Incorporating the Simple Living Review, the Preparedness & Self-Reliance Review, as well as the Outdoor & Survival Review

The Bicycle as Transport for Survival and Backwoods-Living

>One of the best modes of locomotion in the backcountry is on a bicycle. I'd be where I was going, settin' in the shade while someone else was still chasin' their horse across the pasture or gettin it saddled up. <

Is the bicycle, the bike, whether mountain bike or other, a viable option for survival transport and for transport in the backwoods? I should say so. More than viable even, in my view. It does neither use fuel nor does it require fodder. Requires no catching in the morning in the pasture or taking out of the stable, currying, feeding and saddling. Can be maintained by anyone with a wrench and a few other tools… The bicycle also has quite a load carrying capacity (depending on how well the bike is made) in itself with the right kit and with a trailer for it you can carry still more. Although often laughed at by other units, the bicycle corps of the Army does have a much greater ability than it is often charged with. No snorting horse to accidentally give your position away (unless your bike ain’t maintained and squeaks) and there is no need to tie or hobble the bike when you have to get down into position to observe an enemy or such. All that is probably also a reason why many police forces and ranger services and such once again are using bicycles in patrols.

Okay, I admit, you do not have the range with a bicycle than you would have with a car or truck but then you hardly ever hear of a bike getting stuck somewhere in the mud or running out of gasoline. Yes, there is much less speed with a bicycle and it all depends on you pedaling and your stamina and such. But then you get exercise, which is good for the cardio-vascular system. A horse is even faster than a bicycle, you say. Sure it is, on short spurts but generally its sustained speed unless you have staging posts where you can change horses is just a little faster than a person walking. So, the bicycle probably wins again. There is one advantage with a horse and that is that you can go thru mud with it where probably you would have to go round it with a bike and that you may be able to swim a river while holding on to your horse swimming. Bit difficult with a bicycle, I know and admit.

He who gives his child a bicycle give him the best toy ever and one that they will not grow out of. It will keep him occupied for hours and gives him good exercise at the same time. It also gives him some mobility with which to explore the “world”. And he can also range further in the pursuit of some kind of economical activities, such as earning money by going door-to-door sharpening knives and scissors or selling goods, such as recycled knives or even such humble goods such handmade clothespins.

© M V Smith

Put a Light in your Cabin

The humble Bottle Lamp, the one that you make for yourself from scrap, is probably one of the easiest and cheapest ways to put some light into the darkness, whether that is in your home during a power outage or in a cabin or cave. It is also something that the homesteader who needs to be frugal but needs some extra lights can make use of. At the same time one recycles old glass jars and short squat glass bottles.

Some vendors of survival goods and equipment do sell what I would call a 'glass jar' with a wick, which burns lamp-oil, and call it a "survival candle", but those things ain't no candles as such at all; they really are nothing but bottle lamps. And bottle lamps you don't bother to go out and buy and spend good hard-earned dollars on; you make 'em yourself.

In other places similar lamps were used in days gone by, and in some case that ain't even that long ago as in the case of the homesteads, the squats, and outstations, in the outback of the big island continent of Australia. There the Bushmen (in no way to be confused with the Bushmen of South Africa) used to use such lamps in various ways and they were known among some of them as "slush lamps". I have made such a small lamp from and empty (obvious, you say) glass bottle (see picture) that contained once an orange drink called "Orangina" and have used it on many an occasion when the light went out or when I was living in places without electricity. But there are also various other small bottles with metal screw top lids that you could use and which are equally suitable for conversion into a bottle lamp. The metal screw top is important, though if you haven't got one on the bottle then that isn't the end of the world yet either but I'll come back to that one later on.

The little bottle lamp that I made for myself took about ten minutes to make, and no more than that, after I had drunk the drink and cleaned and dried it. I made a hole in the center of the metal screw top and fitted a hollow rivet into it and afterwards I made a wick for it from a strip from an old 100% cotton T-shirt. It does work. You can use kerosene, JP4 high-grade aviation fuel as that used by helicopters, coal oil, lamp oil like citronella and such, as well as liquid paraffin. If you find a little glass jar or a bottle that is nice and suitable to be made into a bottle lamp but it hasn't got a metal screw top then don't despair. Use a 2p coin (that is a British copper coin of 1inch diameter) or a metal disc of similar size and especially one that fits well over the neck of the bottle in question, drill a whole thru the center, put your homemade wick thru this hole and, using this coin or metal disc in place of the metal screw top, your little lamp is ready to light your home.

Only small bottles can be used for making bottle lamps. The wick cannot draw the kerosene up from, for instance, the depth of a big bottle such as a wine or whiskey one. Ideally the bottle should be short and squat; no more than 5 ½ to 6 inches high and the wider, e.g. the squatter, the better. Whiskey pocket flask, the so-called quarter bottles, that can often been found laying about having been thrown away by some wino, are fine in height but their bases are too small and you would have to make something into which you could firmly "plant" the bottle so it won't fall over once it is alight.

© M V Smith