Tuesday, September 30, 2014

How to Choose a Bug Out Vehicle

This is an excerpt from the chapter about vehicles from my latest book “Bugging Out and Relocating: What to do when staying is not an option”, available in Amazon.

Bug Out Vehicle

The concept of “Bug Out Vehicle” evokes images of powerful 4x4 trucks driven by rugged adventurers as they make their way across uncharted territory. As we analyze this topic more carefully we will understand that the reality is far less exciting and that unless such capabilities are really needed, a true Bug Out Vehicle (BOV) has little to do with the likes of a specialized off-road vehicle.
A Bug Out vehicle is a form of transportation that allows you to reach a safe location during emergency situations. We can assume that for the most part driving will be done on roads and we will only go off-road when there’s no other choice. Still, since emergency scenarios can be very different from one another, the specific vehicle best suited for each will be different too. A person living in a rural area with poor roads and heavy snow during winters will appreciate having a 4WD/AWD BOV, while someone living in a dangerous country with serious crime problems, terrorist threats or war may greatly value armored protection. In spite of the differences, there are certain common traits you want to look for in a BOV:
Reliability: A car is of no use if it doesn’t run. How big it is or how powerful it is, it all comes in a distant second place to actually working. The BOV should have an excellent track record when it comes to reliability. The last thing you want to worry about when evacuating is mechanical problems. All motor vehicles have them, but some have them far more often than others. Having a reliable vehicle will also mean that your car is less likely to need repairs (saving money) when used on daily basis for commuting and driving around town.
Fuel Efficiency: While monster trucks and bomb-proof military vehicles may look great in post-apocalyptic movies, spending a small fortune in gas every month gets old fast and isn’t nearly as cool as you thought it would be when you realize how much money you could have saved with a more fuel efficient vehicle. Poor gas millage is usually the reason why most big BOV stay in the garage while a more efficient car is used for driving around. The theory here is that when disaster strikes, the person will be able to go back home, load up the BOV, and make a triumphal exit while the neighbors stare in awe with their jaws hanging, his sparkling off-road truck blinding them with sun reflecting off the manly stainless steel grill guard. The flaw in this theory is assuming that a person will somehow know when disaster will strike. There’s never a warning. That’s part of what disasters and emergencies are all about. This means that the vehicle used on daily basis will probably be the vehicle you will have with you when things go wrong. Last but not least, fuel efficiency is of great importance because it’s directly proportional to how much distance you can cover on any given amount of fuel you have or are able to procure.
Ease of Repair: The car should be easy to repair. Spare parts should be widely available and not too expensive. The car should be popular enough so that most car mechanics are familiar with the model.
4WD/AWD: If possible, the vehicle should have good ground clearance and 4WD/AWD so as to go off-road or over sidewalks, boulevards and debris should they ever be encountered. It will also make the vehicle more suited for dealing with snow storms and floods. In general, the more suited a vehicle is for off-road, the larger the engine and the more fuel it uses, defeating the purpose of having a car that makes the best use of the fuel available. Because of this reason, light off-road SUVs and AWD sedans may hit that sweet spot where the fuel economy isn’t that bad and it is still capable of limited off-roading if it’s ever needed.

Recommended Vehicles

While other BOV may be excellent choices as well, these vehicles have a proven track record and would make excellent choices.

 Honda CR-V

     Second generation Honda CR-V                    Photo: F.Aguirre

The Honda CR-V was the #1 best-selling SUV in USA in 2012 with 281,652 units sold2. It was introduced in 1995, based on the successful Civic platform and it is still one of the best choices for those looking for a compact SUV. The CR-V has earned itself a solid reputation for reliability, versatility and quality of construction. Used Honda CR-Vs are affordable yet very reliable if one in good condition is purchased. While they are clearly oriented for light off-road use, they are still capable of dealing with realistic bugging out challenges such as snow and secondary dirt or gravel roads. Some Honda CR-V are 2WD, so make sure you are buying a four-wheel drive (4WD) model for better off-road performance. For those considering buying a new CR-V, Honda plans to use a common platform for its remodeled Civic, Accord and CR-V sport utility vehicle, which are slated to go on sale in 2015-173. Honda has a larger model called Pilot that has three rows of seats so as to seat eight people, improved off-road capability and it can wade through 19 inches of water.

Toyota RAV4

        Toyota RAV4                   Photo:Wikimedia Commons- IFCAR

Like Honda, Toyota enjoys a reputation of solid performance and reliability which is the main trait to look for in a BOV. The RAV4 was introduced in 1994 and was the first compact crossover. The Toyota RAV4 ended up in #4 with 171,877 units sold in USA in 2012, behind the Ford Escape and Chevrolet Equinox. The RAV4 competes directly with Honda’s CR-V. Both are popular choices and have similar traits. The Honda CR-V seems to have a better reliability record even if both vehicles are very reliable, while the RAV4 has a slight edge regarding fuel efficiency.
There’s a short body 3-door model RAV4 that could work well for those needing an even smaller vehicle.
Tip: There’s a 2008 Sport model that has a rear door without the externally mounted spare tire. This model uses run-flat tires, which are capable of resisting the effects of deflation when punctured. This can be a great advantage during car-jacking attempts and urban disasters.

 Toyota Hilux & 4Runner
    Toyota 4Runner                  Photo:Wikimedia Commons-IFCAR

The Toyota Hilux is an excellent option due to its legendary reliability. The reputation of the Hilux grew even more after the “Top Gear” TV show episodes where a beat up Hilux survived various torture tests including being washed out to sea, submerged in sea water for four hours, crashed into a tree, hit with a wrecking ball, set on fire and placed on top of a building that was later demolished with explosive charges. All they used to fix it and keep it running between tests was basic tools and supplies without using any spare parts.
The Toyota Hilux has been used all over the world doing all kinds of jobs, everything from farm pickup, off-roading vehicle, police patrol vehicles in South America and even as “technical” improvised fighting vehicles with a gun mounted on them.
The Toyota 4Runner available in USA is part of the Hilux family, sold in Japan under the name Hilux Surf. The fist 4Runner was little more than a camper version of the Hilux. The Toyota Highlander is the mid-size crossover SUV counterpart of the 4Runner. While less rugged, it is one of the most fuel efficient midsize SUVs.
If you need a bigger, more rugged vehicle, the Toyota Land Cruiser is a body-on –frame 4WD that has proven itself in some of the most extreme environments.

Chevrolet Pickups and SUV
Chevrolet makes the best-selling Silverado pickup and the full-size Chevrolet Tahoe which is considered “king of police SUVs”. The lengthened wheelbase model of the Tahoe is available as the Chevrolet Suburban (station wagon-bodied version) which is favored by the FBI and presidential secret service. These are big, powerful vehicles but have poor fuel efficiency and therefore the effective range per gallon during an evacuation scenario is not that good. If you need a daily driver for long range commutes, this can be a deal-breaker too due to fuel costs.

These are just some recommendations but they are of course not the only alternatives. Ford F series are extremely popular and for good reasons. The Ford Explorer and Fusion are also favored by various Law Enforcement agencies across the United States.
Suzuki makes affordable vehicles known for their reliability. The Vitara is a solid and competent light-medium off-road vehicle even if it’s not that good on gas.
It is recommended to stay away from very old cars and restoration projects unless you are very knowledgeable and willing to do most of the work yourself. Like military surplus vehicles, old car restoration projects tend to cost more than what it’s worth, not only regarding money but time as well. If funds are somewhat limited, buying a used car of known reliability will cost less money than getting into a restoration project.
While vehicles that have certain characteristics that make them more suited for emergency scenarios are recommended, the reality is that the cost of driving around, maintenance and especially fuel efficiency, may ultimately decide the outcome of what vehicle you chose. If you have to drive long distances and do so on a tight budget, then a reliable vehicle with a significant priority on fuel efficiency may fit the bill. None the less, you can do so applying the same criteria: Prioritizing popular models which are easy to repair and find parts for and manufacturers of proven reliability. Some good options are the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Suzuki Swift and Toyota Prius. Keep an eye out for Hatchback and Station Wagon variants. These can add flexibility and extra cargo space that can come in handy at times. Some station wagons models add an extra row of passenger seats.
Law enforcement agencies that are on a budget will sometimes chose more fuel efficient sedans and their choices are worth considering. Due to car pursuit training and post-collision reliability, rear-wheel-drive (RWD) configuration is usually favored. RWD makes for a more robust layout which is more agile as well in the hands of an expert driver. The disadvantage is that RWD isn’t as popular as the more common front-wheel drive layout, it’s generally more expensive and there’s some loss of traction on snow, ice and sand.
If you can’t do without 4WD or AWD because of snow, ice or poor roads then there’s sedan models that could work for you. Subaru offers the Legacy and Outback as efficient AWD models.
Useful Links:
These are just some of the cars recommended. If you have another vehicle in mind it is important to research how reliable it is, how common it is, the kind of realistic gas millage you can expect from it and if other owners have found problems with specific models.
Consumer Report is an excellent website for independent reviews. Also check vehicle reliability and fuel economy.
Useful links:
If you plan on towing a caravan or trailer as part of your Bug Out Plan you need to check the towing capacity of your particular vehicle. Not all cars are alike and even within the same models there are differences depending on the year in which each was manufactured. Your car manual book will have the towing capacity of your particular vehicle. The following websites show towing capacity for different models:
Once you narrow down you choice, read online reviews in forums and boards so as to get a better idea of what to expect from that vehicle and learn any weaknesses the specific model may have.
Read more about this and other topics in my latest book, “Bugging Out and Relocating: What to do when staying is not an option”, available in Amazon.

Judge holds Argentina in contempt over bond orders


NEW YORK (AP) - A judge, calling civil contempt a rarity, ruled that
Argentina was in contempt of court on Monday for its open defiance of
his orders requiring that U.S. hedge funds holding Argentine bonds be
paid the roughly $1.5 billion they are owed if the majority of the
South American nation's bondholders are paid interest on their bonds.
U.S. District Judge Thomas P. Griesa made the announcement after a
lawyer for U.S. hedge funds led by billionaire hedge fund investor
Paul Singer's NML Capital Ltd. argued that Argentina has openly defied
Griesa's court orders for more than a year. The judge reserved
decision on sanctions pending further proceedings.

"What we are talking about is proposals and changes and actions that
come from the executive branch of the Republic of Argentina," the
judge said.

He said repeated efforts to avoid paying U.S. bondholders after their
bonds - unlike more than 90 percent of outstanding Argentina bonds -
were not traded for lesser-valued bonds in 2005 and 2010 was illegal
conduct that could no longer be ignored.

"The republic in various ways has sought to avoid, to not attend to,
almost to ignore this basic part of its financial obligations," the
judge said.

He said Argentina had recently taken steps to attempt to remove a New
York bank as the custodian for bonds held by many of its bondholders
and transfer the financial obligations to a new trustee based in

New York-based lawyer Carmine Boccuzzi, representing Argentina, had
argued that a contempt finding was premature, saying Argentina
bondholders who accepted swaps for lesser-valued bonds after the
country defaulted on $100 billion of debt in 2001 had not been paid
interest, just as the judge intended.

Boccuzzi said the U.S. bondholders "want to punish Argentina. But
that's not appropriate."

"The republic did act responsibly," he said.

But he said paying the U.S. bondholders would require Argentina to pay
about $20 billion to other bondholders who were not part of the

"We're hamstrung," he said.

As he left the courtroom, he declined to comment.

A lawyer for the U.S. bondholders, Robert Cohen, urged the judge to
make the contempt finding and impose a $50,000 daily penalty on
Argentina. He said penalties should be stiff enough that Argentina
realizes it needs to change its behavior.

"It's hard to imagine how it could get worse," he said.

Before the hearing, lawyers for Argentina forwarded to the judge a
letter sent to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry saying the request
for a contempt-of-court finding was "completely absurd." Argentina
said such an order would be unlawful by international standards.

The Argentine Foreign Ministry said the judge's decision has no
practical effect "besides providing new elements to the defamatory
political and media campaign being carried out against Argentina by
the vulture funds." Argentine officials regularly refer to the U.S.
hedge funds that didn't swap their Argentine bonds at a discount as

Monday, September 29, 2014

Awesome Website: Sarajevo Survival Tools

This link takes you to “Sarajevo Survival Tools” a project cooperation between the Faculty of Electrical Engineering Sarajevo (ETF) and the Historical Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The link is in English and if you navigate through the different exhibits you will first see short video intros and then the different objects, which you can click on to see pictures, read more information and watch a dedicated video of that object.
The website is a bit messy to navigate around but once you get used to it you see that its packed with real-world information of the tools made an used by people to survive during the siege. It’s well worth the time!


Saturday, September 27, 2014

Defensive Tools for Women and Seniors

I enjoy reading your blog and have followed much of your advice.
My question
Do you have a suggestion of a defensive tool that would be appropriate for a senior woman who lives in a country where a gun would not be the answer.
Knives would be too easily turned against me, and has you have pointed out, are very serious in a close fight and hard to defend against.
Thanks for any suggestions and would bet that other women would benefit.

Thanks D.V.
Whenever possible I recommend having a handgun, but I do understand sometimes this is not possible, especially for defense out of your home.
As you correctly state, a knife requires a certain physical strength to be used effectively for defense. Women are more than capable of doing so but they are at a disadvantage compared to men when it comes to size and physical strength, and that difference can increase as years go by.

Knives can be very effective defensive tools, but some physical strength is required.

Defense for Seniors

The first line of defense here is the same no matter how old or young you are: Avoid confrontation whenever possible. Avoid dangerous areas and try not to wear expensive watches or jewelry in places where it may cause trouble.
When it comes to physically confronting attackers there’s a couple things to understand about a criminal’s psychology: Like any other living being, criminals don’t like getting killed or hurt. Put a gun to their face and they will not like it. More often than not they turn and flee. Something similar happens with knives, but we’ve already gone through the limitations of such a tool for some people. OC spray may not kill, but it does hurt and burn, another stimulus pretty much every living being tries to avoid. A criminal may not be as scared when facing OC spray, but a blast will burn his eyes and make it hard to breathe and see, giving you the time to escape or get help. As of recommended brands, Sabre Red has a well-deserved reputation for being effective. In places where pepper spray many not be legal, there may be other alternatives. In some cases you can still find spray that is intended for bears or dogs. These may be legal in your area and would work as well.

Still looking into what criminals don’t like, there’s one thing that doesn’t get discussed as much but it is very much true: Criminals don’t want attention while committing crimes. May that be trying to break into a house or mugging someone on the street, they don’t want people noticing them or approaching them during their criminal acts. Here’s where a small personal panic alarm may be very effective. The device produces a 130dB ear-piercing alarm when pulled from the keyring. This can be very effective when screaming or blowing a whistle isn’t possible due to being attacked or even frozen by panic.

Finally, as part of the often recommended EDC, a bright flashlight can be very helpful as well. Flashlights are legal everywhere, and a bright flashlight (+200 lumens) can be used to light up anyone engaged in suspicious behavior. Remember, criminals do not like being in the “spotlight” and literally doing so will surprise them and may make them feel uncomfortable enough about the hole thing that they may go looking for a more defenseless victim. Tactical flashlights that have a strobe more are powerful enough to momentarily blind and cause confusion. Cops know well how a flashlight shined into a person’s face puts you in a more advantageous position, both physically and psychologically. For specific tactical/defensive use application, the Surefire E1D is a good option. The small Eagletac D25C that I favor works well too, with a mode that turns on on high with a strobe just one click away, yet unscrewing the head of the flashlight it enters the most commonly used modes for utility use.
Stun guns may be another option as well. The electric cracking can be intimidating as well as effective. Some models resemble tactical flashlights combining both the advantage of a tactical light and a stun gun in one tool.


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Otterbox Defender Fail: Broken Clip and Cracked Case

In just one year I had two problems with my Otterbox Defender case.

 Just days after getting it the rotor of the clip broke, with the phone dropping and almost losing it. After contacting Otterbox a new case was sent soon enough. Now, the hard plastic case cracked where it makes contact with the clip, fitting loosely and easily falling from the holster unless clipped on the other side. While I still believe Otterbox makes overall quality cases, for the price, they should have a product that holds up much better. I haven’t abused the case in any way, just normal use.
The Otterbox does protect your phone, and that’s the point of the protective case, but for a top of the line case more is expected of it. While the customer care is excellent, the Defender case, one of Otterbox toughest models, should hold up much better to everyday use.

I’ll probably buy Otterbox again next time and I still do recommend it, but I’ll seriously consider other competitive options as well. I’ll think twice before paying premium price for a case that isn’t offering premium durability.