disease from a mosquito bite; horses can also be afflicted by encephalitis.  I did not give a thorough description of symptoms, but the CDC has a whole section devoted to Mosquito Borne Diseases

Mosquito-Borne Diseases can easily spread during a disaster

While things are “normal” we can rely on cities and counties to protect against the problem but in the aftermath of a disaster there may not be services available.  If services such as trash pickup, street cleaning are not maintained, the problem could get worse.  If potholes are not filled, pools and other water sources are not treated properly they will become breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

How to protect yourself

If at all possible, avoid traveling to areas that have the mosquitoes that carry the virus.  At this time, the Zika virus is widespread in Brazil and a few other countries; travelers are advised to exercise caution.  One the other hand you may already have travel plans that you’d rather not cancel.  I probably would not pass up a trip to Hawaii even if they have the dengue fever carrying mosquitoes.

Avoiding mosquitoes is your best defense.

What Attracts Mosquitoes?

Moisture and standing water are the obvious ones, and we’ve all heard public service announcements to check the premises and eliminate any puddles.  But mosquitoes are also attracted to few other things:

  • Sweat
  • Carbon dioxide – you give off more carbon dioxide when hot and exercising
  • Lactic acid – also given off during exercise, and after eating salty foods
  • Floral or fruity scents
  • Dark clothing
  • Dark and dense foliage

Eliminate Possible Breeding Areas

Mosquitoes breed in standing or stagnant water such as empty pots, puddles, gutters, pet bowls, empty trash cans etc.  Check your yard and even your balcony.  Remove all possible areas where they can breed.

Ways to Repel Mosquitoes

I know there are many commercial products containing DEET that are effective but I was interested in less harsh remedies.  I’ve tried citronella candles, but have had limited success – your experience may vary.  Here are other ways to avoid getting bitten:

  1. Wear long pants, shirts with long sleeves, and apply insect repellent on exposed areas.
  2. Ceiling fan or floor fan:  When on “fast” setting, fans can generate a two-mile an hour wind, that mosquitoes are unable to fly against.
  3. Thai lemon grass plant:  If grown inside or outside the house, this herb repels mosquites naturally
  4. Catnip oil: Pro – known to work better than DEET and for a longer period;          Con – cats may follow you around.
  5. Herbal Armor Repellant:  This contains a combination of herbal oils and has gotten rave reviews from testers.  Also available for pets.
  6. Avon Skin so Soft with Picardin:  Although originally marketed as a skin moisturizer, the product was discovered to have bug repelling properties.
  7. Dryer sheets:  Some users report great success by rubbing dryer sheets, bu the downside is you get white powdery stuff on you.  I am a bit “iffy” on this due to having allergy prone skin, but I thought I’d include it for informational purposes.
  8. Other essential oils such as peppermint, citronella, tea tree, clove oil, cinnamon oil, lemon oil, eucalyptus oil, or a combination.

Please be aware that even “natural” remedies may have side effects.  Exercise care when trying them out and make sure you test a small area for allergic reactions.  Also, some herbs such as tea tree oil are not recommended for pets.   Any repellents have to be reapplied after sweating, swimming, applying sunscreen, and after a couple of hours once absorbed by the skin.

© Apartment Prepper 2016

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Non-Stick Survival Cookware

Non-Stick Survival Cookware

This post is by Bernie Carr,

Finding cookware that will cook food efficiently in any environment can be a challenge.  It should cook food evenly, with all types of burners, whether you are using gas, electric or a campfire.  It also needs to be sturdy and long-lasting.

I think cast iron cookware fits the bill.  For anyone who is unfamiliar with cast iron, they are the black heavy iron pans that have been around for hundreds of years. 

My mother-in-law actually introduced me to cast iron pans.  Whenever I helped her cook anything in her kitchen, I marveled at how her cast iron pans cooked everything so well:

  • They distribute heat evenly
  • When well seasoned, they work like a non-stick pan, or require very little oil.
  • The same plan will cook well with any type of stove:  electric, gas, you can even stick it in the oven and make bread in it.  In an emergency, it will work well over an open flame. 
  • The pan adds iron to your food, which helps avoid an iron deficiency.
  • Because they so sturdy, they will last a lifetime, and you won’t need to spend money for replacement pans.

Back then, I used Teflon pans, but found that once they get a scratch, they peel and flake.  When overheated, fumes from Teflon are known to cause flu-like symptoms, and the long term effects are unknown.  After I saw how much better the cast iron pans heated through, I tossed out all my Teflon pans and asked my mother-in-law to help me buy some.

She did not take me to a cookware store; instead she took me to Goodwill, where she has found the best cast iron pans for her own kitchen.  People would toss them out thinking they were inferior to Calphalon or other name brand cookware.  Being of a frugal nature, she encouraged me to find second-hand deals instead of full priced items.

If you are in the market for one, try getting it used at stores like Goodwill, or shop online at Craigslist or Freecycle first.  If you are just starting out, I would recommend choosing a slightly rusted cast iron pan, to make it easier on yourself. 

How to season a cast iron pan

  • If you have a new pan, just wash and rinse, no scraping needed. 
  • If you are working with a used, slightly rusted pan, wash with a strong dish washing liquid and scrape out the rust with a steel wool.
  • Dry completely with a dish towel.
  • Coat the pan with cooking oil all over.  I have used vegetable oil, olive oil or peanut oil
  • Turn the oven on low heat, around 250 degrees and leave the pan in the oven for 4 hours.  Do not leave unattended.  It may get a bit smoky if the heat is too high.
  • Turn of the heat and leave the pan in while it cools.
  • Repeat the process over a few months until the pan turns black.  You now have a well-seasoned pan.

Cast iron pans are available pre-seasoned.  You don’t have to go through the process if you don’t feel like it.  Just remember the pan should not be left sitting in a sinkful of soapy water.  It should be rinsed and dried after use and coated with a thin layer of oil.  I’ve recently started coating my pans with coconut oil and it adds a nice flavor to the food.

They are still fairly inexpensive, around $11 for a non-seasoned pan, and about $19 for a 10 inch pre-seasoned one.

I have found you can make the best steak in a cast iron pan.

Whether you buy it used or start out with a pre-seasoned skillet, you’ll be pleased with they way they cook.  With proper care, cast iron pans last for generations.

© Apartment Prepper 2016

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