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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SunJack Solar Charger – Product Review

SunJack1 (5)I had the opportunity to test out the SunJack portable solar charger.  

What is the SunJack?

It is a portable solar charger by GigaWatt that can charge any USB device – phones, tablets, GPS, cameras, speakers, lights, and more.

Here is how it works:

The SunJack harnesses solar energy for direct charging or it can store power in a removable UltraSlim battery for use 24/7, rain or shine. After only 5 hours of direct sunlight, the 14 watt SunJack can power either 4 iPhones, 0.7 iPads or 8-9 hours of LED light using the SunJack USB CampLight. Unlike many other chargers, the SunJack kit includes a 1-2 batteries enabling you to simultaneously power 4 to 6 USB devices at a rate equal to on-grid charge speed (2 Amp).

Here is the SunJack right out of the box.

SunJack1 (2)

It comes with the four solar panels with USB charging unit, the battery pack, two carabiners and instructions for use.

I tried it out by leaving the SunJack outside on a small coffee table exposed to direct sunlight.

SunJack1 (3)You plug the battery to the charging unit and leave it alone in direct sunlight.

I left it out there for three hours

After three hours, I checked on the charge and found it was almost fully charged:

SunJack1 (1)There was only one more light indicator not lighting up at this point.    I asked my contact at SunJack about this and here is what he told me:

The last 20% charges a little slower to protect the battery and maximize the battery life. This is characteristic of Lithium batteries charge circuitry. Most likely if the battery is left in full sun for 5-6 hours the last led would also light up. 4 hours in full sun usually gets the battery 80% charged. Note this also occurs with iPhones as they charge to 80% really fast then charge speed slows down for last 20%.

It does make sense, as my own phone does the same thing.  After the final two hours, the fifth one lit up.

After the SunJack was fully charged, I charged up my phone and was pleased that the SunJack charged as quickly as am electric wall plug.  I’ve tested other solar chargers and the charging time is much slower than this one.  Granted, it was a smaller one with only three panels, but regardless, I was impressed at the fast charge of the SunJack.  Using the fully charged battery, I was able to charge my phone four times

The SunJack would be handy while camping to power up small devices – you can harness the power of the sun since you are outside already.  I think the SunJack is a great backup power source in the event of a power outage, or other emergencies.  As of this writing, it is available on Amazon and is also carried by LPC Survival.  The SunJack is well worth it.


Have You Seen the New Survival Show Fat Guys in the Woods?

Fat Guys in the Woods

Fat Guys in the Woods, photo from The Weather Channel

“Fat Guys in the Woods” is a new survival show that appears on Sundays at 10:00 p.m. ET, on The Weather Channel.

Creek Stewart, photo from The Weather Channel

Creek Stewart, photo from The Weather Channel

For anyone who is not familiar with Creek Stewart, he runs Willow Haven Outdoor and is the author of Build the Perfect Bug Out Bag, The Unofficial Hunger Games Wilderness Survival Guide and most recently, Build the Perfect Bug Out Vehicle: The Disaster Survival Vehicle Guide  (I’m reading this right now).

I saw review copy of the premier episode of “Fat Guys in the Woods.”

In the show, Creek shows takes three average guys into the Smokey Mountains and teaches them survival skills. They then take what they learned and go off to survive on their own, using what they just learned.

The guys in the first episode were average guys who have let themselves go over the years.  You can tell they were getting winded after the long walk as they mentioned they were getting hungry.   It was not hard relate to these guys – I am sure I’d get hungry after a long trek as well. Creek explained their most pressing need was to build a shelter, since the temperature was likely to dip below 15 degrees F.  He then shows them how to build a shelter using branches and leaves, as well as a bed so the cold doesn’t seep all the heat away from their bodies.

Next, Creek shows them how to build a fire, using a flint and steel with char cloth. One of their tasks was to find their own flint, which was interesting to me.

The last lesson involved learning how to make a snare to trap an animal. When they finally trap a rabbit, Creek showed them how to field dress it and cook it.  It was remarkable how the guys were really appreciative of the simple meal they had – they even recalled previous meals where they barely remember what they ate with a table full of takeout food.

Creek is a likeable teacher; he patiently instructed the guys and was very encouraging to all of them. This “can do” attitude really gave the guys confidence in their own abilities.

I like the show.  Initially I had some doubts, as the title sounds a little sensational, but I found the show not only entertaining but also instructive. This is a show from which you can actually learn a thing or two. Sure, I would have liked more in-depth detail about how to build a snare but you can only fit so much information in one show.  Clearly, the experience was a positive one:  I liked how the outdoor experience made a lasting impression on the guys, motivating them to get into shape, become closer to nature and even accomplish more in their job.

I think this would make for a good family show, one you would not mind seeing with the kids, maybe not the smallest ones, but certainly age 8 and up would have a good understanding of the survival aspects.  Check it out tonight!


Survival Tin Party Favor

Survival Tin Party FavorThis post is by Bernie Carr,

I got this heart tin as a wedding party favor.  Originally it contained mints but after they were gone, I kept the container.

I thought it would be fun to use it as a survival tin, as I had done a while back with my pocket sized first aid kit.  Instead of giving out candy, why not include items that could one day help someone out in an emergency.  It’s useful, handy and can be stashed in a desk or purse.

Here are a couple of ideas:

All purpose survival tin

Secret Survival Tin 1Include:

  • Strike anywhere matches
  • A couple of safety pins
  • Paracord
  • Anti-bacterial wipe
  • Cash:  a few coins and a bill

You can also include a couple of water purification tablets, paper clip, rubber bands etc.

First Aid Tin

First Aid TinInclude:

  • A couple sizes of adhesive bandage
  • Sanitizing wipe
  • Pain reliever
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Diarrhea remedy (already inside the tin)

You can also add allergy medicine, a couple of cotton swabs, eye drops etc.

First Aid Tin 2

© Apartment Prepper 2014

Show young kids that being prepared can be fun!

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Nite Ize DoohicKey Key Tool – Does it Work?

Nite Ize DooHicKeyThis post is by Bernie Carr,

Today we are reviewing the Nite Ize DoohicKey Key Tool, a little gadget that has multiple uses.

According to the package, it can be used as:

  • Carabiner
  • Box Cutter
  • Bottle Opener
  • Wrench
  • Ruler
  • Flat Head Screw Driver

The Nite Ize DoohicKey Key Tool is small enough to place in your key ring.

I tested out its uses and found it to be sturdy enough to perform its intended uses.  I also like that it does not take up a lot of space.

Here is one of the uses I found for it:

Nite Ize carabinerI hung up a collapsible water carrier to dry for several hours and the Nite Ize DoohicKey Key Tool held up well.

It also worked well for opening boxes, and is not sharp enough to cut yourself.  It came in handy as a bottle opener.

Priced at $6.71 on Amazon, it is inexpensive enough to buy one for everyone in the family.  I think it would also make a nice stocking stuffer, office gift even for people who don’t want to think about prepping.

© Apartment Prepper 2014

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Do Homemade Waterproof Matches Work?

Do Homemade Waterproof Matches WorkThis post is by Bernie Carr,

I’ve seen instructions in various survival sites regarding waterproofing matches.  Recently, I saw a link on Survival Blog on the same topic with Jim Rawles saying if you’re going to do this, you must cover the entire match with nail polish.

Being a type personality I still had some questions in my mind:

– Does it have to be wooden matches, or can you use paper matches that you get for free in restaurants?

-Since you are using nail polish, which is a fire starter in itself, would the entire match burst into flames as you light it?

I wondered if the homemade waterproof matches would really work in an emergency if they get soaked.  I decided to try this for myself.

Here is what I did:


Waterproof Matches project1Box of wooden matches

Packet of free paper matches from a restaurant

nail polish (it doesn’t matter what color)

I covered both sets of matches, top to bottom, with nail polish, then let them dry overnight.

Waterproof Matches project2

The next day, I placed some matches in a plastic baggie and poured water into the bag, soaking both sets of matches.

Waterproof Matches project3After draining the water, I wiped the matches with a cloth to get rid of any excess moisture.

Now for the test.

1.  First, I lit one set of matches that were never covered with polish to make sure both matches work well.  They do.

2.  Next, I tested a set of matches that were covered with polish, but were not drenched in water.

Result:  The wooden match with nail polish lit immediately upon striking.  No, it did not burst into flames, only the tip burned just as a normal match would.

However, the paper match that was painted with polish DID NOT work.

3.  Finally,  I tested the wet matches.

Waterproof Matches project5

Same result as #2:  The wooden match covered with nail polish also lit immediately, no problem, but predictably, the paper match did not work.


Nail polish does work to make matches waterproof, but only if you are using wooden matches.  Covering a pack of wooden matches with nail polish to make them waterproof actually works, and is a worthwhile prepper project.


Survive Being Stranded: Build a Car Survival Kit

Car Survival KitThis post is by Bernie Carr,

Since many city dwellers spend a lot of time in their cars, it makes sense to keep a well stocked emergency kit.  Most of these items are easy to find:  you may already have many of these items around your house.  Just fill in what you’re missing.

Basic car kit

  • Fix-a-Flat” or some kind of tire sealant – this has helped me on a couple of occasions.  Replace it as soon as you use one.
  • roadside flares, reflexive tape or safety triangles
  • Jumper cables
  • Flashlight with extra batteries, light sticks

First aid kit

You can either buy a pre-assembled one or build one yourself.  Make sure you include pain relievers, allergy medicine, antacids, adhesive tape, antibacterial wipes, antiseptic cream, and other medications your family uses.


Keep nonperishable food such as protein bars, granola bars or high calorie emergency food bars.  You will need to rotate your food stash – if you leave them in the car too long, they will deteriorate especially in the summer.


Bring enough bottled water for the family.  Just remember to keep rotating the water bottles.

Cold weather supplies

You’ll need emergency blankets, hand warmers, windshield ice scraper, snow shovel, rock salt or cat litter to give you traction, tire chains

Other helpful items

  • Multi-tool or Swiss Army knife
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Gloves
  • Rags
  • Trash bags
  • Tow strap or tow rope
  • Paracord
  • Duct tape
  • Battery operated or hand-crank radio
  • portable stove
  • Matches and lighters
  • Seat-belt cutter/window breaker escape tool

Small amount of cash in assorted denominations and change for toll roads

Umbrella, rain ponchos

Paper maps, compass

Old cell phone (keep it charged at all times) – can still be used to call 911

For Kids:  extra clothes and socks, diapers, baby wipes, small toys

While you’re at it, check to make sure the owner’s manual, spare tire, and jack are still in the car.  These items are often taken for granted as being in the car, until one day you need them and find out they have been misplaced.  Don’t take any chances – get that car survival kit assembled now.  Hopefully, you’ll never need it, but if you ever get stuck, you’ll be glad you have it.


© Apartment Prepper 2014

Bushnell BackTrack D-Tour GPS Review


Bushnell D Tour GPS Review

This post is by Bernie Carr,

I had an opportunity to test out a personal locator, the Bushnell Back Track D-Tour GPS thanks to Johnson over at Optics Planet Inc.   I wanted to see if this device can help you find your way home in case of emergency or when out in the country.


Bushnell BackTrack D-Tour Personal GPS

Set Up

Mr. Apt Prepper and I did the test and followed the Quick Start Guide to set it up.  Here’s what we did:

  1. Loaded three AAA batteries into the back of the unit.
  2. Went outside, pressed the POWER button, and waited for the satellite signal to come up.  It took a few minutes to find the satellite, just like any regular GPS unit.
  3. Selected an icon for our Location.  It has Home, Car, Star,
    Flag or Target to choose from.  We chose Home for this test.
  4. We drove out for a distance to a wooded area and parked the car.

GPS in Wooded AreaAs we walked, we looked at what types of information is given by the device:  digital compass, latitude and longitude coordinates, distances in yards/miles or meters/kilometers, time, temperature and altitude.  As we went further away from the “home” starting point, it tells how far you’ve gone, and how fast you’re going.  Mr. Apt Prepper and I were walking a normal pace of about three miles per hour.  So we figured if we were 20 miles away from home it would take us approximately seven hours to get home on foot.

After a while we decided to head back to where we started.  To return to a location, just select the icon and the Bushnell points to the direction and shows the distance back to the location.

Neighborhood view



– Help you find your car in a crowded parking lot like an airport or stadium.

– Find your way back to base camp while hiking or camping

– Keep a record of trails taken for biking or hiking.  The device comes with a USB attachment and can be connected to your computer to launch the D-Tour app.  The app  is an optional feature that allows you to store your trips, view maps, however you do need to log in with a password.

– Return to your hotel if you are traveling in a strange city


–  Find your way home in an emergency

–  Locate hidden caches that you’ve pre-programmed.

–  Store locations of your emergency meeting places or pre-planned safehouse

–  Mark good areas for hunting or fishing


The Bushnell Back Track D-Tour GPS has a sturdy and durable construction.  The screen has a nice size and I liked that you can see it clearly in bright sunlight.  The buttons, which are located along the sides, can be a bit clunky as you are trying to grip the device at the same time.  I should mention that the device should be kept at a horizontal position during use to ensure accuracy.

Screen View in SunlightYou can program up to five locations.  According to the product description, battery life can last 16-20 hours, which will outlast a smart phone, and up to 48 hours of trip data can be stored.

Because if its rugged construction, you can use it in places where you don’t want to risk using your expensive smart phone, such as in biking or running trails, or while camping or hiking.

This device would be ideal for anyone who needs a little help finding directions or who get turned around easily.  It would also be ideal for an older child or teen to carry around for emergencies in case they have to find their way back to a meeting place in times of emergency, or for a college student who is away at school.   It would also be a helpful addition to a bug-out bag.  (make sure you have backup batteries)  Before an emergency happens, you’ll need to head to your various locations to pre-program it.

It would make a good gift for both prepper and non-preppers in your gift list.


 Article update 11/23/2013:    Reader Bob S inquired whether the stored locations will reset if you replace the batteries.  I finally got a chance to try it out:  removed the batteries and replaced them, rode out to a new location and checked to see if it would point back to a previously stored location.  The good news is, it actually did not lose the saved areas.  When I turned it back on, and set it to “Home” (not my real home, just the place I had set it to) –  as soon as it found the satellite, it pointed to the correct direction.   Bob – Thanks for bringing this up!

© Apartment Prepper 2013

Emergency Essentials/BePrepared

Emergency Essentials/BePrepared

Bargain E-book for a Long Lasting Emergency Light

2000HrFlashlightI purchased a copy of The Amazing 2000-Hour Flashlight by Ron Brown.  It’s a manual that shows you how to add a 30-cent resistor to a $5 flashlight, to create a light that will run for 2000 hours on the same battery.   The e-book contains step by step instructions and includes illustrations.  You can’t buy such a light from a store; you have to make it yourself.

I first heard about the author, Ron Brown through his DVD, Lanterns, Lamps and Candles.  After learning from his DVD, I went on to experiment with making emergency lights from common household items and they were all super cheap and easy.  The e-book’s Foreword was written by Gaye Levy, who runs one of my favorite blogs, Backdoor Survival.  With two trusted writers, I figured this book is sure to be a treasure trove of information.

Being the inquiring mind, I asked Ron Brown a question that I am sure comes up:

APT PREPPER:  The book description indicates “using illumination for 2000 hours”  – how many lumens would you estimate the light to be?

RON BROWN:  You’ve asked an excellent question but not a simple one to answer. So I’m going to quote from the book itself (sans illustrations).

“When I first added a 150-ohm resistor to a flashlight, I was concerned about how much light it would produce. So I compared my newly modified light to a variety of other flashlights I already owned.

“In preparing a sequel to Lanterns, Lamps & Candles that would address electric emergency lighting (a future project, as it turns out), I accumulated a fair assortment of flashlights, old and new, borrowed and blue.

“Comparing them, I found that the Eveready 5109LS with a 150-ohm resistor was right down the middle, neither the brightest nor the dimmest of what I had on hand. So, even with the resistor in place, it’s fair to say that the light output is “good.” Not great, I’ll be the first to admit, but good.

“Now, what can I use as a cutoff point, a minimum, a threshold, to say that it’s NOT good anymore? Here’s where it gets sticky.

“Flashlights are commonly rated in “lumens” and most lights provide that info on the label. The Eveready 5109LS does not. Online, however, various sellers (e.g. Best Buy, Walmart) state that the 5109LS outputs 25 lumens.

“What the 5109LS wrapper does display is a little clock icon that says ‘FL 1 Standard 65h’ (meaning 65 hours). ‘FL 1’ stands for ANSI/NEMA FL 1 – Flashlight Basic Performance Standard. In that standard, run time is defined as ‘the continuous time lapsed from the initial light output to when the light is at 10% of the initial output.’

“So the FL 1 standard uses circular reasoning. A flashlight is measured in terms of itself. If the 5109LS starts out at 25 lumens, when it reaches 2.5 lumens its run time is deemed to have expired. (According to Eveready, that’s 65 hours.)

“I would argue that we need a fixed standard of comparison, not a moving target. When I’m trying to compare light output and battery life using a 56-ohm resistor versus a 150-ohm resistor versus no resistor at all, a run-time benchmark defined as ‘10% of wherever you started’ is useless.

“So I picked a light that supplies, in my opinion, a minimum threshold of useful light. It’s a keychain light, the Maglite Solitaire. It’s been around since 1988 and kicks out a blazing 2 lumens. Count ’em. Two.

“Although the two-lumen Solitaire will not inspire Tarzan-yells and chest beating, it does produce sufficient light to be useful. You’ll be able to find your way to the privy at midnight. It’s a practical standard by which to compare various flashlight designs. And it’s widely available; Walmart carries it.

“I bought a new Solitaire. The Solitaire’s blister-pack contained a Duracell alkaline battery in addition to the flashlight. I swapped out the Duracell for a new Energizer Ultimate Lithium battery. I removed the lithium battery from the Solitaire between tests.

“I used a pass/fail test. As long as the flashlight being tested was visibly brighter than the brand new Solitaire, I judged the test-light as ‘passing.’ I would waggle my finger at the test-light and say, ‘Keep on trucking.’

“When the light being tested had dimmed to the point of being MERELY EQUAL to the brand new Solitaire, I judged the test-light to have ‘failed.’ I would then jerk my thumb and yell at the test-light, ‘You’re outta here.’

“That was my standard. That’s where the 2000 hours came from. 

“You might well ask, of course, ‘How did you determine visibly brighter?’

“In answer, the simplest test I found was to stand in a dark room with the light being tested in one hand and the Solitaire (the control or standard) in the other and shine the lights in quick succession, one after the other, at an analog wall clock with a sweep second hand, twenty feet away. If you try it, you’ll discover there really isn’t much question about which one best illuminates the clock face.”

This response shows how thoroughly this book is written.

I have read through it and found that the materials are very easy to find, and the instructions are easy for me to figure out.  I am going out to get the parts and assemble a couple of these 2000 hour lights for myself.  Having an emergency light that’ll last for 2000 hours is certainly a money-saver for apartment dwellers and homeowners alike.   This information is a bargain at  99 cents and I highly recommend this e-book.


Emergency Uses for Lipstick


This post is by Bernie Carr,

Many women carry at least one tube of lipstick in their purses.  I’ve admitted to having makeup in my bug out bag so I thought it would be interesting to figure out emergency uses for this ubiquitous item.

Emergency firestarter

Lipsticks main ingredients is petrolatum and this would make great firestarter.  I experimented with using lipstick to help start a fire and it worked.

Write a message

If you find yourself wanting to write a message but have no pen or pencil, you can use lipstick to write a message or draw an arrow.

Lip or Skin Balm

Though the main purpose is for color enhancement, lipstick contains moisturizers and many contain sunscreen.  This can be used to prevent chapped lips and sunburn.   Of course if you are trying to avoid undue attention or trying to look as obscure as possible, bright red lipstick may not be advisable.   However, if you are alone and don’t need to worry about appearances, it’ll do in an emergency.


The brownish shades can potentially be used as a coloring agent to camouflage something.

Grease or lubricant

Again, because of the oils contained in the lipstick, you can use it to lubricate gears.


With all these uses, someone is bound to want one – you may be able to use lipstick for barter.

Uses for Lipstick Containers

Empty lipstick tubes can be recycled and reused:

  • Use as a pill container
  • Hide emergency cash
  • Store strike-anywhere matches

Now that we have proved it has multiple uses, we can justify that lipstick does deserve a place in the bug out bag :)


© Apartment Prepper 2013

For beginning preppers