Welcome to our blog dedicated to our family’s journey from the Rocket City (Huntsville, AL) suburbs to the Simplicity of a rural retreat in the spirit of the American Redoubt region. We hope you enjoy your stay and with any luck learn some useful tips along the way.
My wife and I traveled back to Arkansas last week in search of our retreat property. After working with a realtor and seeing about 12-13 potential properties, my wife and I settled on one! If all goes as planned, we will close on the property by December 10th… just in time for the Christmas holidays… and hopefully before SHTF!
A little bit about our future retreat.
It has a small house on the property that will accommodate our family plus a couple of guests if needed. The house itself is in pretty good condition. We have yet to get the home inspection done, but just based on our visit the main things the house needs are new floor coverings (we’re going to go with hard wood laminate since that should be easily maintainable when SHTF and there is no power) and a wood burning stove.
The house has a well and septic system. The well is an old fashioned one where you can actually look down the well and see water. We’ll have to get a secure cover for that so that our 3 year old doesn’t fall in!
The property also has a year round creek running through it which will be a good second source of water in case we ever need it.
There is also a pole barn, shop, and a couple of other small storage buildings on the property. Most of the fencing is intact with only a few relatively minor repairs needed in places.
We want to plant some fruit and nut trees in one of the pastures in the spring. We’ll probably also go ahead and build a chicken coop and maybe even some rabbit houses in case we need them.
There is plenty of pasture land to accommodate cattle and horses… maybe 10 head of cattle and a few horses if we ever need to do that.
The biggest hurdle for us I think is going to be maintenance and equipment purchases. We’ll need to buy a tractor, bush hog, and box blade at a minimum. There is a lot of pasture land that will need to be mowed in addition to the area up by the house. The gravel driveway will also need routine repairs after rains and snows.
We hope to be able to visit the property at least once a month to keep everything mowed and in good working condition, but we’ll see. Another option may be to hire someone to keep the grass cut or to make a deal with someone to come in and cut the grass and keep the hay as payment.
My wife is already buying and picking out stuff for the house. She knows what kind of furniture she wants and has a good idea of how things will be arranged.
We’ve worked on picking out the wood flooring and wood stove. We just need to find someone to install the fire brick wall where the stove will sit and the stove pipe up through the roof. We plan to try to do the hardwood flooring ourselves.
In talking with my wife’s mother there is a chance that her and my father-in-law may want to move to Arkansas too which would be awesome. Not only is my father-in-law great at building and remodeling, but my mother-in-law is good with the kids and can do all kinds of other stuff that would be helpful around the retreat. It would be great to have them closer (they live in Florida now) for us and they would also be closer to their other grand daughter in Memphis, TN too.
I guess that about sums it up for tonight. It is an adventure in the making! Wish us luck! We’ll keep you posted.
Until next time… keep prepping!
While visiting my grandmother on her farm a few weeks ago for my daughter’s 6th birthday, we went for a ride on her Gator down to the creek. The kids got to play in the creek with Bonnie, my grandmother’s dog. They all had a blast.
Along the way my mother and grandmother picked up a few pieces of wood and told us they were “lighter’d wood”. I’ve also heard these called “lighter knots” or “lighter wood” by my Mother and various cousins, aunts, and uncles from that part of Alabama. A little online research shows that they are also known as “fatwood”, “fat lighter”, “rich lighter”, “pine knot”, and “heart pine” depending on who you ask and where they are from. Now I had heard of lighter knots before, but I don’t think my wife had (she grew up mostly in the city). I know my kids hadn’t.
Lighter knots are essentially the heart of the pine tree. They are high in pine sap/resin content. It’s this high concentration of pine resin that keeps them from rotting away like the rest of the pine tree does. You can often find the knots and other pieces of lighter wood laying out in the woods. From what I read, lighter knots can be from various parts of tree including the stump, roots, and joints where branches meet.
My mom told us that when she was a kid and they wanted to start a fire, they would get a splinter of lighter wood, light it with a match, and it would burn long enough to get a good fire started. This is when my prepper mind started churning.
Later that afternoon, we decided to build a bonfire to let the kids roast marshmallows. My grandmother enjoyed the fire and marshmallows more than the kids I think though! Anyways, we used a couple of pieces of lighter wood splinters that my grandmother had brought along to get the fire started. It worked like a charm!
So, we asked Granny if it would be OK for us to bring home a couple of lighter knots for ourselves. She of course agreed and was tickled pink that we were going to cut off some splinters to use to start fires at our house. She is quite fascinated about, and very proud of, the fact that my wife and I are interested in how she used to do things on the farm growing up. She enjoys teaching us and telling us stories about homesteading and country living whenever we come to visit.
Anyways, we got home and put the lighter knots aside until this past weekend. I finally got them out and decided to try cutting some splinters to use as emergency fire starters at our house… and eventually at our retreat.
Here is one of the knots part way through the process. You can still see the clear knot shape to the wood as well as the rich amber colored wood that holds the pine resin.
It took us awhile to get the hang of things. Lighter knots are pretty hard, so just trying to chop off pieces with the hatchet wasn’t working too well. Then my wife, bless her genius self, thought of turning the hatchet upside down, placing the knot on the blade, and then hitting the other end of the knot with a heavy mallet. It worked great! We were splitting the lighter wood into smaller and smaller slivers using this method. My grandmother said she usually uses a machete to hack splinters off of lighter wood pieces. I suppose there are a variety of ways to do it… I think the main thing is to make small splinters that will light easily and not waste the wood.
Here is a picture of my wife hammer the lighter wood down onto the hatchet.
Here is a picture of one of the lighter wood splinters. Nice and thin and full of resin that should burn beautifully to get a fire started.
Here is our growing pile of lighter wood fire starters.
After a good 30-40 minutes of hammering and hacking at the two lighter knots, we ended up with a nice bucket full of lighter splinter fire starters!
We plan to take this bucket of fire starters to our retreat for use in lighting fires. I read where some people caution against burning lighter wood in indoor fireplaces and wood stoves due to the high resin content which can cause chimney fires if not properly maintained and cared for. I think if you were going to burn an entire lighter wood knot in a fireplace or wood stove that may very well be a valid concern. However, if you’re just using small splinters like these to get a fire started that uses hard wood or other well-dried/cured pine then you’re probably OK. At the very least the splinters can be used to start campfires, burn barrels, or other outdoor fires.
This goes to show us that the older generations have a lot of wisdom to pass along to us younger folks if only we’d open our ears, ask questions, and listen. I just wish we had become preppers about 10-15 years ago while my Granny was younger, more agile, and we had more time to learn what we could from her. In the meantime we will try to make the most of our visits to her farm and do our best to pass along that knowledge to our kids so her wisdom continues on well into the future.
Until next time… keep prepping!
This post is a day late due to problems with our web host, GoDaddy.com. Sorry for the delay.
We have missed several weekends of yard sale shopping due to many various conflicts. We finally got a chance to go yesterday though and racked up a lot of bargains. Our main goal was to find stuff we need for the retreat. We were not disappointed!
Here is a spread of what we got in about 2 hours of exploring yard sales. .
Some of the highlights were a vacuum food saver for $6.
Some pyrex containers with lids for $2 each; some almost new cake pans for $1 each; a nice muffin pan for $1; a metal decorative bucket; a set of nice metal measuring cups for $1; a broiler pan for $1; a metal “lantern” for a candle; and a small metal decorative pitcher.
A wood towel rack for $2 that will make a nice addition to the bathroom at the retreat; a white wall clock for $5; and two white milk glass candlesticks that match my wife’s milk glass collection for $3 each.
A wood kindling box for $2; a metal bucket $1 that we’re going to use to hold lighter wood fire starters; a coffee table and end table for $3 each that my wife is going to re-finish with an antique paint look.
We also got a couple of games and books to help keep the kids the occupied; a pair of kids hiking boots for $3 that we’ll leave at the retreat; two farm pictures for $0.50 each; and a Tennessee sweatshirt for our daughter for $1. Unfortunately, we didn’t haggle any on these items. We probably should have… I’m sure we would have saved perhaps another $10-20 off of the already bargain prices.
We also found a white wicker end table by the side of the road that my wife picked up and plans to fix up. She’s going to wrap the legs in twine and re-paint the whole thing. Today we bought a new round wood table top that she’s going to paint and put on top of the wicker table to make a good solid tabletop. As my wife says, FREE is our favorite price! We’ll be sure to post before and after photos of the tables once she gets them all re-finished how she wants them.
This might be the last yard sale blog post for awhile. As winter sets in, not many people want to sit out in the cold selling their stuff on Saturday mornings.
Until next time…
I just wanted to let everyone know that we have our first sponsor now: PrepareNow Outfitters. They offer a wide variety of disaster supplies. If you have a moment, please click their link to the side and check out their online store.
Over the weekend I printed out 5 must-have e-books so that we have hard copies in our survival library.
The first two are “Where There Is No Doctor” and “Where There Is No Dentist”. These two e-books provide a wealth of healthcare info that could be crucial in a post TEOTWAWKI environment. Luckily my wife is a former Pediatric ICU and recovery room Registered Nurse, so she has some excellent medical skills and knowledge already. These two books will help us get through situations that are outside her experience base. Both books can be downloaded for free from Hesperian.org. There are a variety of other books on their site that may be of some use if SHTF, but the No Doctor and No Dentist ones are the ones preppers talk about so much.
Next, we have the free e-book The IBC of Aquaponics. This books has a lot of good info on how to build an aquaponics system of your own. It goes through the various pieces of hardware needed, the general setup, water and soil condition, etc. What I really like about the book though is it is overflowing with full color photos of other people’s IBC aquaponics systems. Just seeing how people have theirs setup helps give you all kinds of ideas and tips about how to setup your own. Once we get our retreat, I plan to begin setting up our own system. We may not stock it right from the start since we’ll only be at the retreat part-time, but I want to have everything ready to go when the alarm sounds and we’re residing full-time at the retreat.
Then we have the Air Force Search and Rescue Survival Training Manual. This manual is also available online for free… just do some Startpage (or Google if Google is your thing) searching. This is a general survival guide that is focused on military personnel obviously, but has a ton of good info for all sorts of situations that you might find yourself in when SHTF. There are chapters on first aid, fire making, signaling for help, evasion & camouflage, trapping/hunting/fishing, how to navigate rivers in rafts, how to cross barbed wire fences, emergency shelters, etc. You would need to practice the tactics in the manual routinely to be confident in your ability to use them effectively. However, if you can’t practice as often as you like merely reading the manual and having the info stored away in the back of your mind could save your life one day.
Finally, I made a copy of 2012 Edition of the LDS Preparedness Manual which can also be found online for free download. The LDS manual is a guide to help Mormons with stocking their supplies that they religion highly encourages. It has lots of info on food storage and what types of food to stock up on. There is a small chapter on sprouting seeds for food. There is another chapter on making bug out bags and evacuating. There is info on communications, financial disaster preparedness, and defense topics. Heating, cooking, and lighting comprise yet another section of the manual. The manual even has info on clothing, shelter, and sanitation issues. The LDS manual is a good general resource on the above topics and more and should be part of any survival library.
The 5 books discussed above are only the first of many that we plan to have in our library. We want to get dual copies of each, so that we have them at both our primary residence as well as our retreat. I also have a long list of books “wish-listed” on Amazon for future purchase for our survival library. They range from books on dressing and cooking wild game to how to build a dirt-cheap survival retreat…and everything in between. I suspect that several of these will go on my Christmas list. Hopefully my wife will pick up a few for me.
Some other ideas for good survival library additions would be ammo reloading manuals, gunsmithing books, home/auto/tractor/small engine repair manuals, herbal remedy books, wildlife and nature books (descriptions of dangerous/safe plants and animals), books on Ham radio operations, gardening books, books on setting up alternate energy sources such as solar/wind/hydroelectric systems, Farmer’s Almanacs, maps/atlases, and religious texts (Bible, Koran, Torah, etc.). Don’t forget blank journals! Keeping a journal during TEOTWAWKI would be an awesome way to pass on your experiences and knowledge to future generations.
Beyond how-to books though, every survival library should also include other kinds of reading materials. Biographies and other non-fiction books about the American colonists, Revolutionary War, the Founding Fathers, Presidents, other government figures, important historical events, world leaders (from both the modern and ancient world) are important so we can pass along the knowledge and understanding of American and world history. Having various text books on all subjects and grade levels is critical for post-TEOWAWKI teaching and self-learning when schools are not operating or are unsafe. Fictional novels make for good, low-cost entertainment… especially when there is no electricity. Copies of the Declaration of Independence , US Constitution & Bill of Rights, Federalist/Anti-Federalist Papers, etc. are critical because we should always remember what our nation was founded upon and try to learn from, and emulate, the Founding Fathers’ devotion to Liberty. Austrian economics books such as those by Mises, Rothbard, Ron Paul, Hayek, etc. should be included so that we have info to guide us when America begins re-building after the economic collapse. These and many others should be considered as welcome additions to your library.
If you haven’t at least downloaded the free e-book versions of some of the above books, then start there. When you have time try to get hard copies made just in case computers aren’t working when SHTF. Scour the internet for more free resources. Visit thrift stores and used book stores to pick up whatever reading resources you can at deep discount prices. At your next birthday, ask someone for that economics or how-to book that you’re always putting off buying yourself. Keep stocking your library constantly.
Everyone says knowledge is power. When SHTF knowledge will be more than mere power… it will be the key to saving your and your family’s lives.
Remember keep prepping!
Today the clan piled in the van and headed to Costco to stock up on some supplies. We had almost two shopping carts full by the time we were done and spent way more money than I had planned. Prepping can be expensive!
We picked up several things that we needed more of for our emergency stores. We got a case of Stag Chili, 2 large bottles of vinegar, 50 lb bag of sugar, cases of green peas and corn, various spices (season salt, grill seasoning, meat marinade, BBQ sauce, etc.), razors, 2 large bottles of syrup, coffee, a large bag of water-only pancake mix, four of those long-necked grill/fireplace butane lighters, a case of printer paper, canned chicken & pork & roast beef, a large jug of vegetable oil, a bag of brown sugar, 2 bottles of vanilla extract, etc. We also bought some steak that we’re going to try to do our first batch of jerky with. I’ll let you know how that goes.
We also found this lantern there. It was only $20, so we thought we’d buy one to try it out. It’s a GE brand LED lantern that runs on either 4 or 8 D cell batteries. Depending on the number of batteries you use and what setting it’s on, it will provide light for 50 – 200 hours. It has three light brightness settings with a max of 235 lumens. So, far it seems to work OK. I brought it into the kitchen, turned off all the lights, and turned the lantern on and it lit the space up pretty well. Certainly well enough for an emergency situation. The pictures below were taken on my office chair, so it’s not as obvious how it lights up a room. We’ll probably pick up a few more to have in our emergency kit and to take to the retreat. Oh ya, and with 8 D cell batteries you could probably knock someone upside the head with this thing pretty good if you ever needed to!
Another thing we started today was our weekly stored food night. My wife has about 25-30 different meals that she’s put together from foods like canned meats, boxed potatoes, canned veggies, etc. Each meal is bagged up into a gallon size zip-lock bag so that everything is already together and allows the chef to just grab one from the pantry and start cooking. The only thing that isn’t included in the meal kits is any water that is needed. Some of the recipes include beef stew over mashed potatoes, white chicken chili, chicken spaghetti, fettuccine alfredo, chicken and biscuits casserole, ham and sweet potatoes, scalloped potatoes with diced ham, chicken chow mein, chicken tacos, bean burritos, etc.
Tonight’s meal was beef stroganoff… made entirely from our stored emergency meal kits. The ingredients are as follows:
- 1 can of roast beef
- 2 small cans of sliced mushrooms
- 1 can cream of mushroom soup
- 1 can beef broth
- 1 squirt of mustard
- 1 package of egg noodles
- some water
Just mix the first 5 ingredients together in a pan over heat. Then cook your egg noodles in some water in a pot. Once the noodles are done, drain them and put them on the dinner plates. Cover the noodles with the stroganoff sauce and serve. It was VERY YUMMY! My wife was quite proud of her stored food concoction and I was quite happy to eat it!
We plan to do one of these meals a week to both test out the meals as well as start rotating them out. We have over 3 months of these meals stored up and plan to store more. We also have stored mylar bags of rice, beans, flour, sugar, etc. in food grade buckets. These little meal kits are handy and are something ANYONE can do to start prepping and providing some food security for their family.
Until next time… keep prepping.
When the SHTF and there is no more internet, TV, and even the power is out what will you do to occupy any free time you have? This is the topic of tonight’s blog.
We have three small children so thinking ahead how we might keep them entertained in a SHTF scenario is something we’ve begun to think about. Our first taste of such a situation was in the major tornado outbreak of 2011 where all of North Alabama was without power for almost a week.
When there is no power, it forces you to come up with some different, albeit old-school, means of entertainment. Even if you have made provisions for off-grid alternate power sources, you can’t count on there being TV or the internet to provide relaxation and entertainment for your clan. Handheld video games are an option… I know my son is addicted to his. But there are lots of alternatives too. Just think back to what people of the past did for entertainment before there was power, TV’s, radios, and the internet.
Some good starting places are puzzles, cards, and other games. My wife picked up three card games (Uno, Rook, and Old Maid) at Walmart yesterday for $2 each. She also picked up a 1000 piece puzzle. These will go with some other puzzles and games to our retreat once we get it.
Board games like Monopoly, Scrabble, Sorry, Clue, Chutes & Ladders, Candy Land, Stratego, Connect Four, Checkers, Chess, etc. will provide many hours of fun for the family living in SHTF. They require no power, no TV, no internet, no radio… perhaps just some lantern or candle light and a space to put down the board like a table or floor.
A deck of cards and a book on various card games is a cheap investment to help pass away the time when you need some entertainment in the evenings. They take up almost no space and offer a ton of fun ways to get some good family time in.
Puzzles are great because the family can work together as a team to complete them. Our 7 year old son is a puzzle prodigy and loves them. Even our three year old has helped us work on, and made contributions to, assembling 1000 piece puzzles.
If you want to get fancier, throw in some poker chips or dice too. Yahtzee is a fun dice game that our kids like to play with their grandparents. It would be a welcome relaxation activity when SHTF and stress is high.
Finally, there are books. We have picked up perhaps 20 of the classics for $1 each at the Target dollar section over the last few months. My wife’s latest prizes were Moby Dick, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Time Machine, White Fang, and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Previously we had picked up others such as Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, Pinocchio, Little Women, Anne of Green Gables, and all kinds of others. When SHTF we can either have family story time where we read chapters aloud, or our kids can read them on their own. Right now only our son is of reading age, but he can read just about anything he wants and loves to read. So having books like these that he hasn’t read or heard before will be great for him.
The above are all intended to be for passing time when we’re inside on cold or rainy days, in the evenings before bed, or otherwise aren’t able to get outside for some fresh air. Of course there are other things you can consider too for those times when you are outside and need some entertainment. Some baseball gloves, a bat, and some balls would be a great place to start. I personally am a big baseball fan (not modern day baseball though… old school baseball when players like John McGraw, Ty Cobb, Christy Mathewson, Mordecai Brown, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Jimmy Foxx played) and would love my kids to gain an appreciation of the sport. A football or soccer ball is a good option too. Just remember to have an air pump. Jump ropes, bicycles, a Frisbee, etc. are also possibilities when you need to burn off some extra energy.
Regardless of what kind of SHTF scenario you are prepping for, keep in mind how you and your family will spend those few precious hours when you’re not tending to livestock, the garden, patrolling the retreat, cooking, or cleaning. Think about ways that you can lower the stress level in your family and provide some quality fun and bonding time. It will make things more bearable and keep the troops happy.
So until next time – keep prepping… and don’t forget the games, puzzles, and books!
Sorry the posts are coming slower lately. We’ve been swamped with trips, activities, and a few later work nights that is making it hard to post as often as I had intended. I will try to do better.
Tonight’s post is about the status of our retreat property search.
My wife took charge of finding a Buyer’s Agent in Arkansas to show us retreat properties and help with the purchase. From what she says, the one she picked seems very helpful and friendly based on her phone calls with him. We’ll see how things go when we go back up to start viewing properties.
My wife gave the Buyer’s Agent our criteria including: acreage range, price targets, minimum number of beds/baths, desire for alternate water supply such as year round creeks or ponds, desire for existing useable outbuildings (barn, shed, chicken coops, etc.), wood stove and/or wood burning fireplace, mixture of forest and pastures and garden areas, desire for alternate energy sources such as solar or wind, etc.
Based on these criteria my wife picked out several properties from Zillow.com that looked promising and passed those on to the Buyer’s Agent to get more info. He also sent us a few more properties that weren’t listed on Zillow. So far, the candidates range from 8 acres up to 40+ with homes ranging in size from a little over 1000 sq. ft to over 3000 sq. ft. all within our maximum price range. Obviously some appear better than others, but we’ll wait and see how they shape up when we see them in person.
I’m going to mainly be looking for a good value based on location, acreage, home size, and home condition. I’m adamant that we get something with a very sound infrastructure that doesn’t require immediate repair work to the frame/foundation/electrical/plumbing/heating/cooling/etc. I’m also interested in the accessibility (paved vs. dirt roads), defensibility, quality & condition of the well and alternate water sources, state of the sewer/septic system, a good wood stove/fireplace and condition of the chimney, quality of the outbuildings, etc. I really want the land to be sized and shaped such as to let me to set up a good shooting range too. I’m sure my wife will be looking for a porch, good kitchen and bathroom(s), nice garden spots, mature trees, wood stove, and overall eye appeal.
This trip will be just my wife and myself… no children. We’re flying my mother-in-law up from Florida to watch the kids for a few days while we make the trip to Arkansas. The airline ticket is already bought and paid for, so there is no turning back now! My mother-in-law was thrilled at the chance to come visit, all expenses paid no less, and see the grand kids. I know our kids will likewise be excited to see their grandmother that they normally only get to see once a year due to the distance from our house to hers. My parents who live in town have offered to help where they can while we’re gone too.
Since it’s hard for us to get away without the children, this will likely be the only trip we make to see retreats. So, we’ve got to find one we want. The pressure will be on! Once we agree on one, then we plan to put in an offer soon afterward with the intentions of closing before Christmas. My wife would like nothing more than to spend the Christmas holiday at our new retreat this year fixing it up, decorating it, furnishing it, and stocking whatever prepping supplies we can there. I’m sure our kids will have a blast too. They are already asking about getting chickens, a tractor, and an ATV not to mention being able to do “nature walks” everyday, playing in a creek, etc., etc. Our trip to my grandmother’s farm this past weekend only served to get them more excited about having our own farm to explore.
So the wife had a chance to participate in my work’s first annual holiday shopping extravaganza tonight. My almost 6 year old daughter helped her man her table. She ended up selling $75 worth of crafts that she made based on ideas from Pinterest and other places. Not too bad for her first try. She’s putting the money into our Retreat Fund. She has a couple more craft shows scheduled for the coming weeks so I’ll keep you updated on how those go.
I thought tonight would be a great night to do our first product review. For our first review, I’ve chosen the UTG Messenger Bag in the Dark Earth color.
Please note that I haven’t received any compensation for this review. I bought the UTG Messenger Bag myself (from Amazon, price is approximately $32) because it looked good. I’ve been using it for a few months now.
I originally got this messenger bag to serve as my Every Day Carry bag. I had a few instanced where I wanted my multi-tool or a flashlight while at work. I figured it was probably a good idea to have a small med kit, my pistol, a water bottle, a notebook, etc. on hand too. So after scouring the internet for bags I settled on this one from UTG.
First, the strap. The shoulder strap is fully adjustable and has a nice additional section of padding to make it comfortable for longer periods of time. The strap also a small hook to attach another pouch or other item if wanted.
The back of the bag has three nice padded areas that cushion your hip, leg, and side while wearing the bag.
Now on to the various pockets… and there are a lot of them! There is a large zipper pocket that sits right up against your body. I use this one to hold my IWB holster and 9mm Ruger SR9c pistol. By the way, the holster is a Minotaur MTAC from Comp-Tac.com. UTG also makes a velcro insert that can hold a pistol inside the bag, but I my approach of putting the holster in there works too. If I want to leave the gun in the holster in the pocket, then I can keep the bag on my right side and draw directly from the pocket once unzipped. Alternately, when I head out I can take out the holster and put in on my belt and use is like normal. In that case I can carry the UTG Messenger bag on my left side which makes getting to the extra magazines very natural feeling.
Speaking of extra magazines, I keep two 17 round spare magazines in the small top zippered pouch on the bag. This is probably not the best place for the spare magazines. In a crisis situation I can see the spare mags falling out on the ground when the pouch is unzipped. There are several other compartments that I could move the magazines to… I just need to try some of them out.
In the one side zipper pouch I keep a box of 50 9mm hollow points to re-fill the magazines if needed.
Here is the view into another zipper compartment on the front side of the top flap of the bag. I only have a bottle opener in there now… need to fill it up with more useful stuff!
Here is a look at the front of the bag with the large UTG clasp closed. The strap which closes the bag is adjustable and can be used to hang other stuff or possible even tie down something like a small bedroll if needed. I’m not sure what other functions the Operators use it for, but I’m sure they have some good ideas.
On the other side of the bag is a pouch for a water bottle. I bought this blue aluminum water bottle from Walmart for $1 (bought a couple of others that same day for use with our Get Home/Bug Out Bags too!). My only complaint about the water bottle pouch is that the strap that is supposed to secure the bottle in the pouch doesn’t hold this type of bottle well… at least not for me. It seems it’s lacking in some adjustment that is needed to tighten the side strings down over the shoulder of the bottle and hold it in place. Still, the bottle fits well in the pouch so overall I’m still happy with it.
Next we open up the UTG clasp and inside we find the largest compartment of the bag. It is closed off with draw strings. I keep a small leather bound notebook and my copy of the Citizens’ Rule Book in here. There is easily enough room to fit much more though. You could keep several AR-15 magazines in here, a med kit, an MRE, or a number of other similar sized items.
Underneath the flap is another zipper compartment. This one also has a mesh pocket in it. In here I keep a small screw driver set, some spare batteries, a small multi-tool, and a med kit. The med kit is kept in a box I got from work. I think some Digital Signal Processor chips came in the box, but it was free, had a nice snap close lid, and fit a fair bit of medical supplies like bandaids, pain meds, gauze, ointments, etc.
Also on the side of the bag is a small slip in pouch where I keep my small Maglite LED flashlight in it’s sheath. I want to get some new small LED flashlights to upgrade this Maglite, but just haven’t got around to doing it yet.
So here is the bag with all the contents laid out.
So far I am very happy with the UTG Tactical Messenger Bag. The zippers are all good quality, it’s spacious, and comfortable. There are a few places where the stitching isn’t top-notch, but it’s holding together OK so I’ll stick with it until it wears out.
As I have shown, this bag has a lot of room for all your stuff. I can put much more into mine than what I have now. I want to get some quick clot and other trauma med additions for it. I’d like to add a fire starter and small length of paracord too. Maybe some zip ties. It would probably be good to throw in a couple of power bars or other high energy, but compact food items. Also some water purification tabs. The bag would easily have room for all of these additions and then some I think.
My ultimate goal is to buy several more of these UTG Messenger Bags and make each into an Armed Response Kit (ARK) dedicated to one combination of long gun and handgun. I’d have spare magazines for the handgun and long gun in addition to the basics like flashlight, med kit, water bottle, multi-tool, knife, paracord, etc.
I would not hesitate to recommend purchasing one of these UTG Messenger Bags and using them for an EDC bag, ARK, or mini Bug Out Bag.
Until next time… keep prepping!