How to Set-Up and Master Ham Radio Without Going Crazy, Part 1

How to Set Up and Master Ham Radio Part 1 - Backdoor Survival

On April 18th, I will be taking the test to get my Technician Class HAM radio license.  This is something I have been meaning to do for quite some time but honestly?  I got so wrapped up with getting my equipment, two Baofeng UV5 radios, to work that I lost sight of the goal.

To prepare for my test, I have been studying Dan Romanchik’s free guide “The Non-Nonsense Technician Class License Study Guide” which is all good.  But still niggling me was the sense of failure at setting up my HAM radios. 

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The Nitro-Pak 72 Hour Survival Kit Review

Nitro-Pak 72 Hour Emergency Kit - Backdoor Survival

Let’s face it.  No matter how much we hope we will never have to evacuate the comfort of our homes, there is always a possibility that circumstances will require that we gather our emergency supplies and leave on a moment’s notice.  Alternately, when a disruptive event occurs while we are away from home, we want to be prepared with whatever we need to get back home safely.

These days, everyone on the planet is telling us that we need a well stocked bug-out-bag, or go-bag, with enough gear to get you by for at least 72 hours. 

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8 Essential Items: The Perfect Portable Survival Kit


There is a popular school of thought that dictates that your survival kit should follow you everywhere.  Within this context I am not referring to a bug out bag or a vehicle emergency kit but rather a small, portable survival kit that you carry with you during the normal course of living your life.  This kit is commonly referred to as your EDC, or Every Day Carry.

I feel that the term “EDC” is misleading because it implies a set of items that is always with you, no matter what. 

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Backdoor Survival Holiday Gift Guide for Preppers


With the onset of the holiday season, it is time to begin thinking about how we are going to spend both our precious time and money to ensure that we make the most of the spirit of the season.

In my own household, things are a bit up in the air.  Although our tradition is not to exchange gifts, spending quality time with each other is most definitely a tradition.  Rain or shine (which is very rare in Western Washington this time of year), we take a walk along the beautiful shoreline of San Juan Island and spend hours in front of the fire reading, playing board games, and sipping good wine. 

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Gear Review: SunJack Portable Solar Charger


With our reliance on portable electronics, a huge concern is what will we do when the power is out and our batteries are dead?

This is true not only for our phones which provide a vital link to the outside world, but for our tablets, and electronic readers, too.  Think about it.  We all have hundreds if not thousands of documents that will help us muddle through if the grid goes down.  Barring printing them out and setting up a massive library system, we will be stuck unless we have some way to power up our gizmos.

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Summer Survival Blast: SunBell and Little Sun Solar Lamps


Every once in awhile something comes along that tickles my fancy because it is just so darn much fun.  When that fun item is coupled with solid functionality, I am thrilled.

Such is the case with the SunBell Solar Lamp and the Little Sun. Both are 100% solar powered, simple to use, and a delight to look at.  And of course, I have one of each to give away to lucky Backdoor Survival readers.

So what are they and how to they work?  Let us take them one at a time, starting with the SunBell.

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Summer Survival Blast: Infidel Body Armor Review + Giveaway


When I was first approached about reviewing a body armor product on Backdoor Survival, I turned the company down flat.  I had taken a look at their product and after noting the complicated fitting instructions, measurements, and a whole bunch of other things I could not figure out, I felt best to take a pass.

Two years passed and when another company, Infidel Body Armor, contacted me, I decided to take another look to see if they offered a product more suitable to my readers. 

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The Inexpensive Tac-Force Speedster Outdoor Knife


I have a habit of suggesting this piece of gear or that, especially when it is value priced.  This is not to say that a bargain priced piece of equipment is going to perform the same as something more expensive but that sometimes, for the task at hand, inexpensive or even cheap will do just fine.

Over the years I have suggested bargain-priced deals on whistles, knives, fire-starters, and flashlights. Many times I refer to these items as “almost free” because at under $5 or $10, they are practically giveaways. 

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Summer Survival Blast: Win a Honey Bucket 2-Person Survival Kit


Without question, summer is finally here and to get all of you Prepper’s geared up, Backdoor Survival is kicking off the Summer Survival Blast with some fantastic giveaways.  I have partnered up with some great companies and through their generosity, will be giving you a chance to gear up and get ready!

First up this summer is the 2 Person Honey Bucket Kit from  If you think this is just a “Honey Bucket” you are in for a surprise.  This is a fairly complete survival kit housed in a bucket that is topped by a toilet seat! 

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These Boots Are Made for Hiking + Altai Tactical Boots


It takes a lot to get me excited about clothing and other personal items.  It is not that I am particular but these days, I value my investment in survival gear and supplies far more than an investment in the clothes on my back and the shoes on my feet.

On the other hand, hiking boots are something I take quite seriously.  When push comes to shove (or the stuff hits the fan), a good pair of boots will be well-purposed during everything from a trip to the lake for fresh water, to an emergency evacuation on foot to higher ground. 

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Cen-Tech 5 in 1 Portable Power Pack Review


For years, I have referred to Harbor Freight as the world’s best toy store for grown up boys.  Well I have news for you.  Prepper gals also drool over the goodies at Harbor Freight.  One of those “I have been drooling” goodies is a portable power pack for my car.  The good news is that I now have one.  The better news is that Harbor Freight is going to give a Cen-Tech 5 in 1 Portable Power Pack to one lucky Backdoor Survival reader.

What is a portable power pack? 

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44 Fantastic Uses of Paracord for Prepping and Survival


My love affair with paracord continues.  Not only is it strong and useful for a myriad of tasks, it is colorful and fun to work with while making bracelets, key fobs, belts and other goodies. I am not the only one that feels this way.

Simply enter the term “paracord” into a search engine and you will be presented with thousands of articles covering everything from what it is, how it is used, where to buy it, and more. It seems like everyone has a stake in the paracord love-fest with preppers leading the pack!

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AquaPod Deluxe – When the Going Gets Tough the Tough Saves Water


It is Friday here at Backdoor Survival and you know what that means; it is time for another fabulous giveaway!  As someone who lives and breathes and is even obsessed about preparedness, it goes without saying that when an opportunity comes along to demonstrate how to store extra water in advance of a disruptive event, I jump on it.

Today I am thrilled to share my experience setting up the AquaPod Deluxe and, in conjunction with the nice folks at AquaStorage, am offering one for free in a giveaway.

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Off-Grid Cooking with the Amazing HERC Tea Light Oven


One of the challenges during a power outage is cooking meals.  While there are many options, most require cooking outdoors using stove-type methods such as a rocket stove, BBQ grill, fire pit or camp stove.  These methods work great, especially if they are coupled with a cast iron skillet or Dutch oven.

The problem, however, is that we can not predict or time when the power will go out.  Nor can we predetermine how long the grid will be down; it may be hours or it may be days or even weeks. 

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The Ultimate Compact Survival Kit

The Ultimate Pocket Survival Kit

The Winter Blast Giveaway has been a lot of fun and a lot of great products have been reviewed and offered as reader giveaways.  That said, one of the most fun items is something a little less mundane, namely a compact survival kit plus a pocket sized fishing kit.  There is something about something that is small, yet well thought out and well made that captures my attention and makes it fun and well as functional, you know what I mean?

I have always been fascinated by those survival kits that are packaged in tins. 

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Fast Track Prep Tip #3: Buy What You Need and Use What You Buy


Acquiring survival and prepping gear can be both a blessing and a curse.  The blessing part is easy to figure out; if there is an emergency, you will have what it takes to purify water, stay warm, cook food, render first aid and ward off the bad guys.  The curse part?  You may end up with a closet full of stuff with nary a clue as to how it works or even if it will work when the time comes.

In all fairness, I say this from my own personal experience and might be judging the rest of you unfairly. 

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Everyday Light and Water-Winter Blast Giveaway


Often times it is the simplest of things that are missing just when you need them.  Some good examples include a Band-Aid or safety pin or even a pen and a piece of paper to write on.

For those of us that like to be prepared for anything, we carry with us is a greatly expanded list of items that includes everything from a roll of duct tape, to some paracord, to food, water and a personal weapon.  We have our bug-out-bag, our get home back, our every day carry kit, our travel kit – the list goes on and one.

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Backdoor Survival Holiday Gift Guide


The frenzy of the holiday season is upon us.  Or I should say some of us.  For years, the holiday season in my own household has been quiet.  We spend the days leading up to the end of December doing enjoyable activities together such as reading by the fireplace or playing board games.  That is our tradition and it is right for us.

For others, the holiday tradition includes parties, festive meals, decorations and the exchange of gifts, large and small.  To help you with the gifting tradition – and especially the small gifts – I have come up with a holiday gift guide to help you select the perfect gift for loved ones close to you.

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Fall in Love With Cast Iron


Shortly after starting this website, I purchased a cast iron skillet for use when cooking outdoors.  Little did I know that three years later my expensive, department store cookware would be cast aside and I would be using inexpensive cast iron for almost all of my cooking, both indoors and out.

I experienced a lot of trial and error as I learned to cook with cast iron.  Probably the most important thing I learned was to wear gloves when handling the hot skillet or pot and also be make sure that the piece was completely dry before putting it aside for next time.

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Secrets of Successful Fuel Storage


One of the benefits of maintaining the Backdoor Survival website is that I am often asked to review various products of interest to the preparedness community.  I have personally tested and used all of the products I have written up and as you know, it is always more than a simple “two-liner” or just the rewrite of a pile technical specs or press releases.

But there are some products that I can’t effectively review because the Survival Husband and I do not always have the necessary review tools.

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Survival Friday: How to Use a Bandana to Save the Day


Who would have thought that something as ubiquitous as the common bandana would have so many uses?  I know that I have used these colorful squares of cloth for many purposes over the years, not the least of which was keeping my hair in place and wiping the sweat off my brow in hot weather.

If you have not put a lot of thought into the usefulness of a bandana, think again.  As far as I am concerned, you should have one available as part of your every day carry kit and more than a few in your bug out bag and your stash of survival supplies.

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The Basics of Ham Radio


Today I continue the conversation with George Ure of Urban Survival as he shares  his thoughts on the value of getting a ham radio license as well as an explanation of some ham radio basics for those of us that are just getting started with this mode of emergency commination.

But first, what exactly is ham radio?  According to Wikipedia:

Amateur radio (also called ham radio) is the use of designated radio frequency spectra for purposes of private recreation, non-commercial exchange of messages, wireless experimentation, self-training, and emergency communication.

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Shortwave Radio For Preppers


A year and a half ago, I asked my friend George Ure at Urban Survival to help with an article on emergency communications.  And since he’s the kind of guy who will build you a watch even if all you wanted to know is the time is, he turned out a really good article which can still be found over on our Strategic Living site.

More recently, as I have started to get serious about both shortwave and HAM radio, I asked him some additional questions during our weekly video conference.

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Grinding Wheat with the Incredible WonderMill


When I first started prepping, the last thing on my mind was purchasing wheat for long term storage.  Heck, what was I going to do with 100 pounds of wheat berries?  Eat them raw?  Cook them? Sprout them?  Turn them into flour? I did not have a clue.  My my, how things have changed.

Today I am thrilled to share with you my experience learning how to mill my own flour with the incredible WonderMill.  Not only that, the nice folks at WonderMill have set aside one of their grain mills for one very lucky Backdoor Survival reader. 

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Every Self-Respecting Prepper Needs Duct Tape


I have always been in love with duct tape.  From the cheap stuff you get at the dollar store to the standard stuff from the local hardware store to the fancy and ever so effective Gorilla Tape – I just love this stuff.

A year ago I posted an article on the many uses of duct tape for survival.  It went viral.  Even so, I think that as a team, we can do better.  I would like to see 50, 80 or even 101 uses of duct tape for survival purposes.

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Survival Friday: Every Prepper Needs a Whistle or Two

In recent months, I have been adding a number of small, inexpensive items to my existing cache of survival gear.  I have added flashlights (Blocklite’s in particular), paracord, mini-tools, and pocket knives as well as other handy items to my stash of portable survival kits.

One item that I have purchased in bulk and stowed everywhere I can think of is a whistle.  As with everything, I have my favorites including the WindStorm (nicely made in the USA) and the dirt-cheap SE 5 in 1 whistle.

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Gear Review: Trademark 4 in 1 Hunting Knife

It must be a guy thing.  One knife is never enough and neither are two or three.  Most men that I know have a collection of blades, each serving a slightly (with the emphasis on “slightly”) different purpose.  That said, when planning for emergencies, you should have a reliable knife in your pocket, in your vehicle, in your pack and in your tool box.  In our household, we have pocket knives, multi-tools, tactical knives. machetes and more.  And in all fairness to the men out there, I have three knives of my own.

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The LifeStraw Personal Water Filter Review

I first learned about the LifeStraw Personal Water Filter a year ago when one of the readers of Backdoor Survival sent me an email extoling its virtues.  Although it sounded cool and the price (about $20) was right, I did not bother to test one myself.   After all, I already had a Berkey Sport bottle, a Nalgene water bottle and some water purification tabs in my pack.  I was all set.

Or so I thought. 

During my recent trip to Alaska, I decided to carry along a LifeStraw and use it for some field testing.  After all, what better place to stick a straw in the water and drink than a beautiful Alaskan glacial pond or stream?

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Survival Friday: Three Essential Storage Tools

Sometimes it can be the simple things that will stop you in your tracks when it comes to getting things done.  On today’s Survival Friday, Above Average Joe shares three dirt cheap tools that can save you time and hassle when working with your food and water storage.


In one of my past jobs, I worked in a warehouse that created and shipped dozens of different products. I even got the chance to help develop several of these.  It was a fun job while it lasted, but there were a few very specific tools that I used on a daily basis that I could not have done my job without.

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The Amazing SunVolt Power Station

How often have your been warned to print out copies of all of your survival and prepping manuals because when the grid is down, the batteries on your electronic gizmos will run down, making them useless?

Personally, I have shunned from printing out my survival and prepping reference material.  Why?  Well first of all, if bugging out, I would rather carry food, water and first aid supplies on my back than a pile of paper.  And second?  There are ways to charge the gizmos without power, the most practical being an emergency radio such as the Kaito that has a solar panel and a hand crank. 

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