Maxpedition Octa Versipack

A fanny pack?  Seriously?  Yeah, I know.  Fanny packs haven’t been cool for years.  That doesn’t mean they’re not functional, though.

“Why a fanny pack?” you may ask.

An excellent question.  I’ve been looking for a way to carry a few essentials on my person on canoe trips … just in case I accidentally dump the canoe and end up in the drink with all my stowed gear floating away downstream.  Soaking wet and stranded with no canoe is not a fun way to spend a cold night – especially if you don’t have a way of starting a fire or navigating your way home.  A backpack doesn’t fit well under (or over) a personal flotation device (PFD) and that leaves you with only a couple choices – a “fancy” PFD with lots of pockets in which you can stash some gear or … a fanny pack.

Enter the Maxpedition Octa Versipack.  The Octa is nothing more than a “glorified” fanny pack but, oh, the glorification!  This is not your mom’s fanny pack.  The Octa was designed by Maxpedition to meet the needs of people who needed more than a fanny pack, but needed to carry their gear around their waist rather than on their back.

As with Maxpedition’s other Versipacks, the Octa is exceptionally versatile.  There are four main compartments.  The smallest of the four is just the right size to hold an Altoids tin.  I’ve been putting bare-bones personal survival kits (PSK’s) in Altoid tin-size containers for quite some time now so I was glad to discover that these tins fit perfectly in the smallest of the pockets.

Directly adjacent to the smallest pocket is a slightly larger pocket divided into two sections.  The larger section has three loops of elastic webbing.  In the photo below, you can see that the elastic will hold anything from a Chapstick container to a travel-size hand sanitizer bottle.  The smaller section is perfect for a couple ITW Field Shield Wipes and a few bandages.  Even with all of those items in the second pocket, there’s still room for more.  In the photo below, I’ve dropped in a couple CR123 batteries for my flashlight and a signal whistle.

The next pocket in line would probably be considered the main compartment.  It’s pretty large and is divided into three sections.  You could easily fit a larger GPS unit like the Garmin 60CSx and a fair amount of other gear in the center section.  I was also able to get a heavy-duty Adventure Medical Heat Sheet emergency blanket in one section and a couple Clif bars in the other.

The top of the main compartment has a sleeve with a shock cord strap.  It’s a great place to keep your flashlight or any other similarly-sized piece of gear.

The fourth pocket is on the waist side of the Octa.  That makes it a little inconvenient for access while the pack is strapped on, but it’s not a bad place for flat items that don’t require easy access.

As you can see from the photo above, the inner side of the Octa is covered with MOLLE/PALS webbing.  This gives it the flexibility of being mounted to a larger pack.  That might be a workable idea as long as there isn’t much weight in the Octa.

Of course, like virtually all Maxpedition products, the Octa not only has a lot of on-board storage but it also serves as a great base for add-ons.  In the photo below, I’ve added a Condor Tactical insulated water bottle pouch and a Maxpedition 4X6 utility pouch.

I also discovered that my ESEE-4 knife would mount to the Octa utilizing the sheath and MOLLE LOKs that came with it.

All-in-all, the Octa is a good little pack even if it does remind me slightly of the 90’s.

Plan | Prepare

Close Quarters Handgun Tactics

I’ve had some questions lately about some of the close quarters battle (CQB) techniques that I describe in my online novel, The Union Creek Journal.  Specifically, one reader wanted to know about the technique that David utilized on Marta in Add These to the List when he encountered her in the abandoned farm house – a strike to the bridge of the nose with the trigger guard of his Glock 20.

Glock pistols, as well as pistols made by several other manufacturers, have a small point on the forward section of the trigger guard.  As I wrote in The Union Creek Journal, I’m not sure of the original intended purpose for this portion of the trigger guard but it is very effective when utilized on pressure points or other sensitive areas in CQB.  In the photo below, I’ve circled the specific area to which I am referring.

Point on a Glock 20 Trigger Guard

You’ll find similar points on most “battle” pistols – those designed to be utilized by military, para-military or law enforcement.  The photos below show a Beretta 92FS and a Springfield XDm.  Both have a point similar to the Glock.  Both can be utilized in a similar fashion.

Beretta 92FS Trigger Guard

Springfield XDm Trigger Guard

Let’s discuss why one might utilize these tactics before we get into the details of how one might utilize these techniques.

CQB is an ugly thing.  If you’re in a close-quarters fight, you’re probably fighting for your life.  If you have a handgun, you have a better chance against an assailant who may have superior strength but that handgun is useless if it’s taken away from you.  It’s of very little use if your assailant is close enough that they can push it aside or knock it from your hands.

One of the primary purposes of a strike in CQB is to create distance.  Generally, one’s ability to retain one’s handgun is directly related to one’s distance from one’s assailant.  A strike to the bridge of the nose is highly likely to distract your assailant and allow you to back away.  The space created when you back away from your assailant is precious distance that increases your chances of retaining your firearm.

Retention of your firearm in a close-quarters fight, is the number one way to survive.

In The Union Creek Journal, David utilizes the trigger guard of his Glock to smash Marta’s nose as she attacks him.  The nose is certainly a prime target for such a tactic.  With the exception of trained fighters, most people will reflexively “tear-up”, i.e. get tears in their eyes, when they are punched in the nose.  Punch someone in the nose with the point of your pistol’s trigger guard and all but the toughest assailants will hesitate, if only for a moment.  Some will end up completely debilitated.

That hesitation gives you time to separate, create distance, retain your weapon and, perhaps, escape without having to shoot someone.  Any day that you don’t have to shoot someone is a good day.  If you are unable to escape, you have put yourself in a more advantageous position to protect yourself.  Ultimately, only you can make the shoot/no-shoot decision.

So, how is this tactic utilized?

It has to be said … when practicing this tactic, as with any time you handle firearms, SAFETY FIRST!

Before you practice:

  1. Know and follow the Four Basic Rules of firearms safety
  2. Unload your weapon and set all ammunition aside in a safe area
  3. If you have not already done so, remove your weapon’s magazine
  4. Lock your weapon’s slide to the rear and visually & physically inspect the chamber to ensure that it is empty
  5. For added safety, you may want to practice this technique with your weapon’s slide locked to the rear or you may wish to field strip your weapon and practice with only the frame

To deploy this tactic, you should start with a good, firm grip on your pistol.  The web of your hand, between your thumb and forefinger, should be high up under the tail of your gun’s frame (see photos below).  I prefer to index my trigger finger along the weapon’s slide when drilling this tactic to avoid an accidental discharge.

CQB Pistol Strike Grip (Support Hand)

CQB Pistol Strike Grip (Shooting Hand)

Basic CQB Strike Drill

  1. Assume a Low Ready position
  2. Ensure that your trigger finger is outside of the trigger guard and indexed along the slide of the weapon
  3. Rotate grip of weapon upward to the strong side while rotating the barrel of the weapon to the support side; weapon should be roughly parallel to the ground and the trigger guard should be on line with the assailant’s face
  4. Move support hand to top of weapon’s slide placing the thumb on the under-side of the weapon and the fingers on the top-side of the weapon
  5. Step forward with your strong-side foot and smash the trigger guard into the bridge of your assailant’s nose with both hands; strike as if you were attempting to smash your assailant’s nose out through the back of his skull
  6. Immediately step backward three or four steps while returning your weapon to Low Ready
  7. If your assailant is disabled, scan 360 degrees for additional assailants

This technique is not limited to a strike to the nose nor is it limited to utilizing only the trigger guard of your weapon.  Striking an assailant’s eye socket with the barrel of a pistol can also be effective.  The larynx is another vulnerable area that can yield debilitating results when struck with any hard object.

A note about pistol-whipping, as often seen in movies and on television.  Pistol-whipping requires a wide swing which leaves you open to a counter attack.  A savvy assailant will step inside of the wide swing, potentially rendering it ineffective and opening you up to greater danger.  Keep your hands and arms up in front of you, protecting your vital areas as you strike.  Strike quickly and return your hands and arms to a protective position immediately.

As you become more comfortable with this technique, you may wish to integrate it into live fire exercises.  Obviously, such exercises come with inherent risk.  The practice is valuable.  You must determine if its benefit outweighs the risk.  If you are a novice shooter, I highly recommend that you seek out professional training and supervision before integrating techniques like the one described above into your live fire routines.

You may also want to seek out specific training in close-quarters battle or hand-to-hand combat with firearms.

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Disclaimer: The preceding is neither legal advice nor advice to utilize these specific tactics in any given situation.  Only you can decide when and how to defend yourself.  Furthermore, you must accept responsibility for your safety and the safety of others should you choose to practice the tactics described above.

Permanent Shelter: Introduction

This is the first in a series on permanent shelter that we’ll be publishing here at Plan | Prepare.  The purpose of this series of articles is to discuss permanent shelters.  Most of us already have a permanent shelter.  However, that shelter may or may not be a viable location for long-term survival.  Numerous first-hand accounts from disaster survivors around the world all have a similar theme: There is no one-size-fits-all shelter solution for every potential disaster.  In some cases, bugging in at your urban or sub-urban location may be the best.  In other cases, bugging-out to a rural location may work better.  Each option has its plusses and minuses.

Before we get too far into this discussion, let’s define “permanent shelter”.

Webster’s Free Online Dictionary defines “permanent” as: continuing or enduring without fundamental or marked change and “shelter” as: something that covers or affords protection

So, a permanent shelter is something durable (enduring) that provides cover or protection.  Simple enough, right?  Maybe.

Many people will disagree on the definition of durable, enduring or continuing.  The Bedouins, for instance, have lived in tents for centuries.  Here in the United States, we might not consider a tent a permanent shelter.

We’re starting to spiral here.  Let’s simplify and see if we can all agree.

For the sake of these articles, let’s say that a permanent shelter is synonymous with a house.  It might be large or small.  It might have a wood, stucco or brick exterior.  It might be wood-frame or poured concrete.  There are thousands of variables, but pretty much everyone has a solid mental picture of a house.  In case you’re a Bedouin, I’ve included a picture of a house below.

House or Permanent Shelter

Now that we have that settled, let’s discuss the purpose of a permanent shelter as it relates to survival and disaster preparedness.

A permanent shelter should:

  • Provide protection from the elements
  • Provide protection from people or other predators
  • Provide adequate space to accommodate those living within its confines
  • Provide a sense of security
  • Provide a sense of privacy
  • Provide a sense of civility (a representation of a civilized world)
  • Provide a hub or touchstone for a household or family

Obviously, protection from the elements is key to survival – particularly in harsh climates.  A permanent shelter’s ability to protect its inhabitants from rain, snow, cold and even heat is critical to survival. 

Most permanent shelters are designed with some capability to protect their inhabitants from both two-legged and four-legged predators.  The average permanent shelter, however, is relatively vulnerable to determined two-legged predators.  Glass windows can be smashed.  Doors can be pried open.  Let’s face it, the average “home” poses only a small deterrent to a motivated attacker or looter.  If we spend too much time thinking about this, the sense of security provided by the permanent shelter begins to erode.

The concept of adequate space varies widely as you travel from region to region.  It’s not uncommon for entire families in Third World countries to live in houses the size of a closet in a suburban home in the United States.  Here in the U.S., it’s not all that uncommon for entire rooms of larger houses to go unused for weeks or months.  However, feeling that we have adequate space plays into our mental and emotional state of being.  The Rule of Threes suggests that we can live for three months without hope.  Living in a permanent shelter far smaller than one is used to living in can have an impact on one’s ability to keep hope alive.

Generally, our sense or privacy is maintained by shutting out the world outside.  We draw the curtains, close the door and cloister ourselves away to keep prying eyes out of our business.  Privacy helps breed a sense of well-being.  Imagine having to bathe or change clothes in public and you’ll begin to understand why privacy is important to morale.

For many modernized societies, the permanent shelter has become an icon of civilization.  Perhaps you have traveled to a country where many of the citizens live in huts.  Prejudice aside, Americans, Western Europeans and others look at those huts and see temporary shelters.  As a result, we make assumptions that the inhabitants of those huts are less civilized than we are.  We have become accustomed to houses … permanent shelters that have a certain look about them, a certain … permanency in their construction.  Lacking that look and feel of permanency, we perceive a lack of civilization as well.

Finally, the home or permanent shelter provides a hub … a touchstone for the individuals who live there.  Whether it be a traditional family or any other type of household, home is where the heart is.  Ask yourself, why are so many adult children moving back in with their parents these days?  Why don’t they simply join communes or share space with other young adults?  Almost without exception, the home of their youth represents security at a time in their life when many feel insecure.  Is it the structure that gives them that sense of security?  Only in part.  It is the structure, combined with its inhabitants – their parents and, possibly, siblings – that gives them a much-needed sense of well-being.

So, as we look at the role of the permanent structure in survival, we see that only a fraction of its value is physical in nature.  Certainly, human beings need protection from the elements and from those who would do them harm.  What humans also need is hope.  Hope and emotional well-being are the things that make the permanent structure – and its inhabitants – so critical to long-term survival.

Food for thought as you consider your preparations:  Is your primary home adequately equipped for survival?  Do you need to establish alternative structures in different locations?  Are your permanent shelters truly secure?  If not, how can you make them more secure?  And, perhaps most importantly of all, will the members of your household be with you when you face disasters and uncertain circumstances?  Will you have the touchstone of hope to help you maintain your survival mindset?

Plan | Prepare

DIY Family Water Filter

I would imagine that many of our readers have looked longingly at the Berkey water filters and thought, “If only the price was lower, I could really use one of those.”  Well, I thought exactly the same thing.  As I was thinking that exact same thing, I was looking at some of the free buckets I had recently gotten from Sam’s Club for food storage.  Suddenly, a light bulb appeared over my head.  Why not make my own filter?

The heart and soul of the Berkey filters are the filter elements themselves.  I didn’t really need a fancy stainless steel container to dispense my filtered water.  Maybe, just maybe those free give gallon buckets sitting across the room would work.  I decided to give it a try.

Here’s what I came up with:

Materials Needed:
2 Black Berkey Filter Elements: $107.00
1 Berkey Light Spigot: $10.00
2 Four-gallon Food-grade Plastic Buckets (free at Sam’s Club)

Tools Needed:
3/8″ Drill Bit
5/8″ Drill Bit

Step 1: Stack the buckets and drill two 3/8″ holes through the bottom of the top bucket and the lid of the bottom bucket

Stacked Buckets

Step 2: Insert the threaded tubes of the filter elements through the bottom of the top bucket and the lid of the bottom bucket. Screw the keeper nuts onto the filters and tighten them to finger-tight (do not over-tighten). The included washer should be on the filter tube inside the top bucket.

Insert Filters

At this point your buckets should look like this:

Filters In Bucket

Filters in Bucket

Step 3: Drill a 5/8″ hole in the side of the bottom bucket near the bottom. Make sure you leave enough room for the spigot’s nozzle below the hole. Slide the threaded spigot tube through the hole and tighten down the keeper nut. There should be a washer on either side of the bucket.


Your finished filter will look like this.

Finished Filter

The twin filters are good for 6000 gallons of water.  I can filter about four gallons of water an hour.  You might want to make tic marks on the lid or the side of the buckets to keep track of how many gallons you’ve filtered.  You might also want to buy a second pair of filters.  You know, just in case ….

Plan | Prepare

Digging Your Own Well

We all know that water is high on the list of things required to survive.  However, a reliable source of clean water can be difficult to find.  If you own your own rural property, Fred Dungan has written a great article with step-by-step instructions for digging your own well and installing a manual pump for less than $500.

Check it out here:

Plan | Prepare

Planning Basics

You’ll notice that the word “plan” comes first in our name.  Here at Plan | Prepare, we are of the firm belief that you must plan before you prepare.  Preparation without planning, while not entirely useless, is considerably less efficient and effective.  If you prepare without a plan, how do you know what you’re preparing for?

We discussed The Rule of Threes in one of our first Basics articles.  Here we will discuss another Rule of Threes.  This Rule of Threes is specific to planning.

The Planning Rule of Threes: Have a plan.  Have a back-up plan.  Have a “hell-in-a-hand basket” plan.

This multi-tiered approach is common across a number of industries and disciplines.  The military, as you might expect, has their own version of this with all the requisite acronyms.  Good project managers – in all walks of life – follow a similar discipline.  What we’re discussing here is not something new.  It’s tried and true and highly recommended.

Now, let’s discuss three principles of planning.

The First Principle of Planning: There are two types of plans; those that may fail and those that have failed.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that plans are made with incomplete knowledge.  No matter how good your intel, no matter how much of a subject matter expert you are, no matter how good you are at looking into the future and seeing potential pitfalls … something – maybe several things – is going to happen that your plan simply did not, could not address.  That’s life in the real world.

The Second Principle of Planning: Plans must be flexible.

Plans that work in the real world must be flexible.  There is nothing static about the real world.  Things are constantly changing.  It’s impossible to anticipate everything that will change, when it will change and how it will change.  A rigid plan is destined to failure.  The first change may not run the rigid plan off the tracks, but one of the wheels on the locomotive may begin to wobble.  As more changes take place, the trains becomes less and less stable.  Pretty soon you have a derailment.  Putting derailed trains back on the tracks is very difficult and dangerous work.

The Third Principle of Planning: Two heads are better than one.

If you’re making a plan that involves a dozen people and you don’t discuss the plan with any of those people … how long do you think it will be before that plan becomes a failure?  If you’re relying on someone to help you execute your plan, involve them in the development of your plan.  This principle does have a law of diminishing returns, however.  If your plan relies on dozens, hundreds or thousands of people, involving them all in the development phase will not be efficient.  Try to divide your involved parties into groups and ensure that you have representation from each group.  Make sure that group representatives go back to their groups and get their feedback, funneling it back into the overall plan.

So, how do you plan for a disaster or an emergency?

Excellent question.  There are a number of ways to get started.

First, you should take a good hard look at the realities of your life.  Do you live in Tornado Alley?  Is your home built directly on top of the San Adreas Fault?  Are you on the bank of a river that floods nearly every spring?  What disasters are most likely to occur in your area?

Second, there are some disasters that are geography-independent, i.e. it doesn’t matter where you live, you’re as likely to experience this type of disaster as someone in another state, another country or on another continent.  Home fires are a good example.  Home fires, unless you live in an area regularly ravaged by fires, are not particularly specific to your location.  A home fire is more likely to be caused by careless activities or poor construction than it is because you live in Oregon or Zimbabwe – unless, of course, you’ve chosen to live in areas that are particularly dry and prone to wildfires or forest fires.

Third, some disasters have nothing to do with location or any other element within your control.  For instance, you do not have direct control over your country’s nuclear warfare policy.  Sure, you can participate in the process of electing your leaders (assuming you have that option) but the policy is not within your direct control.  Economic disasters are similar.  There is very little that you can do, personally, to prevent a country-wide economic disaster.

As you plan you must consider all types of disasters.  Then, you must prioritize.  What type of disasters are you most likely to experience?  Planning to survive these types of disasters should be your priority.  Are there common elements of planning and preparation amongst disasters regardless of how likely you are to experience them?  If so, by all means include the common elements of planning and preparation.

Overwhelming?  Perhaps.  Fortunately, there are a number of helpful resources available to those who are new to planning and preparing for disasters.  None of these resources are perfect.  Remember the First Principle?  None of these resources will be specific to your situation.  You will have to make your own assessments of these resources’ viability and make changes as necessary.  No one else can do this for you.  It’s called self-reliance and it’s one of the main keys to survival.

Here are a few links to helpful resources:

Educate Yourself a brochure (Keep reading here and at the other sites listed in our Blogroll to educate yourself further)

Family Emergency Plan from

Recommended Supplies List from

Coping with Sheltering in Place from The Red Cross

Stay tuned for more information on planning.

Plan | Prepare

Bedding a Rifle Scope

A how-to on bedding a rifle scope is a bit of an odd first post for our Defenses category but it happens to be timely.  I recently purchased a new long-range rifle and I’m getting ready to install my first one-piece scope base.  So, I’ve been doing a bit of research on the best way to fit a one-piece mount to a Remington 700.  If you’re not aware, the 700’s are somewhat notorious for relatively poor receiver tolerances making one-piece mounts more difficult to install.

For my installation, I’ve chosen the Badger Ordnance 20 MOA base pictured below.

Badger Ordnance 20 MOA Base

Frequently, you’ll end up with vertical stringing in your groups if you install a one-piece base without proper bedding.  You’ll also place unnecessary stress on your rifle’s receiver as well as the mount.

Not every base will need to be bedded.  How do you know if yours does?  How do you know which end needs to be bedded, if not both ends?

Determining Whether Bedding is Required

  1. Place the scope base on top of your rifle’s receiver
  2. Tighten the screw(s) on only one end of the base (do not over-tighten)
  3. Utilizing a .001″ feeler gauge (pictured below) check for a gap on the loose end of the base
  4. If the feeler gauge slides under the base, you have a gap that needs to be bedded
  5. If no gap is identified on the first end of the base, repeat Steps 1-4 for the opposite end of the base
  6. The end of the base with the gap needs to be bedded.

    Feeler Gauge

Once you have determined whether or not your scope base needs to be bedded, the bedding process is fairly straight-forward.

Bedding a Scope Base

  1. Thoroughly clean the under-side of your scope base and top of your rifle action with an acetone or alcohol-soaked cloth (I prefer a lint-free cloth to avoid leaving any fibers behind after cleaning)
  2. Do not touch these surfaces with your bare hands once you have cleaned them (you may want to use Nitrile gloves for the rest of the process)
  3. Apply a liberal coating of release agent to the scope base mounting screws
  4. Mix the appropriate amount of bedding compound according to the manufacturer’s directions
  5. Insert all of the scope base mounting screws into their corresponding holes in the rifle’s action; tighten 1/4 turn
  6. Apply a thin layer of bedding compound to the under-side of your scope base and around the screws in your rifle’s receiver (any excess will be cleaned off in a later step)
  7. Remove the screws from the rifle’s receiver
  8. Place the scope base, with the bedding compound on it, on top of your rifle’s receiver and begin to tighten the two center screws
  9. Tighten the two center screws until the base appears to be in contact with the rifle’s receiver (you can utilize the feeler gauge again to ensure contact; do not over-tighten the screws)
  10. Tighten the outer two screws until they make contact with the scope base (the torque of the inner and outer screws should be the same at this point)
  11. Wipe off any excess bedding compound with a clean cloth
  12. Clean up any excess residue with acetone-soaked cloths or Q-tips
  13. Bedding compound may continue to seep from under the scope base for an hour or two; be prepared to repeat Step 12 as it does so
  14. Once the seeping stops, set the rifle aside and allow the bedding compound to cure according to the manufacturer’s instructions
  15. After the bedding compound has cured, torque all four screws to the manufacturer’s specifications and go shoot your rifle!

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