Essential System #6 – Fire

On the crazy path of life you may someday find yourself needing to build a fire. When it’s wet and when kindling wood is lacking this can be a challenge. Which is why we always have fire starting implements on hand including a butane lighter and waterproof matches. Most importantly we carry something to really get the fire going – our homemade wax and dryer lint fire starters.

To make a wax and lint fire starter, save up the ends of a few candles and a bunch of lint from the dryer. Take a paper egg carton and put a big wad of dryer lint into each cup of the carton. Melt the candle wax in a double boiler. The easiest way to do this is to put the stubs in a clean tin can, and put that can in a saucepan about halfway full of water.  When the wax is melted, fill each cup of the carton up to the top with wax, soaking the lint. When the wax solidifies tear the carton apart, but keep the wax and lint in the individual paper carton sections. Light the torn edges of the cup to start the firestarter burning. The paper of the carton helps to get the wax and dryer lint burning. And burn it does! You will quickly learn why it’s a good idea to clean out the lint in the dryer vent – lint is seriously flammable.

With your dryer lint fire starters and some waterproof matches, you’ll be ready for any situation.

See this 2011 post for a picture.

Essential System #7 – Repair Kit and Tools

We were going to use this category to wax poetic about the early 90s Leatherman multi-tool that we wear on our belts at all times but, hold the blog press here, self-sufficiency geniuses Stephen Box and Enci gifted us with a category-busting set of tools that, get this, fit within a tiny 30g (1.5 oz) Altoid tin!

Believe it or not this pocket size Altoid tin contains the following items:

1 inner tube piece – a section of a bicycle tire that can be used as a tourniquet, bandage, or slingshot

1 boot lace – always handy to have a section of string

1 saw wire – you can cut wood with this sharp wire

2 finger rings

1 can opener

1 duct tape (40cm) on straw

2 saw blades – these attach to two screws on the bottom of the altoid can so that the can functions as a saw handle

2 fasteners (#6-32 x 3/8″)

2 Exacto blades #11

1 needle/thread

1 upholstery needle

2 needles

1 red LED bulb – the bulb and the small hearing aid batteries fit in a tiny hole in the side of the Altoid can, thus turning the can into a flashlight – the red bulb is so that you can read in the dark without ruining your night vision

2 batteries for LED

6 match heads (sealed in wax)

1 striker for match heads

6 fire-starters made out of lint and wax (we’ll describe how to make these in a future post)

1 tin foil

1 rubber glove – for gathering or distilling water or for one-handed first aid

8 water purification tables (in straw) – see our earlier post on water

6 safety pins – for, among other uses, creating a sling with a shirt for a broken arm

2 medicated Bandaid strips

1 package first aid cream

6 aspirin

1 baling wire

4 fish hooks (snelled #2/#8) – for fishing!

4 split shot sinkers – also for fishing

1 snap swivel (#10)

1 filament (10 meters)

Beyond having enough items to repair virtually anything, this tiny kit can be used for signaling, trapping, fishing, filleting small animals and first aid.

A tip of the SurviveLA hat to Box and Enci for producing an innovative response to the problem of how to lug around basic essentials!

The Sound of One Hand Snapping

We’ve had to do a fair amount of carpentry around the compound – part of that self-sufficiency thing – and countersinking nails with a nail set, those pen like things you use to get the nail head below the surface of the wood, is a pain in the ass. Which is why we think that this tool, the “Noxon Two Bit Snapper” by the mysterious Spring Tools Corporation may be the handiest tool in the SurviveLA compound tool box.

The Snapper model we have is double sided, and has a spring connecting the two ends which consist of a center punch and a nail set. You hold one end against a nail and pull the spring back. The spring bangs one end into the other, thereby driving the nail. We’ve used it for years, and driven hundreds of nails with it, hanging molding, fixing windows, making furniture, and countless other tasks. It’s possible, in fact, to drive nails with this thing without using a hammer and it’s especially useful in tight spaces where there is not enough room to swing a hammer.

If SurviveLA ever sells out, it will be to whore ourselves out to the folks at Spring Tools who manufacture this elegant, simple and effective tool right here in our own fucked-up USA. In fact, it seems that Spring Tools holds the patent for this whole spring-based concept and has extended the idea of “spring driven technology” into a number of areas. We’ re especially intrigued with the potential of their spring driven I.D. Stamper which comes with a set of letters for stamping out a message in metal. Though we have not tested the I.D. Stamper, it seems like some illicit fun could be had with that thing . . .

Essential System #8 – Nutrition (Extra Food)

Continuing our countdown of the ten essential systems we get to the food category. In our grab and go bags we have a few Clif Bars – they taste alright, don’t require cooking, and have a relatively long shelf life.

The problem with Cliff Bars is that they prove tempting when we have the occasional sweet tooth attack. This is why some people keep MREs (meals, ready to eat) on hand, because they taste so foul you won’t be tempted to bust them open. They also don’t require cooking and some even come with a chemical heating packet. As for the taste of M.R.E.s, SurviveLA correspondent Corey Travis reports on a recent attack of the munches while at the office. All he had was an MRE in the hot trunk of his car. Scared by the main entrée he just ate the cracker and chocolate. Here is what he had to say, “The cracker was what you’d expect – a cross between balsa wood and salt. The chocolate energy bar was much more substantial with a thick, waxy chocolate-like-ness, almost completely masking a surprisingly malty undertone. I’d use the word cloying, but I hate that word.”

Should you require another opinion on MREs, someone calling themselves “Badtux the Snarky Penguin” has a review of the chicken tetrazini MRE.

We prefer the more upscale freeze dried backpacking food to MREs. They taste better and have an astonishing shelf life. You will, however, need to heat them up with something and they are also expensive. Our favorite brand is Mary Jane’s Farm, though someone should tell her about the implications of her name (read our review of Mary Jane’s Organic Buttery Herb Pasta).

We also keep the SurviveLA pantry well stocked with canned items and we always maintain a vegetable garden, so that we’ll have fresh stuff when the shit comes down.

Take the Streets!


From an exiled Kalifornian in Toronto comes this image of some riotous folks taking back the street. Homegrown Evolution sends a shout out to the folks at Streets for People who are responsible for this bit of street theater, but we could do without the hippie font. We also suggest a little more . . . bling.

In the interest of our revolutionary vision of home economics we suggest taking the streets LA style with the Homegrown Evolution Hollywood Stretch Hummer Cornfield:


It’s economy of scale the Homegrown Evolution way!