Archive for the ‘Emergency Preparedness’Category

How We Do Business – Mylar Bag Edition

Hey everyone, I know it’s been a while!  While it has been quiet on the blog, we have been very busy behind the scenes trying to serve our customers better.  I’ve been thinking about doing a video encapsulating our philosophy of doing business, and what makes us stand out.  We have the best return customer rate in the business, and I thought we would share some of the reasons why.  If you’ve been on the fence about ordering from us, I hope this gives you some indication of how far we will go to serve our customers!  If you don’t know the address, here is our online store!

1)  Same Day Shipping – In the beginning, there is very little to differentiate one seller from another.  One of the ways we have done so from day one is offering same day shipping for all orders that come in until 3pm.  And many days if I can manage it, I’ll ship everything that comes in until about 5pm, stopping by the Post Office on the way home to drop off packages which miss the regular pickup.  Getting your package in the mail ASAP is very important to us.  We work 7 days a week (about a half shift on Saturday and Sunday) to make sure you get your item as soon as humanly possible without using Express Service!

2)  USPS Priority Mail Shipping for most orders – Whatever else one might say about USPS, I can attest that Priority Mail is the best reasonably costed standard shipping method available today.  UPS Ground can compete for a certain geographical area, but no one else guarantees 2-3 day shipping times (In TN and parts of surrounding states, some folks have told us they got their package the next day!).  This includes Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico.  If you need your order as quick as possible, you can trust us to get it there.  Just today, we had several customers on the phone who thanked us on getting their order to them ASAP.

3)  We Value Your Privacy – I am a privacy nut myself, and so we go out of our way to protect yours.  First, we use discrete packaging, meaning nothing will ever show up on your door with a big ‘Survival Stuff Inside!’ or giant ‘Discount Mylar Bags’ plastered all over the box.  We have many folks who specifically request plain packaging, and this is to let everyone know we don’t have ANY outer packaging with our name on it.  The only place you will see our name is the return address as required by our shipping carriers.

4)  We Value Your Privacy, Part 2 – For all orders placed online, we NEVER see or have access to your credit card information.  It is handled in exactly the same manner as it would be at a department or other retail store…invisibly and behind the scenes.  Only our credit card processor actually sees your credit card number, so you never have to fear one of our employees gallivanting around Europe using your credit card!

5)  We Value Your Privacy, Part 3 – While I’ve thought about doing one, we don’t have a mailing list.  We don’t, and will never, sell your email to anyone for any reason.  I hate junk mail in my inbox, and many of the survival stores are terrible about sending out a ton.  The only way I would send an email to a customer is if they asked me to do a newsletter, and only then if they chose to opt in.  This is currently not in the planning stage, so if you’d like to see one, let me know.

6)  Free Shipping over $50 and on all kits – In the beginning I tested out ‘Free shipping on everything!’  That wasn’t very funny when I had dozens of folks placing orders for 2 Mylar Bags at $.25 each.  Needless to say, we lost our shirts and had to change that policy quickly.=)  We know $50 is a lot of money to some folks, and so we also offer free shipping on all our kits (located here).  Our goal is not to make money on shipping, and we only have the minimum charge to cover the cost of processing and packaging small orders.

7)  When We Screw Up, We Fix It – This is perhaps the defining aspect of how we run our business.  While we do our best to get all orders out the door perfect, inevitably we’ll mess one up.  However, you have my promise that I’ll fix it, quickly!  Your satisfaction with your order is our only concern.

8)  No Hassle Returns – Something not quite what you pictured when you bought it?  No problem, you are welcome to return anything at any time for a full refund!  Again, I only wish I could get the same from many of the places I order!=)  We’ve accepted returns from customers who had their product for a year and finally said to themselves ‘I’m never going to do this’.  And that’s OK, ship it back to us and we’ll refund it.

If there’s anything we can do serve you that we’re not currently doing, please let me know!  We are working on getting some new bag sizes in to fill requests of customers, so I hope you’ll check back!

Lifestraw, Heck Yeah!

When I first started prepping in around 2007 or so, water was a big concern…probably not as big as it should have been (I say this because almost every prepper I know puts off good water preparedness in favor of just about everything else, even though it should be done first!), but I knew we needed some.  When I was researching filters, storing water in 55 gallon drums or smaller, more portable container, pool shock, bleach and the like, I happened upon an article about the Lifestraw (sorry, the page this goes to is pretty ugly).  It seemed so simple compared to many filters, such as the Katadyn Hiker Pro I’ve had for years.  The sad thing was, the Lifestraw wasn’t available at retail (or online); the company that made it sold it only to NGO’s, charities and the like for use in the 3rd world.  Respectable, but frustrating as it seemed like an auto-include in every bug out bag, food storage kit, 72 hour kit, and other types of go-bags.  About twice a year I would check up on it in the hopes that it was available for sale.  Until this year, it wasn’t.  The good news?  Now it is!  Even better, we have it!

I am so proud to introduce the Lifestraw, now available at Discount Mylar Bags.  The Lifestraw is by far the easiest to use portable water filtration system ever designed.  When I mentioned a few posts back that I wanted to carry only ‘best in class’ survival and preparedness gear, this is the type of item I was talking about.  Some basic specs is that it reduces 99.99999% of waterborne bacteria and 99.9% of protozoan cysts (including giardia and cryptosporidium).  It will filter over 250 gallons of water.  And it is the easiest to use filter…just use like a straw (it will take some effort until the filter is wet).  And at only 2 ounces, it will fit just about anywhere.

Better yet, we have the Lifestraw at the Minimum Advertised Price if you buy 5.  With our Free Shipping, that means we have the Lifestraw available at the absolute lowest price available.  To be more specific, I’ve structured the cost to go down $1 for each additional Lifestraw you buy, so it’s only $23.95 for 1, $22.95 for 2, $21.95 for 3, $20.95 for 4, and $19.95 for 5.

I usually try not to get too salesy on the blog, but for this item I made an exception due to it being the easiest way to get some water filtration into your Bug Out Bags.  If anyone has any questions about the product, please drop us an email at admin@discountmylarbags.com


How to Move 3200 Gallons a Day Uphill Without Power

Be praised, My Lord, through Sister Water; she is very useful, and humble, and precious, and pure.

-Francis of Assisi (1181-1226) Canticle of the Sun circa 1225

The chirp, chirp, chirp of a running ram-pump is soothing to me.  While stored water is necessary for any survival plan, a ram-pump system represents life beyond the most meager of existence.

As a bare minimum, FEMA recommends 1 gallon a day per person for 3 days as a survival necessity (12 gallons for a family of 4).  When compared to the average person’s ‘normal’ usage of water of 80-100 gallons per day, you can imagine how challenging it would be to subsist on that tiny quantity.  Think about how fast the dishes would pile up, the clothes would smell, or how the inability to flush a toilet would make you feel.

Our preparedness group has 20+ members, counting children, and none of us want to imagine having to live without fresh water in a disaster.  Over the course of a year, we came up with the SurvivalClub Water Plan to ensure adequate supplies of fresh water (for at least one location) should we ever need it.  At capacity, the system will actually provide more than 100 gallons per day per person, leaving sufficient water after drinking, cleaning and sanitation to grow a garden, water a lawn, or give to others who might need it as well.  Our total system costs will run around $2500, and provide approximately 1,168,000 gallons of water per year.  If my math is right, that is about 1/50th of a penny per gallon, whereas my city water costs me around 10 times that.  Even if we used it for nothing but grey water to run a garden or water a lawn, the cost/benefit is amazing.  Even if our system costs double or triple as we factor in expenses we haven’t considered (extra filters, replacement parts, etc), the price per gallon is still almost insignificant.  And that is only the water provided in 1 year!

The heart of our system is a hydraulic ram pump.  In a simple sense, it uses water to push water, and is an inefficient system.  I estimate the majority of water is flushed off as excess to run the system, while only a small percentage (in our case, 2.3 gallons per minute) being moved uphill to its destination.  However, that is more than enough for our purposes, and the fact that it runs without electricity and has only 2 moving parts, makes it potentially the best solution for preparedness needs.

When complete, our ram pump will reside at the bottom of a small cliff.  Upstream of the cliff is a stream that runs all year round, though at some points much heavier than others.  We will have a steel trough at the point where the water flow is greatest, which will collect the water.  From there, it will run from the trough through 1.5″ pvc pipe downhill to the ram-pump (total drop 30′), which will push water uphill, around 150′ vertically and 400′ horizontally.   At the top of a slope, the water will collect in a 1000-gallon cistern, which will be above roof-level to the home on the property, allowing us to gravity-flow the water to the house.  We are still determining whether to create a large charcoal/sand filter system, or to use a different mechanism such as a Berkey filter to create potable water.

This is a video of our first test of the ram-pump to ensure it actually worked.  The water is running down the PVC piping from a 55-gallon drum, into the ram-pump, which is then pushing it through the hose down a small incline, and then back up to above the level of the water source.  Next time, I’ll talk about the work required to prepare the ground for the completed system.  We’re probably still several months away from a working system, and I’ll keep you apprised as we get more complete!


07 2011

Comprehensive Long Term Water Storage Plan Part 1

Imagine a worst case scenario, something you would read in a Michael Crichton novel.  After coming out of a period of minimal solar activity, the sun erupts with a solar flare of unimaginable magnitude.  From this flare comes a silent, invisible Super-storm, called a Coronal Mass Ejection.  This CME speeds towards the earth at over 500,000 miles per hour and washes across the earth’s magnetic field a mere 18 hours later.  50% of the satellites in orbit, those not protected by the body of the earth, shudder with the geomagnetic storm and then go silent, disrupting cell phone traffic across the globe end rendering much of the GPS network inoperable.  On earth, the storm causes Aurora, much like the Northern Lights, that are visible as far south as San Juan.  Energy is almost visible to the human eye as the atmosphere literally hums with the power.  As the pulse touches down on the world’s electrical grids, no one can imagine the speed at which our fragile wire-based infrastructure collapses…a massive chain of transformer and power station explosions rock the country.  The energy companies tell us it will take 20 years to restore power to 90% of the planet, due to the complexity and lack of capacity to build new transformers, if the parts can even be fabricated in our sudden electricity-less world.

Geomagnetic Storm Headed Toward Earth

Of course this scenario is unlikely, farcical even…or is it?  The exact event I described, minus the effects on our current world, occurred in 1859, and is called the Carrington Event.

On September 1–2, 1859, the largest recorded geomagnetic storm occurred. Aurorae were seen around the world, most notably over the Caribbean; also noteworthy were those over the Rocky Mountains that were so bright that their glow awoke gold miners, who began preparing breakfast because they thought it was morning.[4]

Telegraph systems all over Europe and North America failed in some cases even shocking telegraph operators.[5] Telegraph pylons threw sparks and telegraph paper spontaneously caught fire.[6] Some telegraph systems appeared to continue to send and receive messages despite having been disconnected from their power supplies.[7]

While I preach that our preps should be based real-world likelihoods, the fragility of our electrical grid would make a storm of similar magnitude to what occurred in 1859 a catastrophe of Biblical proportions.  Most areas of the world in the 1800’s knew at least something about food production, carpentry, cobbling, coopering and a hundred other skills that we have lost in our specialized societies.  While specialization has led to booming living standards, it comes at a cost…brittleness.  Meaning, if everyone knows how to farm, the loss of any particular farming area or piece of equipment, while tragic, would likely be insignificant to the world’s food supply.  However, imagine that our entire method of farming, from industrial fertilization to high-capacity farm machinery, is rendered a total loss to the collapse of our electrical infrastructure.  That is another story entirely, and would require the remaking of our world.

Most here by now know I’m not a fatalist.  I prepare for things like tornadoes, job losses, and floods, not for EMP’s, nuclear war, or Zombies.  However, there is always a little tickle at the back of my skull that whispers of my lack of preparation in one particular area:  water, and what would occur if something truly monumental occurred.   You all know the deal with what I consider the 5 musts of preparedness:  Water, Food, Shelter, Fire, Light.

However, while I’ve harped to my preparedness group (I affectionately call it SurvivalClub) for over a year about our lack of water preps, they are woefully inadequate.  We have over 10 person-years of food stored, multiple locations we could head to for shelter (plus a dozen tents and tarps), 50 ways to make fire, probably 500 flashlights, candles, lanterns, torches, flares, glowsticks and headlamps.  All that, and we have less than 10 days worth of stored water, and very little planned in ways to get more.   Sure, we have water filters, ways to boil water, iodine, bleach, pool shock and several other ways to make water pure.  However, unlike the other areas, we don’t have a real plan.

So, having gotten tired of listening to me, our group has finally taken the first concrete steps toward a real water solution.  We came up with the SWP, the Survivalclub Water Plan.  The plan had several requirements:  it needed to work without electricity, had to be able to support 20+ people, and had to run with a minimum of moving parts that could break or wear down.  I don’t remember which of us actually first read about a ram-pump, but when we all saw it, we knew that was the solution we were looking for.

Tomorrow, we’ll discuss the ram-pump, how it works, and the components of our complete system.


07 2011

Travelling Prepared

Since the business has become our full-time gig, I had assumed we would be home-bound for years, or at least until we had an employee we could trust with the keys. In other words, years. However, several months ago my wife suggested we get a trailer, load it up with inventory, and go wherever. We mulled it over for a while, and finally for Memorial Day we went on the first Advice and Beans Road Trip. We didn’t buy a trailer for this adventure, but we did take the SurvivalVan, my wife’s Quest, which held enough inventory for a week and food and water for longer than that.

This time we didn’t go very far, to a lake house that a friend of ours owns about 3 hours away. (Well, we never saw the lake, so we could call it ‘the woods house’). We went over Memorial Day weekend and had a great time.

What I found is that my entire thought process around travel has changed. It used to be in my twenties and thirties I would throw a gym bag in the back of the car with a couple changes of clothes, a toothbrush and some Rush CD’s and I was off to wherever. While I don’t really stress about it today, I do put a lot more thought into traveling than I used to.

I am sure these concepts won’t be new to many people, but I prep for travel just like I prep at home. Even before considering what to take with us in order to conduct business on the road, I made sure to check off the 5 basics on the list:

1- Water
2- Food
3- Shelter
4- Fire
5- Light

While the 72-hour kits that we keep in our cars have all of those, when traveling out of our regular sphere of influence I feel the need to be a little extra prepared.

We actually overstocked our food; we had enough to feed 6 people and the 2 dogs for a week. We only brought about half that, but picked up a bunch more at the local Wal-mart and took a great deal home with us. For water, we brought a case of bottled water as well as our Nalgene’s.  For shelter, we had our REI Quarterdome Tent and several blankets and sleeping bags.  Plus, in a pinch the van is plenty good shelter.  In TN during late May, its likely we wouldn’t need anything but a pair of shorts, so that was likely overkill. I always carry a lighter and a fire-steel with me, but I added a couple more Bic’s just in case.   For light we brought our big Maglite and my wife’s headlamp, but I am mad at myself that I forgot our propane lantern, which would have been great on the porch.  It also goes to show that what you forget is what you’ll need:  the lights from the driveway to the house were all burnt out, so having the lantern would have been perfect.  I didn’t realize but dogs don’t like peeing when they can’t see, so I had to wander around in the dark with our 3-lb and 8-lb girly-dogs.

For extras, we had jumper cables, jack and spare, and a small medical kit, as well as a month’s worth of any medications we regularly take. I sometimes hesitate to mention this, but I think its important: we also carried a pretty good amount of cash. We use our debit card and online payments for pretty much everything nowadays, but in the past I’ve been in some situations where it was the only way to pay for something, such as during a power outage or if the businesses phone lines were down.  I think everyone should always have a couple hundred dollars hidden on when they are traveling, and even when they are not.  We regularly buy items off of Craigslist or at yard sales at big discounts, but 99.9% of the time you must have cash.

So overall the trip was pretty minor as these things go, but it felt good knowing that if we got lost, broke down, or something happened while we were actually there, we had enough to survive a week pretty easily, and more if we rationed.

Prior to leaving, I also checked that we had our licenses, insurance cards (both car and health), and let our family know where we were going and when we were due back.

I think we’ve decided that we will get a pull-behind trailer for the business inventory, so if anyone has any recommendations please let me know. It’s nice to think that we’ll get to leave the house before the next Winter Olympics rolls around.  Our next adventure will be a full-blown road trip to New England to see our families. Probably 10 days gone; I haven’t done the math on how many cubic feet of stuff we’d need to take, but its significant.

I still think there are probably a lot of things I missed, as I tend to be a homebody; drop me an email at admin@adviceandbeans.com with any tips you have for when you travel, or anything that I forgot.