Archive for Survival Equipment

The Last Word on Respirators

The Last Word on Respirators

By James, C. Junes EMT/CHCM

There should be no confusion about N95 respirators providing protection against Covid-19 infection. If worn properly and consistently, they prevent inspiration and expiration of the SARS-CoV2 virus that causes Covid-19, end of story, full stop. This is not my opinion, it is my “expert” opinion.  Unlike most of the internet gurus and purveyors of conspiracy theories, I actually have qualifications and training related to respiratory protection. I have certificated training from both OSHA and the American Society of Safety Engineers. I specified, fit tested and trained people for respiratory protection from N95 respirators, through full-face filter respirators and Self Contained Breathing Apparatus as a Safety Manager for a major chemical company. I also trained in appropriate biological respiratory protection as an EMT.

The N95 Respirator

These are true respirators not just masks. When worn according to the instruction on the box they provide very effective protection against airborne pathogens, toxic dust particles, soot, and toxic mist droplets. They also provide effective protection against inhalation of radioactive dust particles. They do not provide protection against poison gasses such as chlorine, ammonia or carbon monoxide.  Unless you anticipate a poison gas attack or a chemical spill scenario, an N95 is all you need. They are cheap and easy to have with you.  While they are classified as “disposable” they can be decontaminated with exposure too UV light including sunlight.  They should be stored in plastic bags when not on use.

The reason that the CDC and other agencies did not emphasize N95 respirators at the start of the pandemic is because (1) they wanted to hoard enough for medical professional and (2) there was already a shortage because China had bought up huge quantities before letting the world know about Covid-19.  You saw everyone in China wearing N95 masks back in March. China’s draconian mandating of wearing mask brought the pandemic under control much faster than in other countries.  While I would not advocate such a mandate in a free country, that should have been a strong recommendation for Americans from the start*. I had about twenty-five N95’s at home in January and managed to buy one more box of twenty in late March. N95 respirators are the gold standard for use by medical professionals who are exposed to airborne pathogen all day that should tell you all you need to know.

Some people claim that they can’t breathe while wearing these respirators. Unless you have a very serious respiratory illness, this is mainly psychological. I trained employees who wore these masks continuously for hours of hard work in hot conditions. At 79-years of age I wear N95’s throughout full workouts at the fitness center.

Face Masks

  Since the professionals and smart survivors had already grabbed up the available N95’s a number of alternative masks came into use. Common blue surgical mask are designed to prevent pathogens from the mouth and nose of surgeons and other ER and OR personnel from infecting patients who are in an otherwise sterile environment.  They are not intended as “respiratory protection’ but provide limited protection against inspiration of pathogens.  Some versions have a double-layer that provides better protection. Soft cloth mask in various designs seem to be the most popular choice.  If worn tightly against the face, these should be good enough for protection against coughs, and breaths carrying at virus. Those with a double layer of cloth are best

Bandannas and Neck Gators

In my books I recommend carrying a bandanna as an “everyday carry” items for use as a bandage, tourniquet, and last resort respirator, but it is no substitute for an N95 or even a good cloth face mask. Neck gators are also inadequate.  The best I can say for them is that they are BTN (better than nothing) in an emergency. They may meet the letter of the “face mask required” regulation, but you are fooling yourself if you think they are as effective as cloth masks or true respiratory.

Gas Masks and Half-Face Filter Respirators

  While these devices are effective, they are bulky, uncomfortable and difficult to fit properly, while offering no more effective protection than the light weight N95 respirators.  Gas masks are for gas!  Unless you live down wind of a hazardous chemical facility they are a waste of money.


  Respiratory protection is a very effective way to avoid contracting Coved-19, and any other airborne pathogen.  N95 respirators are the best choice for respiratory protection, but cloth masks and surgical masks are certainly better than no protection when N95’s are unavailable.  As the pandemic subsides, I will be restocking my survival supplies with N95 respirators. So should you.

*If the government had prohibited the wearing of masks or respirators, I would have defied that order, because it’s just smart survival practice to wear them.

Survival Lists

While preparing my next book for  Skyhorse  Publishing, I found it necessary to review all of the survival equipment and all of the lists for various kits and packs. I have created new lists for:

  • What to have in your pockets
  • What to have in a Get Home Bag
  • What to have in an Evacuation Pack
  • What to have in vehicle
  • What to have in an outdoor survival kit.
  • What to have at home
  • What to have in your Bug Out Bag

I also discuses hybrid survival packs and caches


Pocket Respiratory Protection

Pocket respirators are an essential item for survival in many situations. Epidemics, terrorist events, nuclear fallout, toxic dust, and other respiratory hazards can develop at any time.  Having immediate short term protection will be much more important than delayed access to bulks "gas masks".  This article explores your options.



Surviving An Active Shooter Event

Resent events have made surviving an "active shooter" situation a real possibility.  While writing my next book I am including it in the Ten Street Survival Techniques section.  This is a combination of several official recommendations with my own survivalist additions.

Active shooter situations are becoming more frequent. An active shooter is one that not only initiates a shooting, but continues to remain at the scene or in motion shooting multiple rounds at multiple victims.  Active shooters target crowded locations such as stores, theaters, and public building where every round fired may hit one or more victims.  If caught in this situation you can be sure that the killing will continue until the police engage the shooter or he/she/they have killed everyone in sight.  Even the police have now admitted that civilians caught in such situations should take certain actions rather than “stay calm” or try to reason with the terrorists.  Unfortunately, the days when you could relax and enjoy public places and public venues are gone. Violent crime, gang shootings, drive-by shootings and terrorist guns and bombs have converted our communities into potential war zones. Below are steps and actions that you can take to survive such an event.

Being Prepared for an Active Shooter

Be observant and alert!  In any crowed you must observe for suspicious behavior. Are people wearing unnecessarily baggy or long clothing?  Do some people have suspicious bulges in their clothing or are they carrying odd long packages. Are some people wearing backpacks or leaving backpacks behind?  Are some people moving around suspiciously and looking about as if ready to take some action?   If your “sixth sense” is telling you to get out or get down do it!

Make an escape plan.  In a restaurant, mall, theater or other potential terrorist target make sure to constantly be aware of the exits. Exits can be fire doors, windows, over railings, anything that works. Consider routs to exits that offer the most bulletproof cover. If true escape is not safe then seek any room with a solid door that can be locked and barricaded with heavy furniture.

Identify potential bullet proof cover. While you may hide behind furniture, car bodies, and plaster or wood walls it will generally not stop bullets. They provide only concealment. Cover is offered by brick walls, cement walls, heavy appliances, engine blocks and other very solid objects. Constantly identify these as places to go if escape is not immediately available.

What to Do When the First Shots are Fired

Act Immediately!  If you have accepted the possibility of an active shooter situation and taken the steps above you can skip from denial to action while other freeze and get shot.

Take Cover. If you are already in the shooters vision or there is no covered escape route that will not expose you to the shooter, this may be your only option. Get behind the strongest, thickest object possible immediately. Stay low or lie flat.  If wounded or among wounded lie down and play dead. Shooters will instinctively shoot anything that they see that moves.

Escape: If the shooter(s) has his back to you, you have a chance to escape or at least reach good cover before they turn around. Remember that there may be more than one shooter. If you go through a door get to the right or left of the door and keep moving towards cover since the shooter may shoot through it or follow you out.

Engage:  The Washington D.C. chief of police and many others have now recognized that civilians may need to take action on their own before law enforcement arrives to save themselves and others. If you cannot escape or find cover and the shooter continues to shoot your best chance is to distract, delay or disable the shooter. Discharging a fire extinguisher, throwing a heavy object; tackling, clubbing, or stabbing are all justified in this situation.  If you have a firearm use it!  Yes, shoot them in the back if you can. Shoot for the head as they often have bullet-proof vests. If possible shoot from a low position so your bullets go upward and avoid hitting bystanders. Don’t hesitate and don’t try to get them to surrender.  They will just shoot you.  CAUTION: remember, the police will consider anyone they find holding a gun as the enemy!  Once the shooter(s) are down (1) do not pick up their weapons and (2) put your weapon down and your hands up and wait for the police.

Communicate: If not in immediate danger use your cell phone to call for help. Provide the police with any information that you can, such as the description number of shooters, location of shooters, type of weapons used, direction shooters are or did move.  If you are barricaded or behind cover provide your location and your own description.  If nothing else, pull the fire alarm to warn others and distract the shooter. .

Recovery:  If you are lucky enough to have survived such as violent event you are not safe yet. The police are going to be very jumpy on entry!  Stay down and keep your hands up. Follow police instructions carefully. They will consider everyone there as a threat until searched, interviewed and cleared.  There may still be other active shooters at large or there may be bombs or booby traps left behind.  If you are carrying a firearm (open or concealed) be sure to immediately tell the police while keeping your hands up. If you have any medical training try to help the wounded until the medics arrive. Stopping severe bleeding and treating for shock may be an important lifesaving action.


The Poor Man’s Survival Kit

This is an updated version of a 1970s article about how to make a survival kit out of ods and ends of cheap materials.  This was long before all of the nice survival tools and products we have today came along.

The Poor Man's Kit,10-14


The Poor Man’s Survival Kit

This is one of our articles from waaaay back in the 70s that we updated a bit and retyped.  Hope you enjoy it.

The Poor Man's Kit,The Poor Man's Kit,



Survival Shovels

Very small folding shovel for survival packs.

Very small folding shovel for survival packs.



A shovel is one of the items that is often left out of the bug-out-bag, but should be included if at all possible.

When I was a kid just after World War Two every kid in the neighborhood had an “Army Shovel”.  These were childproof and child sized digging tools.  The result was that every vacant lot was a warren of trenches and underground tunnels. Unfortunately a few kids did get killed in cave-ins.

The shovel of the static trench warfare of World War One was the M-1910.  This was just a small “T” handled spade.   World War Two was a more mobile operation requiring the soldier to dig quickly in any kind of soil and then move and dig again.  The M1943 folding shovel was strong enough to dig in frozen and rocky soil and included a pick to chop and pry. It was a bit heavy, but troops were generally trucked for long distances. This was the shovel that somehow came home after the war and fell into the hands of the baby-boomer children.  The very similar M-1951 served through the Korean War and Vietnam.  There were and still are a wide variety of commercially made imitations of this well designed tool.  The tri-folding shovel with its triangular grip handle came into use late in the Vietnam conflict.  It is a much more compact and lightweight tool than the M-1951, but a bit less capable.

Shovels have somewhat limited use in urban areas where an axe or pry bar may be of more help, but they are a must once the brick and concrete are left behind.  Uses include: digging shelters, digging fire pits, burying waste, drainage trenching, building defensive positions, and making animal traps. There may be the need to clear ground and shovel snow for cold weather camps as well.

There are a variety of small “camp shovels” on the market.  Your choice depends on how much weight you can add to your survival pack.  The two main designs are miniaturized version of the old M-1951 and the current tri-fold designs.  If you are really pressed for space and weight, a good quality garden trowel gives you at least some digging capacity.  Of course you may want a bigger shovel in your vehicle or survival cache.



    The very definition of ‘survival” is someone starting a fire without matches. What survival class goes without a fire starting class? So to suggest that a fire is not always an essential survival need is near heresy.  But all the other mammals do survive without the benefit of fire. Even in the arctic many species thrive without knowing how to start a fire.  Eskimos have no access to firewood in most places and get by with no fire or with very little heat from oil stoves.  The animals and primitive man survives by conserving body heat alone. 

   I am not suggesting that fire is not important. But I am stating that in many cases its value is only psychological and in some cases it may be more of a liability than an asset to survival.  In all cases, shelter, keeping dry and the conservation of body heat should take priority over fire building.  Putting aside the psychological benefits * of a campfire, lets look at the physical benefits of a fire under different conditions.


  • Warm Dry Nights:  On a warm dry night a large fire is just not necessary for survival.  A small twig-fire may be needed for cooking, water purification or some smoke to ward off insects.  A camp fire will have you breathing smoke, ruin your night vision, attract unwanted attention and could cause forest fire.  Insect repellent and a compact stove would be much better.  If you must have a fire, make it a small one before dark.  A dark camp is practically invisible and generally safer.


  • Rainy Weather:  It takes skill, time and luck to start a fire in wet weather. Damp fires are hard to keep going and put out little heat. Getting wet and using energy while trying to gather wood and start a fire may not be worth the trouble.  Staying dry and finding shelter far outweigh fire making in your survival priorities. A good rain poncho and a mini stove heating up a hot drink will do much better.  The exception is if one is already soaked and hypothermia is a danger.  In that case a big fire may be a necessity if it can be achieved.


  • Cold Windy Weather: In a cold wind, without shelter most of a fires heat blows away and the fuel burns fast.  Cold air is drawn into the fire past the people around it, taking away more heat than they get.  Snow melts around the fire resulting in damp feet and boots.  What heat you do get from a fire under these conditions is from radiation, but you loss more from convection of cold air going into the fire.  If you have a good shelter at your back (e.g. lean-to, rocks, etc.) and a reflector on the other side of the fire you can get some benefits.  You are better off in a tent and blankets or sleeping bag than in the open around a fire in these conditions.


  • Cold Calm Weather:  In low winds and low temperatures a campfire has real value.  A modest fire can provide heat, cooking, water purification, and snow melting for water.  Combined with a shelter and a reflector, it can provide real comfort.  We still have the energy and the time spent on building and maintain the fire, but it may be well worth the effort in this case. 


   Fire often gives the allusion of warmth and safety while actually putting you at risk.  Fire is a luxury, not a necessity.  You can survive without it. Shelter, clothing, food and energy conservation are more important. People have survived long periods in even arctic conditions by holding up in shelter.  Eating hot food and drinks to get heat into the body does more than a fire outside the body.  A small stove or twig fire can be used for this.  Always carry a wool cap and extra socks. 50% 0f your body heat escapes through the top of your head.  The cap will probably do more to keep you warm than a fire. The extra socks can replace wet ones or be used as mittens to protect the hands. Carry a 24’ x 24” sheet of folded HD aluminum foil in all your survival kits.  It can be used as a reflector for a small fire or fashioned into a pot to melt snow and heat water to drink.

   Always carry three ways to start a fire. I recommend: waterproof matches, a lighter and a magnesium metal-match.  When in a survival situation stay dry, get out of the wind, conserve heat and energy and then consider the risks and benefits of building a fire. Stay warm and safe.



Always Carry a Knife 

By Jim Jones


  There is probably no single item that defines, establishes and sustains an individual’s survival, self-reliance and freedom potential more than the knife.  The knife and its modification the spear was in use long, long before the arrow, sling or firearm.  Flint blades predate almost any other manmade device.  The name “Saxon” in “Anglo Saxon comes from the name of the long, heavy bladed knife called the “seax” carried by the Anglo Saxons.  Carrying the seax was the mark of a free man.  Slaves, of course were prohibited from carrying arms.  As we know, being prohibited from caring arms is still the mark of a slave.

   Today, virtually everyone uses some kind of knife at least a few times each day.  The possession of a knife imparts a huge survival and self-defense advantage to anyone.  If you have nothing else with you, a knife gives you a chance to survive.  Not carrying a knife of some kind is surrendering your survival potential to luck and the whims of nature and man.  The prepared person will carry a pocketknife or a pouch knife throughout the day.  He or she may keep a larger “survival knife” or “hunting knife” in their vehicle or other accessible location.  Of course there will be well selected small and large blades for outdoor activities and stashed in the survival/evacuation pack.  One may carry a heavy bladed 6 to 8 inch blade length belt knife for heavy work.  A small thin bladed pocketknife for fine work and maybe a Swiss Army type knife or Multi-Tool with a variety of blades and gadgets as well.  Some Multi-Tools even have an LED flashlight included.  Some “survival knives” come with a match compartment in the handle and a compass in the butt.  These are good for backup caches or extra knives, but most are weakened by the hollow handle and may break in heavy survival use.  The exception will be covered later in this article. You may want to consider one of the military bayonet/knives that work with the sheath to cut wire.  Going cross-country in most areas will mean crossing a lot of wire.  The M9 and M10 and the AK47 bayonets have wire cutters. Small sharpening stones are often included in a pouch right on the sheath.  This is a highly recommended feature.  The knife is not where you want to go cheap!  A blade that goes dull or brakes when you need it most is no bargain but there are over-priced knives where you are paying for style or a name.  We are not talking about knife collecting or knife show knives here.  We are talking about reliable use and abuse blades. Ultimately you have to select your knife set based on as much quality\ as you can afford.  Survival and self/reliance knives can be classified as pocketknives, pouch knives, sheath knives and combat knives.  The following are some recommended selections from several knife experts.


Pocketknives are single or several bladed knives that fit into ones pockets comfortably and unobtrusively.  In the past almost everyone carried a pocketknife or “pen knife” to sharpen quill pens, clean pipes and perform other daily tasks.  For our purposes a pocketknife is a single or double-bladed knife of no more than 3-inch blade length.  You want this knife to be thin and light so you will carry it comfortably at all times, but also strong and sharp.  Some good choices are the Spyderco ™ Native folder at about $78.00, the Kershaw ™ Combo Edge folder and the Gerber ™ Mini Covert folder at $36.00.  The Smith and Wesson ™ S.W.A.T. frame lock folder and Black Ops folder priced in the $25.00 to $35.00 range are good values as well.  If you want more than one blade, the Swiss Army ™ Soldier knife (the first Swiss Army knife) with a blade, can opener, bottle opener, two screwdrivers and an awl point fits in the pocket for about $25.00. 



Pouch knives are those that are carried in a belt pouch or may be kept in other places, but are too large for comfortable pocket carrying. This includes large folders, Swiss Army Knives and Multi Tools.  If your normal apparel is work cloths or blue jeans you may be able to wear a belt pouch without attracting any negative attention.  This provides the opportunity to carry larger and more versatile knives.  Things get more complicated here because you have to choose between one big strong blade with limited uses or several smaller blades and tools with multi-use capabilities.  In the Multi-Tool category there is the Leatherman ™ New Wave tool with over a dozen functions at $75.00, the Gerber ™ Diesel multi-tool at $53.00 and scores of other models to meet your requirements.  Some even include LED flashlights, fire starters, whistles and magnifying glasses.  The drawback to the Multi Tool concept is that the primary tool is usually a pliers rather than a knife blade and getting to the knife blade is a bit slow and troublesome. Once deployed the knife blade of a multi-tool is rather clumsy to use compared to a folder. You may still want or need to carry a pocketknife along with the multi tool. The Swiss Army knife is a knife first and a tool second and the traditional Swiss Army ™ knife also offers a great variety of choices.  The ones with 6 to 8 blades and devices are more compact and easier to use than the puzzle-like multi-tools. The Swiss Army ™ Ranger with its 20 tools is a good choice for about $40.00 or you can go all out for the huge (and clumsy) Champ selling for close to $80.00. Some have 20-30 devices, but are bulky and awkward.  Avoid cheap imitations.  Stick with brand names and be sure of a good strong pouch that will not tear or come off your belt..  Large folders with blades of about 4-inches offer the blade of a sheath knife in a more compact form but they cannot be a strong for some applications.  Consider the KA-BAR ™ Mule folder at about $48.00 or one of the popular Buck ™ large folding knives.



Sheath knives are larger sheath carried blades ranging from the short bladed USAF Survival Knife (5”) and U.S. Marine KA-BAR (6”) to machete lengths of 12”.  The actual military surplus USAF Survival Knife and U.S. Marine KA-BAR are good values at about $40.00, but KA-BAR ™ brand makes a variety of KA-BAR variations selling in the $50-$60 range.  Smith & Wesson ™ offers the KAB-BAR like “Search and Rescue” sheath knife with an excellent sheath and sharpening stone for under $30.00.If you do elect to go with a hollow handles, Rambo style “survival knife” you will need to spend some real money to get strength and reliability.   Chris Reeve ™ makes hollow handles “survival Knives” from a single bar of A2 tool steel with a handle cavity sealed with an “O” ring to keep matches and other items dry.  These knives sell in the $200 to $400 range.  For value and quality there are several good choices among military bayonets.  The M-9 and M-10 are good choices.

    Knives of over 14-inches over-all length become impractical for most folk to carry on a belt ankle of harness sheath.  If you anticipate some serious chopping and hacking you may want to consider carrying a heavy bladed knife in or across the back of your pack.  Consider the Ontario ™  RTAK-II Bush knife with its 10” blade and 17-inch over-all length for about $90.00 ™  or even a military surplus Machete on the market for as little as $20.00



Combat knives are those specially designed for fighting.  They are not usually ideal for other survival uses.  These range from small concealable 3” blades and throwing knives through boot knives and commando knives.  While knife fights are possible they are not probable so put survival knives ahead of combat knives in your priorities. In certain situations and urban environments a well-hidden combat knife could be just what you need. You may want to add something like the OSS Spike dagger that is carried on the wrist or the Special Ops ™ 5-inch blade boot knife selling for about $24.00.  There are variations of the famous Applegate-Fairbairn ™ World War Two style combat knives selling for from $50.00 to $100.00


   This article would not be complete without a few tips on the care and sharpening of your knives.  Leaving knives out is an invitation to trouble. They can be lost, stolen, damaged, picked up by children or even used against you. Keep them in their sheath or pouch and in a safe location when not in use.  Clean and lightly oil multi blade knives so they open freely when you need them.  Knives are not intended for prying or hammering. Keep your knives sharp and clean.  Sharpening techniques would take more room than we have in this article, but  there are some devices that are recommended. Cabala’s offers a wide variety of electric and hand sharpeners ranging in price from $20.00 to $400.00.  You can get a good diamond stone for $30 to $60. and these come with instructions.  The Gatco ™ Edgmaster sharpening system will do a good job for $40.00.  The Edgemaker ™ device is handy for fast restoration of a blade.


    Your choice of a knife system will depend on your anticipated every-day uses and your worst-case emergency needs.  No one knife will be the best for every situation. You should have at least one high quality pocketknife, pouch knife and sheath knife and carry all three if possible when in a potential survival threat  situation.  Carry more than one knife if possible.  Cheaper backup knives stashed in various locations (e.g. vehicle, office, pack, etc.) will be way better than nothing if you are unable to access your primary blade. In some cases what you want and what you can legally and practically carry will be a compromise, but always carry a knife.  We invite the reader’s input and comments on this subject.