Versatile 3 pack system, cheap

It’s easy to find cheap packs and easy to find quality packs. It’s just not easy to find quality packs that are cheap. I put together a 3 pack system for about $300. Cheap enough for me at least. It’s based on the USGI ALICE pack system so the quality is there too. I saved money by using some used parts, shopping around, and sometimes putting up with crappy customer service. For my trouble, I have a versatile 3 pack system, cheap. It gives me a cargo frame, day pack, and an external frame pack. If you don’t mind all used pieces this kit can be put together for about $210. If you want everything brand new, plan on spending $375 to $400 – still cheaper than a single Kifaru

Pieces and parts for a cheap and easy 3 pack system

You’ll need 2 ALICE pack frames and 2 packs. At least one of the packs needs to be a medium. The second can be medium or large, your preference. You’ll also need 1 set of ALICE shoulder straps and an ALICE pack frame cargo support shelf. Besides the ALICE pieces you’ll need 2 MOLLE waist belts and 2 sets of MOLLE shoulder straps. When you get the MOLLE shoulder straps, make sure they’re complete sets with both upper and lower straps. A MOLLE sleep system carrier is optional, and I also picked up a can of dessert tan spray paint for my cargo hauler.

I paid $91 for a Hellcat kit from Old Grouch’s Military Surplus. This gave me a used ALICE frame and pack, and new MOLLE waist belt and shoulder straps. (I never received the MOLLE sleep system carrier it was supposed to include after multiple contacts with customer service) For my second pack I went with a brand new USGI surplus medium ALICE pack and frame from Sportmans Guide. With shipping, it set me back $130. I bought the rest of parts from different vendors on Amazon – $19 for the cargo shelf, $22 for the MOLLE waist belt, and $30 for the shoulder straps. Add $6 for a can of spray paint from Home Depot and my total cost is $298.

Putting together the 3 pack system

The first thing I did was clean up the used frame that came with my Hellcat kit. After cleaning it, I spray painted it and the cargo shelf with dessert tan. Once the paint was dry, I followed these instructions and attached one set of the MOLLE shoulder straps and one of the MOLLE waist belts to the frame. This makes a nice pack frame that’s really nice for packing things that don’t fit inside a pack very well.

The second thing I did was remove the ALICE shoulder straps and waist belt from my new ALICE pack set. I left the pack attached to the frame and used the same instructions to attach my second set of MOLLE straps and waist belt. Finally I attached the MOLLE sleep carrier system. With a medium ALICE pack this setup gives you about 2400 c.i. in the main pack and another 1600 in the sleep system carrier. (If you use a large ALICE pack, main pack capacity is 3800 c.i.)

Finally, I took the ALICE straps from my new pack and put them on the used pack that came with my Hellcat kit.

What did you do to prep this week?

This week’s preps – Apr 15 2018

Back to prepping, well back to writing about it at least. Last week was pretty busy for me. We have a rental property that has a collapsed shed in the back yard. Now that we’re almost done fixing up the inside it’s time to move onto the yard, so I started tearing down the shed. It was fun (still in progress) and I got the chance to try out my Stanley FatMax Xtreme Fubar. It works pretty good, but I wish I’d gotten the 30″ version instead of the 18″. The shorter version doesn’t have quite enough leverage for tearing down stuff that’s screwed together.

In our back yard I got more locust roots pulled out of the ground. Those things are nasty. “We” also got rid of “my” wood pile. I wasn’t too happy about that, but I’ll get over it. Eventually. Right now I’m still a little PO’d.

We have all our seeds (almost all are heirloom, open pollinated) and started some. Had to go to the store and get another starting tray today so the rest will be done by the end of the week. I started 2 worm bins and got enough redwood to build 4 more raised beds. Once those are done I’ll just need a couple more.

The prepper group I go to met last Thursday. We talked about water collection and purification. I guess my next project will be a Berkey system using their filters and 5 gallon plastic buckets. I also want to build a rain water collection system.

For next week, I hope to get the raised beds finished and the rest of our seeds started. My CERT meeting is next Thursday, and next Saturday the Permaculture group is having a hands on class for sheet mulching. Oh, and I have an old axe I want to start working on.

What did you do to prep this week?

Peace out,

Prepper Guns

Getting started with guns, part 1

Prepper guns seem like a really popular topic, at least judging by the number of books and magazine articles on them. It’s almost like there’s an entire industry built on writing about so-called prepper guns. Unfortunately, a lot of it is basically just gun porn. It sells magazines but doesn’t give you much practical information. So what is the best prepper gun? That depends on what you’re prepping for and where you’re prepping. If you live in a city, the best choice will be different than if you live 50 miles from your nearest neighbor. There are just a few things to keep in mind when deciding what guns would be good prepper guns for you. (Spoiler alert: One of the considerations is NOT how “cool” or “bad ass” the gun looks…)

Will it do the job?

It doesn’t matter how “tactical” or “cool” a gun looks. If it won’t do the job you need it to do, it’s basically worthless. An HK 91 makes a great battle rifle, but it kind of sucks for hunting small game. A muzzle loader might be OK for hunting, but it kind of sucks for self defense. An AR 15 is good for hunting small game AND for self defense, but it’s a felony to own one in some states.

Will you be able to get ammo for it?

My tastes in cartridges run mostly towards those that aren’t exactly main stream. 44 Special, 41 Magnum, 257 Roberts, 45-70, things like that. All are really good cartridges now, but very bad choices for prepper guns. Why? Because post-SHTF it will be hard to find ammo. Some of it is hard to find now. Some people like to say they don’t care, they’ll reload or they have a big stock pile. OK, so what if SHTF when they’re not at home and they can’t get home to their reloading setup?

In my opinion, ammo choices for a prepper are few: 22 LR is good IF a 22 meets your needs. For revolvers, 38 Special or maybe 357 magnum. For semi auto handguns, 9mm or maybe 45 ACP. Rifles, 5.56 (223) or 7.62 Nato (308). For shotguns, 12 gauge (best) or 20. Sorry if I left out your favorite round. These choices are made solely on the basis of how likely it will be to find ammo post-SHTF. It doesn’t matter how flat-shooting your custom 6.5×284 Norma is. If you can’t get ammo for it, you basically just have an expensive club.

Will you be able to fix it?

Finding a decent gunsmith is hard now. It will probably even harder post-SHTF and besides could blow your OPSEC. That means you get to fix your guns when they break. Make sure your prepper guns are reliable, easy to fix (simple enough that you can do the work yourself without a lathe or milling machine), and have good parts availability.
In my experience, the following guns are pretty easy to work on, have good, easy to find repair information, and good parts availability:

Ruger 10/22
Just about any Glock
AR-15 and clones
Savage rifles
Remington 870 shotgun

I left off the Colt 1911 and clones because from what I’ve read they’re easy to mess up unless you have a lot of specialized knowledge and skill, in spite of the fact that parts and information on repairing them are easy to get. I have no experience trying to work on other guns, so I won’t comment on them. (If someone would like to donate Smith and Wesson M&P for me to evaluate I’ll be happy to give you my FFL’s contact info)

Some random thoughts on prepper guns…

Stainless steel or melonite barrels and synthetic stocks aren’t as pretty as deep bluing and fancy wood, but they’re low maintenance. Always buy the best guns or parts that you can afford. Besides a good gun, make sure your scope is good quality too. It’s better to put a $200 scope on a $300 rifle than to put an $80 scope on a $1500 rifle. If possible have back up iron sights. The most likely parts to break are firing pins and springs. They’re easy to get and not very expensive,  so get spares now while they’re easy to find. Don’t own a gun without owning some kind of repair manual for it. Always buy the best quality you can afford. Practical is good. Tacticool is dumb. Don’t be this guy:

Now that I’ve talked about general principles I’ll wrap this up. In part 2, I’ll make some specific recommendations.

Peace out,

Happy Easter

Happy Easter. Easter is my favorite Holy Day (nee holiday). I like it better than Christmas, Thanksgiving, and July 4th – Independence Day. I like it for the spiritual implications, but even if I wasn’t a Christian I’d like it because it signifies renewal. It’s fitting that we celebrate Easter in the spring. When the dead cold of winter is replaced by the warmth of spring and new life. A chance to think about past mistakes and working to not make them again. So just want to say – Happy Easter.

Preps I’m working on…

I’m trying to focus on process instead of things. That, of course, is a correction of past mistakes. For example last month I bought a Gransfors-Bruk axe. A thing. What I should have done is taken the cheap axe I found in my parent’s garage after my dad died and learned how to fix the edge (chipped) and sharpen it. Given my nature, that “ah-ha” made me think I need a GB sharpening puck. Nope, another $60 thing. Maybe time to look for info from people who actually know about axes. After some looking I found a video on getting THREE sharpening pucks that out-perform the GB for about $20.

If you follow that link, you should check out his other videos too. SkillCult (Steven Edholm) and Reallybigmonkey1 (David Pearson) are the 2 best YouTube channels for bushcrafting/homesteading/semi-primitive skills I’ve found.

I’ve also re-thought my garden for this year, and I have my wife on board. Mostly we’re going with open pollinated heirloom seeds. At first it seemed kind of limiting, but we’ve found every kind of veggie we want to grow. In fact, we found more than we have room to plant so that’s going to take some thinking (and maybe guerrilla gardening?) to make it all fit. Anyway, it should be fun esp. since my wife is supportive of the project.

Back to my roots…

I’m taking a couple days off from work this week and going back to my home town. I was hoping it would be just me and my younger son, but then my older kid and Mom insisted on going too. That’s good and bad. Bad is I won’t get to do everything with my younger son that I wanted to do (like camp). Good thing is we’re taking my mom’s car so gas is on her. Besides, the weather is still kind of iffy for camping since it will be my kid’s first camping trip. I’ll stake out a good camping spot for later, when summer school vacation starts.

The other things I want to do is go to my home church, visit my Dad’s grave, and do a little fishing. The church is the same one I was confirmed in and took my first Communion. It was also my Dad’s biggest concern in the last couple years of his life. Fishing was my Dad’s favorite thing to do, along with gardening. So basically this trip is to honer my Dad’s memory and reflect on the life lessons he taught me. I wish I’d learned them better when he was still alive, but at least I still have his legacy.

Misc. stuff…

Not much here. Our rental property is 2 months overdue and still not done, but I have hope it will be finished by the end of April. Key word being hope… which goes along with the whole concept of Happy Easter I guess.

I finally got my CERT ID card, so now I have about 5 months to finish 4 online FEMA classes. Another good reason to finish the rental soon, so I have time to study and take tests. Also I want to get my General class amateur radio license – lots of study time needed for that too.

Plans for the rest of the year

First is getting our rental finished and our garden planted. Both will require a lot of work so I expect to be really busy for the next 4 to 6 weeks. I need to get back on my Keto diet. I know it works, but breaking old eating habits is hard. But I know it works, and I really need to lose some weight.

The biggest plan though is NO MORE NEW STUFF and no more new projects. I already have too much stuff and too many unfinished projects and plans. Anyway, that’s about it for today. Hope y’all are having a happy Easter.

Happy Easter,