Self-Sufficiency Skill: Basic Shoe Care

Basic Shoe Care

This post is by Bernie Carr,

One of my earliest memories was of my grandfather showing me how to shine our “church shoes.”  He was very particular about his appearance, but was very frugal so he kept his shoes looking new for years.   In my free spending days, I never bothered to shine my shoes as I got rid of them as soon as they showed signs of wear.  I was not alone in this, as our throwaway society encourages us to replace things as soon as possible.  When I realized the folly old ways, I started taking better care of my footwear and began to utilize the services of a cobbler.   Alas, the lack of customers drove many of the shoe repair stores out of business.   There are still a few around town, but they are a distance away.   As times get tougher, it is worth our time to learn some basic shoe care.  I also believe footwear is important enough to warrant some attention, in case you every have to walk out of the city in an emergency, so you might as well take care of them.

Preventive Care

  • When you buy a new pair of shoes, spray them with waterproofing spray.  We sprayed all our hiking boots with this and they have held up pretty well so far.
  • Alternate shoes between wearings.  Shoes that are worn daily will be susceptible to moisture and odors as they do not get a chance to dry out.  Wearing socks and hose also prevent moisture from seeping into the shoes.
  • To avoid odor problems, swipe the insides with rubbing alcohol and let dry (avoid getting this on the leather) OR dust lightly with baking soda between wearings.
  • Clean the exterior of your shoes as soon as they get dirty.  Even kids’ athletic shoes will benefit from regular cleanings.
  • Polish leather shoes periodically to keep them from getting cracked.

Caring for Hiking Boots

  • Breaking in your boots prior to wearing on a long hike.
  • Clean boots after every hike.  Use a brush to remove grit and dirt.
  • Remove the insoles and allow the inside to dry as well.
  • If the boots get wet, place boots upside down to let them dry.  Let dry in normal temperature, but if you are in a hurry, you can place them in front of an electric fan.
  • Do not place boots next to a heater, stove or fire, as this may weaken the construction or warp the boots.
  • Store them in a clean, dry area, in normal temperature.  If they get moldy, wipe them down with a mixture of vinegar (20%) and water (80%)

How to Polish Leather Shoes

Shoe care kit

Shoe care kit

The steps are pretty much the same as what my grandpa had taught me.  A basic shoe care kit includes:  shoe polish closely matching the color of your shoes, horsehair brush,  rags, old toothbrush.  Here are the basic steps:

1.  Line your work area with newspapers.

2.  Clean the surface area of the shoes so they are free of dust.  Use the old toothbrush to clean the edges between the upper and the sole of the shoe.

3.  Lightly apply the shoe polish to the leather in a circular motion.  You will want to get the wax into any cracks as this will condition the leather.  Let it dry for a couple of minutes.

4.  Buff the shoes with the brush using a light back of forth motion, following the grain of the shoes.  You will notice the shoes getting shinier as you keeping brushing.

5. Optional:  Lightly spritz the shoes with plain water and buff with a soft cloth such as an old t-shirt, using a back and forth motion.  This will give the shoes an additional “spit shine.”

5.  Carefully pick up the newspapers as they will have greasy black specs on them from the cleaning process.

Quick Repairs

Complex repairs such as replacing a sole or a broken heel are best done by a cobbler.  Some quick repairs can be done successfully at home with a strong adhesive such as Shoe Goo.  I’ve had some success repairing athletic shoes with Shoe Goo so it is worth keeping the stuff at home.

© Apartment Prepper 2016

Updated from a previous post that was originally published on 12/14/2011


Power Outage Survival Stove

Power Outage Survival Stove

Every year, people go into a panic mode when a winter storm comes, power goes out and they have no way to heat their homes.  I’ve received various emails from readers wondering how to heat their apartments when electricity is out.  Unless you’ve already installed a wood-burning stove, there are very few options out there.  I’ve written about this subject and always thought there must be another way.

Then I heard from Kevin Cox.  Kevin has developed a power outage survival stove that can be stored un-assembled in a closet or garage, and wheeled out whenever you need to heat in an emergency such as power outage during a snow storm.  The Power Outage Survival stove is a temporary wood burning stove that you can keep just for emergencies.

Kevin has a Kickstarter Project:  Power Outage Survival Stove  ( to get this stove developed.   The Power Outage Survival Stove Kickstarter has all the details.  You won’t find a slick advertising package; what you will find is the idea is a good one, and the features of this stove, once developed can really help a lot of people prepare for a heating emergency.

Power outage survival stove 02

Kevin Cox working on the assembly of the Power Outage Survival Stove

Power outage survival stove 04

Outside vent of the Power Outage Survival Stove

Here are some details about the Power Outage Survival Stove:

  • Requires no tools to assemble – uses wing nuts to put together.
  • All the parts easily fit inside the unit for storage
  • Unit weighs 50 lbs. total, but it has wheels and can easily be rolled to the room you wish to heat.
  • Can easily warm up a room up to 300 square feet
  • Spark arrestors are built in to prevent fire.
  • Comes with a window sleeve to fit your window where the exhaust pipe is attached.  The exhaust goes out the stove pipe like any other wood stove.
  • You need wood to burn, and a window to run the exhaust.  In an emergency you may need alternatives – Duraflame logs would work, as well as coal on a temporary basis
  • Can be assembled to fit in homes, apartments or RVs, as long as you have a window to run the exhaust.  Make sure the room is well-ventilated.
  • Being a wood stove, you can also cook on the top surface.
  • When not in use, stove can be stored in a pantry or closet.

The Power Outage Survival Stove Kickstarter is definitely worth your while to investigate.  Check out the Kickstarter page and watch the video to see how it is assembled.  Take in all the details – if you have any questions, there is an “Ask a Question” button under the FAQ that you can click to ask Kevin your question.


Disclosure: This is a professional review site that sometimes receives compensation or 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

Money Mondays: Save on Food Storage Items at Aldi’s


Save on Food Storage Items at Aldis1

This post is by Bernie Carr,

A while back, an Aldi’s grocery store opened near my area.  Many residents in the neighborhood had never heard of Aldi’s before.  One neighbor said she tried it, and did not like the selection because she was very brand conscious and could not find her name brands.  As a bargain shopper, I don’t have anything against store brands; oftentimes, they are made by the same manufacturers but under a different label.  I decided to do a little research and check it out for myself.

What is Aldi’s?

Aldi’s is a grocery chain that was originally founded in Germany.  You may be familiar with Trader Joe’s – it is owned by the sister company of the owner of Aldi’s.  Aldi Sud runs the Aldi’s stores in the U.S., and Aldi Nord owns Trader Joe’s as well as the Aldi stores in Europe.  There are around 1,500 Aldi’s locations all over the U.S. so it is likely you have one near you.

Their stores are designed to give you the best value for your money, while maintaining quality.  I soon found out how this all works.

Shopping Carts:  They keep shopping carts in the front of the store.  To get a cart, you need to use a quarter, and when you return the cart, you get a quarter back.  This way, they save on clerks having to hunt down carts, and it doesn’t really cost you anything, since you get your money back when you return the cart.

Grocery Bags:  You need to bring your own.  Reusable grocery bags are available at the checkout counter at $0.06 each, but I brought my own.

House Brands:  Aldi’s carries mostly their house brands.  They do offer a select number of name brands such as Tide, Gatorade, Coke just to name a few.  I have been taste testing the house brands and I have found them to be good quality.

Aisles:  At my local store, the items are stacked in the boxes they came in, the aisles are organized and inventory grouped together but aisles are not labeled as regular grocery stores.  However it is not hard to find items that you need.

Meats and Produce:    They have great prices on meats, and have great specials every Wednesday.  The items get sold out quickly though.  think Aldi’s has the best produce prices in town.  They have a good selection of organics.  I always to stop there first to pick up fruits and vegetables on my list, as the prices are consistently lower than at other stores, but the quality is up to par.  If you do not have a garden but would like to dehydrate produce or do some canning, you can stock up on seasonal produce at Aldi’s.

Save on Food Storage Items at Aldis2

Food Storage Items:  They have great prices on food storage basics such as flour, sugar, salt, rice and beans.  You can easily repackage these foods for long term storage by following directions here.  I have also bought canned goods, olive oil, long lasting foods such as honey, vinegar, peanut butter, ramen etc.

Save on Food Storage Items at Aldis3

The Double Guarantee

If for some reason you do not like what you purchased at Aldi’s, you can return the unused product in its packaging to the store manager and he or she will replace the item AND refund your money.  (Per their website “The Double Guarantee does not apply to non-food Special Buy items, alcohol, national brands and non-quality related issues.”)  I think it’s a pretty good guarantee, and therefore I don’t mind trying their brand out.  So far, I have been pleased with the quality and have not had to return anything.

Final tips

I am not affiliated with Aldi’s, other than being a satisfied customer.  If you are interested in food savings, give them a try, but remember these tips:

  • Bring a quarter for the shopping cart, then remember to return it to get your quarter back.
  • Bring your own reusable grocery bags
  • Shop with a list.
  • Coupons are not accepted
  • Check the store hours.  Aldi’s are open between 9 am and 9 pm – not early or very late as this saves on labor costs.
  • Each week, they feature “Red Hot Deals” in the middle of the store – usually seasonal type items such as grilling utensils, kitchen gadgets, outdoor decor etc.  If you are in the market for a particular item, it is worth looking into.
  • They now accept all forms of payment, cash, debit, and credit.

I have been able to save around 20%-30% off my grocery budget, without giving up on quality.  I think it’s a good source for food storage items for your emergency pantry.


© Apartment Prepper 2016

5 Easy Things You Can Do This Weekend to Become Better Prepared

5 Easy Things You Can Do This Weekend to Become Better Prepared

This post is by Bernie Carr,

Getting started with preparedness can be overwhelming.   Most people immediately focus on how much gear they need, and how much they don’t have.  Then you worry about how much this is all going to cost and where the money is coming from.  It does not have to be like that.

Here is a list of five easy and free activities you can do this weekend, and you will instantly be a lot better off in terms of preparedness than your were last weekend:

1.   Go “shopping” in your own home.  Take a small box or laundry basket with you and go through your home.  Look at all closets, and boxes in the garage.  Pick up all items that will come in handy for the next emergency.  Find flashlights, matches and lighters, camping lanterns, sleeping bags or even just extra blankets, old battery operated radio, extra toilet paper, trash bags, etc. Even forgotten gift cards with a few cents left can help with your prepping efforts.  All too often, people forget what they already have lying around.  When I went through this exercise, I discovered several items I had forgotten about, and was glad I checked before buying new items at the store.

2.  Clean empty soda bottles and start filling them with water.  To disinfect a bottle, just add a teaspoon of bleach to a gallon of water.  Rinse the soda bottle with this, then rinse well with tap water.  Fill it up with tap water, use a permanent marker add a date on the bottle.  This way you will remember when the bottle was filled.  You can also partially fill some of the bottles (leaving a few inches room for expansion) and freeze them.  You will have ice to keep the freezer cold at the next power outage.

3.  Backup your smart phone contact list  I used to store all phone numbers in my cell phone, except for a few that I had memorized.  One day I was talking to my brother and the cell phone ran out of battery life (I know, I wasn’t very prepared that day).  I wanted to call him on a land line when I realized I could not remember his phone number, and the cell phone would not turn on until it was sufficiently charged.  Luckily it was a short term situation.  I backed up all my contact numbers into an old address book the next day.  I know it’s a chore but one day you’ll be glad you have it.

4.  Plan multiple routes out of your city and write them down.  Most people rely on the phone for directions, or on GPS devices.  In an emergency, you may not be able to access the electronic maps.  Why not plot out various emergency routes out of your city or town now, while there is nothing going on.   Find routes via car, or on foot or bicycle.  Get familiar with the street maps and write down directions to get out.  Or better yet, try and get a free paper map from your auto insurance or roadside assistance company.  Keep the maps in your car’s glove box or emergency kit.

5.  Choose one survival skill and practice doing it.  You can try filtering and disinfecting water,  making a fire, assembling a tent, learning CPR by watching an instructional video, etc.

There are lots of things you can do to be prepared that are not too time-consuming or expensive.  It just takes a willingness to learn and a commitment to prepare consistently.

© Apartment Prepper 2016


Vision Support 1000 Product Review

Vision Support 1000 Lutein Eye Supplement Product Review1

This post is by Bernie Carr,

In a previous article, I wrote about the need to protect our eyes, to avoid problems in the future, whether a disaster happens or not.  Our vision is precious, and should be protected and nourished.

I usually take bilberry supplements, and when the bottle ran out, I was looking for a new product to replace it.  I received a sample of Vision Support 1000 Lutein Eye Supplement, for a fair and unbiased review.

Vision Support 1000 contains contains lutein, lycopene, bilberry quercetin,  which all support eye function.   The bottle contains 60 capsules for $19.99 at Amazon.

Vision Support 1000 Lutein Eye Supplement Product Review2

I have been taking it for two weeks.

  • The capsules are easy to swallow.
  • I have not experienced any aftertaste or stomach discomfort even after taking the capsule on an empty stomach.
  • My eyes normally tend to dry out from looking at a computer screen too long.  In the weeks I have been taking it, I have not experienced this problem and have avoiding having to use eye drops which saves me money in the long run.

The bottle contains 60 capsules for $19.99 at Amazon.  This is a reasonable price to pay to care for your eyes.  All in all, Vision Support 1000 is a good supplement and I would continue order it for myself.

© 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

How to Choose the Best Air Mattress for Your Bug Out Shelter

How to choose the best air mattress for your bug out shelter

Written by James

After spending about 10 hours in total putting together this guide about sleeping arrangements for your bug-out shelter (air mattresses to be specific)…I spent 5 minutes researching what happened across the USA in those 10 hours.

Here are a few events that struck us while I was hitting the plastic buttons on my keyboard:

  • Major eruption of the Pavlof volcano near Anchorage Alaska
  • A tornado in Louisiana
  • Earthquake in Oklahoma

So, before sharpening our blades and looking at the best scopes for our semis, let’s take a moment to be practical and talk probabilities.

Most realistic bug-out scenarios we can think of right now will drive us to our shelters to weather the storm. It’s a common mistake (although probably more fun) preparing to rough it up in the woods and fail to prepare for urban or shelter survival.


Sleeping arrangements for your shelter

While crashing at your friends’ house or in a cheap motel room will probably have the sleeping arrangement covered, for your shelter, a good airbed is a piece of the puzzle we simply can’t ignore.

So, let’s take a moment and talk about what to look for when choosing the best air mattress for your situation.

Think quality

Words like “quality” have never been thrown around more easily by the companies trying to sell us the products.

It’s understandable, it’s their job to get us to buy.

It’s also our job to be educated consumers and make sure we are getting our money’s worth. So, let us do that – let’s separate marketing blabber from what you should be looking at when choosing and air mattress:

Look past phrases like “high quality” or “puncture-resistant” and look for specifics:


Most of the inflatable beds will be made out of PVC, look for the ones that are textile or rubber-enhanced and the ones that are specific about the PVC being thicker (the ones that do make them thicker will go out of their way to brag about it).



It’s a much lesser concern than it used to be since the air mattress companies started using fumes-free materials for all their products and since a few studies emerged showing that an air mattress has the lowest off-gassing of all the mattress types (research below).


Still, your shelter is not likely to be as ventilated as your bedroom and when choosing a blow-up mattress, take a look at the specs to make sure that it lists BPS-free or phthalates-free – these are the chemicals that used to be an issue.

Power source

Do you have an electric power source in your shelter? What’s the likelihood of it being cut off at some point?

Those are the questions to ask you before choosing an airbed…

Since being prepared means thinking in advance, you will want an airbed that’s versatile when it comes to the way it’s inflated. You are probably better off with one that can inflate both using electric power, batteries and by using a manual or leg pump when push comes to shove.

Make a wrong choice here and you might be left with a piece of useless plastic…


Air mattress has gone a long way from being beach fun and has moved many homes as a permanent bed, mainly with the people who enjoy the fact that you can choose your level of firmness.

But in your bug-out shelter, the level of firmness is not going to be such an issue – you are trying to survive after all and comfort is not a priority.

On the other hand, you might be sleeping on the bed for weeks, months, years in the worst case scenario.

Chambered design is the name of the game here.


The main issue with airbeds used to be the lack of support and it was all about the inner structure.

Modern airbeds that will keep you sound asleep (the good ones) are designed to address just that, using air chambers to mimic the springs of a regular mattress.

Bottom line – every brand has their own pet name for the chambered design but in reality, they are pretty much the same thing. What you should be looking at is the number of the chambers – the higher, the better.

As a rule of thumb, go with 30+ chambers. These beds not only sleep better, but are more durable.


Think space and size

Air mattresses do pack small and you’ll probably be able to stuff 3 of them in that small locker and that’s not really an issue whether your shelter is your apartment or a cabin in the middle of nowhere.

What you should be looking at is to optimize the space, where the mattress(es) would go and how many people they can accommodate.

Twin size is the sweet spot – it comfortably sleeps two people.

Go down a level (single) and you have a mattress that sleeps one person and two of them take significantly much space than a twin.

Go up a level (full) and you still have a bed that sleeps two people but, again, takes up much more space than the twin.


To sum up

We might think we have it all figured out, we have our energy bars, we have our water filtration systems in place but it’s not uncommon for some essential survival needs staring us in the face to be overlooked – like proper sleep.

Choosing smart when getting a portable airbed can make all the difference.

Stay safe,



About the Author:

James is the editor-in-chief of, a site focused on adventure stories, tips and reviews of air mattresses and sleeping pads. He’s a zealot for all things outdoors and an established authors in a number of online publications like TGO Magazine, Klymit blog and Gear X. As he says, his adventure days are behind him, but the days of talking and writing about the lessons he learned over the decades are just starting out.


Building an Emergency Food Supply Just Got a Whole Lot Easier

Let’s be honest.

A lot of preppers lose steam building their emergency food supply because it takes such a long time. You shop the sales, you buy in bulk, you continuously do inventory and discover that you still don’t have the supply you’d hoped for.

Do you want to know the secret to building a food supply that sits there, unattended, waiting to help you out in an emergency?
I have one word for you:  Buckets. That’s right. Buckets of emergency food.

Here’s why every prepper should have some emergency food buckets stashed away:

  • A lot of calories can be condensed into a very small amount of space.
  • If you have the capacity to boil water during an emergency, a filling meal can be yours.
  • They add variety and speed to an emergency food supply.
  • Calorie for calorie, they’re lightweight and easily portable in the event of a bug-out scenario.
  • They’re professionally packaged to have a 25-year shelf life, so you can get it, stick it in the back of your closet, and forget about it until you need it.

But you don’t want just any old buckets. Your emergency food supply should not cause a health crisis. That’s why I recommend Preppers Market   where all of the foods meet strict criteria. Here’s what you won’t find in their products:

No High Fructose Corn Syrup
No Added MSG
No Aspartame
No Soy
No Chemical Preservatives
Gluten-free buckets are available

Each bucket contains a generous one-month supply of delicious food for one person. You can figure out exactly how much you need to feed your entire family for a given period of time.

Visit Prepper’s Market today and be sure that your family is nourished in an emergency.



Vital Protection Often Neglected by Preppers

Vital Protection Often Neglected by Preppers

This post is by Bernie Carr,

I found out one of my co-workers had to take an extended leave because he has an eye injury that requires surgery.  I heard he had gotten hit in the eye while playing sports.  This got me to thinking that in a major disaster, having an eye injury would really make life even more difficult.

When you first think about preparing for disasters, eye care rarely comes to mind.  But if you really consider it, you would be quite helpless if something were to happen to your vision in a disaster situation.  Glasses and contact lenses may not be readily available, and you may not be able to get proper medical care if you are in the midst of an emergency.

Here are a few eye care tips to get you started:

  1. Get your eyes checked on a regular basis.  Most insurance plans cover eye exams annually.
  2. Keep an extra pair of glasses and/or contact lenses in your first aid kit or car, in case of emergencies.  I keep last years prescription glasses as my backup pair just in case.
  3. When cooking or canning, keep your face at a safe distance from the steam when you open or lift any lids.  This sounds may seem so basic and common sense advice, but something that is often forgotten.
  4. Keep toddlers away from stoves that have pots containing boiling liquids or frying oils.  This is another one that seems like it’s not worth mentioning, but I actually know a couple whose toddler pulled a pot of boiling water from the stove and got severely burned.  They were both in the kitchen getting ready for Thanksgiving, but it happened in seconds.  The little boy had third degree burns; fortunately he has since recovered.
  5. On the same note, keep young kids away from toys or tools that have sharp points or edges, until they are old enough to teach the dangers of “running with scissors.”
  6. Get an overall health checkup.  Diabetes and high blood pressure can have complications that are detrimental to vision.
  7. Avoid touching your eyes with dirty hands.
  8. Do not share eye makeup or grooming tools such as lash curlers.
  9. Be conscious of activities that can potentially damage your eyes or harm you, and wear protective eye wear or safety glasses accordingly:
  • Chopping wood
  • Mowing the lawn
  • Hunting or Target Shooting
  • Carpentry work
  • Environmental cleanup or anything that involves chemicals
  • Exposure to bodily fluids
  • Welding
  • Paintball

Ordinary prescription glasses do not protect you from impact, flying debris or noxious chemicals – you need to wear safety goggles over them.  For flying debris or chemicals, find ANSI-approved (American National Standards Institute) eye wear.  These can be found at hardware or home improvement stores, and the rating is indicated on the lens or frame.  Standards for workplace safety glasses are set by OSHA (Occupational Health and Safety Administration).  Make sure the safety glasses fit properly.

4.  Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from damaging UV and UVB rays.

Vision supplements

Vitamin A, B complex, C, D and E are all important to eye health.  In addition, bilberry, a plant extract, helps protect eyes; and lutein, which is a plant pigment, is said to risk of macular degeneration and cataracts.  Omega 3 fatty acids are also beneficial to eye health.  I am currently trying out Vision Support 1000 Lutein Eye Supplement, which I will be reviewing shortly.

Not convinced?  Watch the Twilight Zone episode “Time Enough at Last

Our eyes are fragile, yet we don’t think about them much, until something happens.  They weren’t lying in Christmas Story when the adults told Ralphie “You’ll shoot an eye out!”   Wearing eye protection will help prevent that from happening.

© Apartment Prepper 2016

Updated from a previous post that was originally published on Dec 11, 2013


How to Choose a Sleeping Pad for Your Bug Out Bag

How to Choose a Sleeping Pad for your Bug Out Bag

Written by James

Wilma, Rita, Katrina, Dennis, Jeanne, Frances, Charley, Irene, Georges, Earl, Opal, Erin, Andrew, Floyd, Kate, Elena, David, Eloise, Agnes, Gladys, Inez, Alma, Betsy, Isbell, Dora, Cleo…

… JUST naming a few hurricanes that stormed their way through FLORIDA. We’re quickly running out of cute cat names to give them.


Our no.1 survival tool is our body.

OK, so we all know it’s a great feeling to get that new shiny scope for your magazine-fed semi or get one more serrated blade, all shiny and sexy.  But a survival tool is only as efficient as the person handling it.

What good are the state-of-the-art scope and that well-balanced blade if you are have a fever and your hand is not steady?

Foods, water…sleep

There’s no lack of talk about what energy bars should be in your BOB, what water filtration systems are the best to have on hand…but what about sleep?

As studies clearly show, missing ONE NIGHT of proper sleep leads to major cognitive issues:
· Your reaction time and alertness suffer
· Your reflexes slow down
· You decision making and reasoning are hindered


Basically, your body is slowly shutting down and no energy bar can help.  How good is that fancy new scope if a drowsy eye is looking through it?

Should your BOB include a sleeping pad?

This article is not about answering that question and, as with most of these, the answer is “it depends.”  Are you bugging out and have a clear route to your shelter (where you have sleeping arrangements in place) or bugging out to the woods, away from your shelter?

This article is about choosing the best sleeping pad for your needs if your answer is YES.

Before we move on, let’s get our basics right – the three types of sleeping pads:

Foam mats

Dirt-simple and dirt-cheap, a foam pad is just a mat made of dense foam with closed air cells “injected” into it.  They are light, cost next to nothing, practically indestructible and offer good insulation.  On the other hand, they are thin and you’ll feel every bump underneath you and probably wake up to sore muscles and aching hips and shoulders. They can’t be deflated, you roll them up and tie them to the side of your backpack, so be prepared to ruin that perfectly crafted profile of your BOB.  On their own, they can be a temporary solution for a night or two and are best used combined with an air pad or a self-inflating pad.

Self-inflating pads

Open the valve, sit back and let the magic happen. The technology was revolutionary when it hit the market a few years back.  The way a self-inflating works is a combination of open-cell foam inside the pad and air. The foam in packs tightly when compressed but when the valve it opened it sucks the air in automatically.

They’re much more comfortable than foam mats but heavier.

The less sophisticated of these roll (much a like a foam mat) but the more advanced ones pack surprisingly small, about the size of a handball.

Air pads

Made of ultra-light materials, these are not the kind of pad you’d see people brining to the beach. The most comfortable option, thick (2-4 inches when inflated) the prices of these can get pretty steep.

Most of these make a squeaking noise as you turn in your sleep – not the best choice if your scenarios includes being silent and unnoticed.  On the other hand – some of these are specially designed to be ultra-light while still keeping you off the ground and being almost as comfortable a regular high-rise air mattress.

These minimize the materials used and are basically constructed as a frame that supports all the right places. They can weigh as little as 9-10 ounces.

So, I’m confused, which of these should I go with?

It would be irresponsible to say, “go with X or Z.”
As with most things, it depends on your bug out scenario.  Having said that, let me say that you goal here should be to cover as many of the possible scenarios while minimizing the weight you add to your backpack.

What’s in my backpack?

A combo of closed-cell foam mat attached to the side and a framed air pad that weighs 9.5 ounces and packs a bit larger that a fist.

This air of the pad provides comfort and that feeling on not being raised from the ground and the foam protects the air pad could otherwise be easily punctured and adds comfort.  Total weight of the two: 1.31 pounds.

Is the added weight still an excuse to make your peace with sleeping on the ground?

More about weight and size

Most regular pads are about 20 inches wide and 70-72 inches long for size regular.  As a rule of thumb, the pad should comfortably accommodate your shoulders.  If you are a big guy, they come in extra long and extra wide versions and these are usually 77  inches long and 25-30 inches wide.

For women – you’ll rarely see that a pad is listed to be explicitly “for women”, so you’ll just have to know what to look for.  Women tend to be cold sleepers and require more insulation at the hips and the legs. That’s why a semi-rectangular pad also known as mummy-shaped pad is the best choice.

Demystifying the R-value and temperature ratings

Let me be blunt – there’s too much fuss about R-values of a pad and it’s a common misconception that it is somehow measure of quality.
The R in the R-value stands for Resistance to temperature changes, so it’s basically a measure of insulation.  Some companies still use temperature rating instead of R-value, which is simpler and basically tells you what temperatures the pad is designed for.

For reference purposes here’s a comparison of the two:


Rule of thumb – the best pad for a prepper is what you would call a season pad with an R-value of 3.5-4.5, that’s the sweet spot.

Another issue with how people perceive the R-value is that it’s universal. That’s why people compare R-value across brands without giving it a second thought and end up wondering why pads with the same R-value from different brands feel different.  The value itself is standard but there is no standard to how different companies measure the R-value and assign it to their products.

That’s another reason why, personally, I go with the established brands of air mattresses and pads that have stood the test of time and have a substantial number of user reviews to go on (like Coleman, Aerobed, Therm-a-rest, ALPS, Klymit…).

It’s a dirty little secret of the industry.

Let’s make it simple – generally speaking, the cutoff point between a winter-pad and a pad for the other three seasons is somewhere around 3.

Note – to calculate the R-value of what’s beneath you simply add them up. So, if you have a foam mat of 2 and a pad of 3, the total R-value is somewhere around 5.  As we said, things can vary from brand to brand to brand and even from product to product, but it’s best to simplify the story and not to lose sleep over it.

Wrapping it up
The goal of a smart prepper is not look at others for definitive answers, but to educate himself and get better at making the right choices.  If this guide was at all useful in helping you do that in regards to sleeping pads and your Bug Out Plan, it served its purpose.

Stay sharp and protect your own,



About the Author:

James is the editor-in-chief of, a site focused on adventure stories, tips and reviews of air mattresses and sleeping pads. He’s a zealot for all things outdoors and an established authors in a number of online publications like TGO Magazine, Klymit blog and Gear X. As he says, his adventure days are behind him, but the days of talking and writing about the lessons he learned over the decades are just starting out.


Money Mondays: How to Survive When You Can’t Pay Your Bills


This post first appeared in The Organic Prepper

How to Survive When You Can't Pay Your Bills

By Daisy Luther

Let’s talk about poverty.

I don’t mean the kind you’re talking about when your friends invite you to go shopping or for a night out and you say, “No, I can’t. I’m poor right now.”

I don’t mean the situation when you’d like to get a nicer car but decide you should just stick to the one you have because you don’t have a few thousand for a down payment.

I don’t mean the scene at the grocery store when you decide to get ground beef instead of steak.

I’m talking about when you have already done the weird mismatched meals from your pantry that are made up of cooked rice, stale crackers, and a can of peaches, and you’ve moved on to wondering what on earth you’re going to feed your kids.

Or when you get an eviction notice for non-payment of rent, a shut-off notice for your utilities, and a repo notice for your car and there’s absolutely nothing you can do about any of those notices because there IS NO MONEY.

If you’ve never been this level of broke, I’m very glad.

I have been this broke. I know that it is soul-destroying when no matter how hard you work, how many part time jobs you squeeze in, and how much you cut, you simply don’t make enough money to survive in the world today. Being part of the working poor is incredibly frustrating and discouraging

It is a sickening feeling when you’re just barely hanging in there and suddenly, an unexpected expense crops up and decimates your tight budget. Maybe your child gets sick and needs a trip to the doctor and some medicine. Perhaps a family member is involved in an accident and can’t work for a few weeks. It could be that your car breaks down and you need it to get back and forth to work because you live too far out in the country for public transit.

As our economy continues to crumble, these are the situations going on in more homes across the country every single day. It’s simple to believe that the people suffering like this are just lazy, or not trying, or are spending frivolously. No one wants to think that these things can occur through no fault of the individual.  Why? Because that means these things could also happen to them.

Every time I write about crushing poverty, someone adds the comments section a smug declaration about how people need to get an education, hang on to a job, buy cheaper food…there’s a litany of condescending advice.  I’m sure this article will be no exception, and please, if you’re in the situation I’m describing, let the criticism roll off of you.

The advice I have may not be popular, but let’s talk about prioritizing your payments when you can’t pay your bills.  I am not promoting irresponsibility here. It’s just math. When you have less money coming in than you have obligated to go out, you will not be able to pay all of your bills. It’s that simple.

First, do a quick audit of your financial situation so you can see where you’re at.

This list of priorities assumes that you have some money coming in, but not enough to meet your obligations. When things improve, you can try to catch up, but for now, you simply have to choose survival. I suggest the following order of payments.

1.) Pay for shelter first

Your number one priority is keeping a roof over your head. That roof may not be the roof of the house you are in now, though, if your circumstances have changed and you can no longer afford it.  If you can still manage to pay your rent/mortgage, do so in order to keep your family housed.

If you rent, and your rent is a reasonable price, make this the first payment you make from your limited funds. You really, truly don’t want to be homeless and moving is expensive. Try your best to stay put.

If you own, consider your property taxes and insurance as part of your mortgage, because if you stop paying any of these, your home will be foreclosed on.

If you can’t pay your mortgage, property taxes, and insurance, you have a while before the home gets foreclosed on and you are forced to move out. If this is the case, it’s absolutely essential that you put aside money for the place where you’ll move should you have to leave your home. You’re going to need first, last, and deposits in many cases, particularly since your credit isn’t going to be stellar due to your financial situation. When you are in this situation, it can be difficult to force yourself to save money when so many things are being left unpaid, but if you ever hope to bail yourself out of this situation, you absolutely have to do this.

The laws vary from state to state, (find the specifics for your state here) but basically, this is the timeline:

  • When you make the decision to let your house go back to the lender, you will have a month or two before they send you a notice of default.
  • From that point, you usually have 3 months before the foreclosure proceedings begin. During those 3 months, you should be saving the money you would normally be putting toward your mortgage.
  • At some point, you’ll get a notice to vacate the premises.
  • When this happens, you have two options. You can choose to move to  a different home, or you can file for bankruptcy, if you feel your situation is such that there is absolutely no way out.
  • If you file for bankruptcy, the home can’t be re-sold by the lender for 3 more months, giving you more time to put aside money for your move.

Should we all pay the bills that we have promised to pay? Of course we should. Our word is very important. Remember, though, that the information here is for people who are in a position in which they DO NOT HAVE THE MONEY TO PAY.

So, the bottom line is this: either pay your housing costs or put aside money for future housing as your first expenditure.

2.) Buy food

You have to eat, and so do your children. If you don’t eat, you’ll get sick, and then your situation will be even more dire.

  • Stick to simple, wholesome basics and cook from scratch. Beans and rice have fed many a family.
  • Tap into your inner southerner and make inexpensive, filling meals like biscuits and gravy.
  • Make soup to stretch just a few ingredients to feed a family.
  • Save ALL of your leftovers, even the ones on people’s plates. Add them to a container in the freezer and make a soup from that at the end of the week.
  • Clean up after the potluck at church. Sometimes you can take home the leftovers.
  • Don’t skip meals to stretch your food further. You need your health and your strength to overcome this situation.
  • Go to the library and check out a book on local edibles. Go foraging in the park or in nearby wooded areas.
  • See if your grocery store sells out-of-date produce for use for animals. There’s often a fair bit you can salvage and add to soups or casseroles. (This is the only way we were able to have vegetables and meat during one particularly painful stretch when my oldest daughter was young.)

In a worst-case scenario, food banks are an option as well.

3.) Pay for essential utilities

You should be cutting your utility usage to the bare minimum and using every trick in the book to keep your bills as low as possible.

If your utilities get shut off, it’s going to be difficult to cook from scratch and you won’t be able to keep leftovers from spoiling. You need the water running from your taps to drink, cook with, and clean. Depending on the climate and the season, heat may be vital as well.

If you can’t ay the entire bill, call the utility companies and try to make payment arrangements. If your utilities are shut off, then you will have a hefty reconnection fee on top of the bill.

Another point to remember is that our culture believes it’s absolutely necessary that all homes be plugged in to the utility system. If you have a work-around, like wood heat and hand pumped well water,  and decide that your utilities are not essential, you need to be prepared to face those whose opinions differ. Some cities have condemned homes which are not connected to the grid, and if you have children who are of school age, sometimes a “concerned” teacher or neighbor has been known to report your situation to the child welfare authorities. (Recently an off-grid homeschooling family had their children removed from the home by police.)

4.) Pay for car/work necessities

What must you have in order to keep working? For me, it’s the internet, since I work online.  All of my clients contact me via email and the work I do requires that I be able to send it to them and research things online. I live in the country, so driving to the library on a daily basis would cost more than my monthly internet fees. For another person, this necessity might be the cost of public transit or keeping their vehicle on the road so that they can get to work.  Choose the least expensive options to keep yourself working, but maintain your job-related necessities.

5.) Pay for anything else

After you’ve paid all of the above, if you have money left over, now is the time to pay your other expenses.  These expenses include debt that you’ve incurred, contracts you are involved in (like cell phone plans, etc.)  Choose very carefully how you dole out any remaining money.

  • Keep one phone going, with the lowest possible payment. This is necessary for work, for your children or their school to contact you in the event of an emergency, and as a contact point for your financial situation. Compare the cost of a cell phone, landline, or VOIP phone. Every family member does not require a phone – you just need one. (I actually did go for a couple of years with no phone at all, but I’m uniquely antisocial and had email by which I could be reached.)
  • If it’s at all possible, try to use the snowball method made famous by Dave Ramsey to pay off your debts and bail yourself out of your situation. Being free from debt will allow you to live a much freer life in the future.
  • If paying off debt is not possible, try to make the minimum payments.
  • If the minimum payments are not possible, you may have to default, at least temporarily, on debts.
  • Buy some pantry staples.  If you can add some extra rice or cans of tomatoes to the pantry, it will help see you through this tight situation.
  • Be relentless in deciding what will be paid and what will not. This is not the time for arguments like, “But it’s our only form of entertainment” or “We deserve this one luxury.”  Cut all non-essentials until things improve.
  • Focus on the most frugal options possible.

Things will get better

I’ve been down this road.  I really get it. It saddens me to see people I love in this situation now.

These books can help. I found them to be life-changing when I was broke, and the lessons have stuck with me throughout my adult life. You may be able to find them at your local library.

Finally, if you are in a situation in which you can’t pay your bills, I’m sorry.

I’m sorry about…

  • The embarrassment you feel when you can’t afford to meet someone for coffee
  • The sick feeling of seeing the bills pile up on the counter and not being able to do anything about it
  • The knot in your stomach every time the phone rings and it’s a 1-800 number that you KNOW is a bill collector
  • The stress of knowing you can’t remain in your home
  • The fear that someone will say you aren’t taking care of your kids and they’ll be taken away
  • The humiliation when people don’t understand and think it’s all your fault
  • The hopelessness of watching the bank account empty out the day your pay goes in, and still having a dozen things unpaid
  • The overwhelming discouragement of having fees assessed on top of debts you already can’t pay
  • The anxiety over what tomorrow will bring

It will get better. You’ll find a way to make it work. You just have to survive while you make it happen. Maybe you will pool your resources with another family, or get a raise, or find a cheaper place. But you will find a way.

Life may not be exactly as it was before, but it will be good again.


About the Author:
Daisy Luther lives on a small organic homestead in Northern California.  She is the author of The Organic Canner,  The Pantry Primer: A Prepper’s Guide to Whole Food on a Half-Price Budget, and The Prepper’s Water Survival Guide: Harvest, Treat, and Store Your Most Vital Resource. On her website, The Organic Prepper, Daisy uses her background in alternative journalism to provide a unique perspective on health and preparedness, and offers a path of rational anarchy against a system that will leave us broke, unhealthy, and enslaved if we comply.  Daisy’s articles are widely republished throughout alternative media. You can follow her on Facebook, Pinterest,  and Twitter.