Guide to Picking the Best Mattress & Sleeping Pad for Survival

This is a guest article by Will Bermudez 

“Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst!” This already famous truism is the perfect advice for all humanity: the smartest thing to do to ensure our survival is to have a strategy for the times when such planning will be required. One may hope those times will never come, but being ready for any circumstances is a moral duty. One essential detail you need to think about when developing a survival strategy – whether if it is for living in the wild or for surviving a natural disaster – is sleeping arrangements. Depending on your needs, you’ll be inclined to choose between a mattress and a sleeping pad. I tried both options, and I can’t decisively swing over one or another. They both have numerous pros. But in the end, the choice is based on individual preferences. That’s why I put together a short guide to help you consider vital factors when making your purchase of either a mattress or a pad – or both.

Think comfort

Whether you want a thin sleeping pad or a thick air mattress, seek the most comfortable option according to your needs. If you have health issues, allergies or back pains or you just have to sleep in a specific position, choose the product that addresses your problem. Read the descriptions of the products carefully; ask the retailer for more details and, most importantly, read the buyers’ reviews. Test the pad or the mattress, if you have the possibility, for at least 15 minutes, in your favorite sleeping position.

Think storage and transportation

sleeping padModern pads and mattresses are designed to pack small, especially the outdoors models. Some pads pack to the size of a soda can. Deflated mattresses take little space in backpacks as well. But remember that you should focus on quality: the ultra-light ones may not offer the same sleep experience as the full body length ones. Sometimes too thin can mean a hard bed; too large, and the pad or mattress is difficult to carry. Considering you’ll probably sleep on the ground or the floor of a shelter, you should go for a thicker product, but still easy to transport.

Think materials and durability

The sleeping pad & mattress industry has evolved a lot over the past decades in all aspects – materials, weight, versatility, features. Pads are usually made of dense foam filled with tiny closed air cells. Most airbeds are made of PVC and other leading-edge materials meant to increase their durability. A thicker PVC layer (0.6 mm, for instance) offers better insulation, but can also bring extra weight. Good news is that lately, manufacturers went for fumes-free materials for airbeds, which reduces the safety concerns regarding the chemicals in these products.

Think power source

Consider the fact that you may not have an electric power source or that the one you have might get cut off. Thus, if you want to choose an air mattress, look for a self-sufficient product that can be inflated manually, or that can work on batteries as well.

Think quality and price

Try to find the best brands on the market, the ones that have been around for a long while and have developed a wide range of models, making them better and more affordable. Research thoroughly what others have to say about a particular product or brand; TryMattress recommends checking the website of the manufacturer and even the social media accounts since many people choose to give reviews on these networks. Last but not least, consider the fact that a good and reliable product will not be cheap, but it will be a long-term investment in your safety and comfort.

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Publisher’s note: Amazon carries a good selection of sleeping pads and air mattresses.

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Survival Water Filter by Survival Hax

Drinkable water is going to be on the top of the survival priority list in any situation. Whether you are stranded on the road for three days, evading a natural disaster for three weeks, or dealing with TEOTWAWKI for the next three decades, without having enough clean drinking water to stay alive, all of your other preps will not matter. There are a number of ways to treat water to make it drinkable. Having a personal water filter is one of those ways, and has a number of tactical advantages. They are light weight, and inexpensive so each person in your group can have and carry at least two. I see these as reserve items. You should have as much stored water as possible at your main location, as well as larger family sized filters. But these are useful especially if you are on the go and bugging out on foot. Water weighs a lot, and you won’t be able to carry a lot with you. Boiling takes time, requires you stay in one place long enough to do it, and requires fuel. The advantage to portable personal water filters is that you can drink on the go, as you find water.

Survival Hax is a company that imports a line of inexpensive but well made survival items. I have written about their survival shovel,  as well as their EDC keychain

According to the manufacturer, this water filter has the following characteristics:

  • Filter up to 400 gallons (1,500 liters) of drinkable water with one straw. (30% more efficient than standard portable filters.)
  • Advanced filter purifies at .1 microns and removes 99.9% of waterborne protozoan parasites.
  • Chemical Free technology for healthy water intake.
  • Lightweight and easy to store (3oz, 7.5in long, 1in diameter). Perfect for Bug Out Bags.

There are a number of portable water filters on the market, and honestly, all about equally as good.  The particular filter has a number of add ons, including a small compass, small mirror,  and the end cap is a whistle.  Cute, but to me, probably not that all useful. A well-built carabiner allows it to be attached easily on the outside of your gear if you want. But it DOES have a couple features that I consider very useful. If you look at the picture above of the woman drinking, notice how close down to the water she has to get. This filter comes with a length of surgical tubing which will fit on the end to allow you more stand-off from the water.  This allows you to keep your head up higher and to be able to look around while drinking, enhancing your security. The tubing could also be used as an emergency tourniquet.

But the one feature that really stands out for me on this particular filter, is that the end cap is threaded so that you can screw on a standard 28mm plastic water bottle. This has a number of advantages. Water locations can be dangerous places in a serious situation, attracting all kinds of two and four-legged critters. With a couple spare empty bottles, you can fill them up quickly and move on to drink the water away from the water source. I see this as a definite advantage.  You can get one from Survival Hax or from Amazon Prime

Valley Food Storage Dehydrated Peanut Powder.

For those wishing to stockpile foods for long-term storage, there are a number of options. There are many companies that specialize in dehydrated foods, and the best advice you can get is to decide what you are going to need, and sample a variety from different companies. And there are a large choice of food types and menus.

Valley Food Storage is one of the major players in the industry. I tested their white bean and lime chili and found it really good. So when I was given another choice of item to test, I decided on the peanut powder. My main interest is in lightweight and easily stored items that would be functional and nutritional either bugging in or out. Peanut butter is a popular staple with survivalists for a number of reasons which I described here where I wrote about the real deal.

Peanut powder is made by compressing peanuts to remove the oil and fats, and then grinding them into powder. This provides a lightweight substitute for the much heavier actual peanut butter. So how does it stack up against the real thing on the two issues I see as most important: Nutrition and taste.

Nutrition

The table below is the label off the Valley Food Storage package. One serving consists of two tablespoons. One serving will contain 7g of protein, 70 calories, and 4g of total fat.

This is the label off of a regular jar of Jif creamy peanut butter. It also has 7 g of protein, but has 180 calories, and 16 grams of total fat

The peanut powder has and equal amount of protein, but a lot fewer calories, fat and sodium. But you are also talking a lot less weight for the amount of protein.

Taste Test

Easy to mix, it is 1 for 1 water and powder. I mixed two tablespoons of powder with two tablespoons of water. It mixed easily and rapidly. It wasn’t as thick as regular peanut butter. It tasted good, but needs a bit of sugar for my taste. Easily done in the field with small sugar packets.  It is advertised as good to mix in things like yogurt or cereal, or juice. OK in a bug in situation, but maybe not so practical on the move.  It would make a lightweight protein additive for such things as crackers, etc. It would also lighten up the blandness of survival food.

Conclusion

Lightweight and tasty protein supplement for a survival situation, but it has the same water dependent drawback that all dehydrated food stuffs have. I have placed one bag in my food stash and will let the wife enjoy the other in her breakfast yogurt.

Available from Valley Food Storage

Survival Hax Survival Shovel

survival_shovel_1_1024x1024One of the fun things about doing a survival blog is that manufacturers and dealers will often send you one of their items to test. I have some definite policies on this. I do not accept money for the review. I get to keep the item. And I will only write an honest evaluation. When Sara of SurvivalHax offered to send me one of their survival shovels I was glad to test it.

Before I discuss the shovel, let’s define what a survival shovel is. For my purposes, it should be lightweight and small enough to fit in a bug out bag. It should be sturdy enough to perform some basic functions. These would include digging a cat hole, digging a fire pit, digging a water run off trench around your shelter, driving tent stakes, and shoveling snow or sand from around a stuck vehicle tires. If you are planning on doing more heavy-duty digging, then you will need a larger tool. The SurvivalHax survival shovel will perform it’s intended functions very well.

This little shovel is basic military style with a folding spade and pick. This design was initiated by the Germans in WW2 and quickly copied by the United States and many other countries. The shovel has a two piece hollow handle which screws together and the end survival_shovel_6_1024x1024cap unscrews and has a ferro rod fire starter. Both handles are hollow. It also comes with a carrying case, as well as a lifetime warranty. When the shovel is unfolded it is 24 inches (2 feet) long. Its collapsible size is 8.6 x 8.2 inches. The head of the shovel is made out of manganese steel with a rigidity rating of 42-46. The handle is made out of steel as well, while the orange adjustment nut is aluminum alloy. It weighs in at about 2 pounds.

The blade is serrated on one side like many other shovels of this size. And like most of it’s counterparts, the serrated edges as well as the blade edge need to be sharpened with a file. This is not a criticism.   A few minutes with a file and the serrations and flat edge are nice and sharp. Again, most shovels of this type need to be sharpened. The three rivets that hold the blade to the mount seem solid. At 2 lbs. weight, it is solid enough to pound tent stakes in soft to moderately hard soil. I took the shovel out back and used both the pick and the blade to dig  around a bit. The soil here is gravely on top, sandy under. Both the pick and blade worked well and the locking nut stayed tight. There were no dings or bends to the blade.

survival-hax-shovel-dissassembledThe handle is a two piece hollow affair that screws together. The threads for both the handle and the end cap are cut clean and screw together with no problems. I recommend lubricating the threads lightly.   The black finish is smooth, actually slick. I solved this problem by wrapping the handle in paracord.

This not only adds no real weight, but gives a more solid grip on the handle as well as providing additional paracord for my kit. As the end cap is a ferro rod fire starter, I decided to use the hollow space to enhance  fire making capability. I took 5 Vaseline impregnated cotton balls and wrapped them in a plastic bag. I attached a piece of paracord to one end and a military p-38 can opener to the other. It works like a pull through with the p-38 being the weight that allows the sack to be pulled into or out of the tube. In addition, I have found a p-38 to be an excellent striker to use on a rod. I tested it on the rod that came with the shovel and got good sparks. I haven’t decided what to use the space in the upper handle for yet. Perhaps kindling.

The carrying case is adequate to store the two pieces nicely in a rucksack, but only has one belt loop and would probably not be too durable for long-term wear on a belt. If you wish to carry it that way, a very inexpensive military surplus e-tool holder can easily be found.survival_shovel_7_1024x1024

Summary

The SurvivalHax Survival Shovel is a well made, lightweight shovel of a proven design that is small enough to fit in a bug out bag, or under a vehicle seat and comes with a lifetime warranty. The hollow handles give you the option of storing additional items of your choice, which most other shovels of this type do not have. Mine is now in my get home bag in my jeep. Available on Amazon or SurvivalHax

Documentation To Take If Bugging Out

1912_Birth_Certificate_Ken_BakerOften times when we think of bugging out we consider a number of tangible things: Vehicle to use, equipment, food, water, and defensive weaponry to have readily available for a quick move out are just some of the things to consider.The bug out bag itself is the center piece of much of the conversation in regards to prepping and survival. When planning on bugging out, there are a wide range of scenarios you need to consider. Is this a short-term trip to avoid a oncoming natural hazard, and you plan to return home eventually? Or is it a total societal breakdown? Or any of the hundreds of possible scenarios in between?

Many people who prepare to evacuate their home in any number of scenarios often fail to seriously consider one of the undeniable truths about bugging out depending on the severity of the crisis. You may not ever be able to go back to your home. And if you are able to eventually return, it is probable that all of your possessions will be gone, the home possibly destroyed, or even someone else now living there. So the next issue to consider is the distinct possibility of having to start your life completely over either at your old home or elsewhere. This is going to require important documents on your part.  Lets take a look at the two ways to carry documentation, paper and digital, and the types of documents you may want to consider. Remember, you are prepping for any number of situations, not just TEOTWAWKI. You should carry copies of important documents with you even when you go on vacation. You should also have a set in a bank safe deposit box. Remember redundancy? What happens if your house burns down when you are gone?

BF-AB155_02docJ_E_20110701215220Paper

Paper documents have the primary advantage of being readily accessible should you need them. Unless you are carrying a computer and printer in your bug out kit, you should have paper copies of your most important documents. And you need to keep them in a waterproof container of some sort. Keep in mind that paper can get heavy. You should limit your paper documents to just the bare essentials. But here are some recommendations of what you will probably need hard copy of:

  • Us-passportTwo forms of I.D. for each adult in the family. Preferably picture I.D.
  • Passport will work as one of the above. If you do not have one, get one. Even if you do not plan to travel.
  • Social Security cards.
  • Birth certificates (certified) for each family member.
  • Copies of all insurance policies( auto, life, guns, etc.)
  • Marriage Certificates( certified)
  • All property deeds.
  • Immunization records, if not complete medical records for each member of the family.
  • Vehicle registration documents, and title if they are clear.
  • Any unique documents that effect your identity: DD-214, adoption papers etc.
  • Bank records with all account numbers.
  • Prescriptions, both medical and eye glass.

Digital

As well as the hard copies above, you should have digital copies of them and any other documentation you may want to re construct ( family fotos, business records., etc.). You can place them on an encryption disk. Granted, you won’t be able to use them until you have access to a computer, but they are small, light, can hold much more information than you want to carry hard copy, and be safely encrypted. You can getSandisk Cruiser_ this ScanDisk Cruiser Fit  with built-in software very inexpensively.

Kindle Paperwhite_Another digital answer is a small tablet such as the Kindle Paperwhite. The advantage of this system is that not only can you store readable versions of your documents, but you can also store a large number of digital reference books such as survival books, weapons manuals, etc.

Every individual and family has a different situation and different needs. But to determine what documentation you should take with you in an emergency evacuation, short or long-term, ask yourself this question:

“If all I have is the rucksack on my back, what documentation would I need to reconstruct my life?”

 

Back Packable Tents for Your Bug Out Bag or Hiking

MSR Carbon ReflexWhether you are escaping an oncoming disaster (bugging out) or just hitting the wilderness trail, shelter will be very important. You can make a shelter with natural materials, or just use a tarp for shelter. A tent would be a lot better, but most standard camping tents tend to be pretty heavy too. But a whole industry has grown up around lightweight back packing and lightweight tents that you can carry in your bug out bag are available.

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The Truth About MRE’s

MRE_20071124MRE. The acronym of Meal, Ready to Eat. A common term in the military and prepper communities for packaged field rations. Many people stocking survival food will stock MRE’s, either as a sole food source or as an addition to other stocked food options. There are a lot of opinions and even myths about MRE’s. So what is the truth about MRE’s?

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Seven Basic Survival Skills You Need to Learn

Civil unrestIf you are serious about being prepared to survive any eventuality, then there are several skills you need to learn. But if you are a beginner, there are a core set of skills you need to get a handle on first. Survival experts often disagree on what these skill sets are and in what order they are important, because there are a lot of variables involved. But from my point of view, there are seven basic skills anyone who is interested in surviving the worst case scenario should master first. Here is my take.

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SnugPak Softie 3 Merlin Sleeping Bag

Merlin 2Every one should have a bug out bag packed and prepared to go with at least three days necessities. Since sleeping is definitely a necessity in a stressful situation, it requires careful planning in the selection of gear. Weight in a bug out bag is a serious consideration. Sleeping gear can become a large portion of that weight. The SnugPak Softie 3 Merlin is a potential answer to the problem.

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Beginning Prepper Series

If you are new to the concept of emergency preparation ,”Prepping”, it can be difficult to know where to begin. Some people run out and begin buying tons of food, guns, survival supplies ect, and some just throw their hands up in the air and try to ignore the situation. Both approaches are wrong. The series or articles below is designed to get beginners started. I recommend you read them in order. They will get you started on preparing yourself for everything from a couple of days power outage to TEOTWAWKI (The end of the world as we know it.) Notice I said started.

 

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Basic Prepper 1: Prepare for What?

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Basic Prepper 2: Where to begin

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Basic Prepper 3: Every Day Carry

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Basic Prepper 4: Prepping Considerations, Terminology, and The Bug Out Bag

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Basic Prepper 5: Putting a Bug Out Bag Together

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Basic Prepper 6: Buying a Bug Out Bag

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Basic Prepper 7: OPSEC: How Much Do You Need?

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Basic Prepper 8: OPSEC: How Much Do You Need? PT.2

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Basic Prepper 9: Building a Survival Battery for Beginning Preppers

Bugging out

Basic Prepper 10:To Bug In or Bug Out?

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