Cold hands are not happy hands

A couple of years ago, in the Fall, when I saw all of the squeeze’n’shake, “hot-hands” chemical hand warmers start showing up on all the check-out counters, I got nostalgic for my old Zippo™ lighter fluid hand warmer that I had had back when I was a teenager. I got one when I was probably 11 years old, and first started out going winter camping in Boy Scouts. I seem to remember that my brother and I were both given them one Christmas.

Back there in Michigan, they were pretty popular with the ice fishermen. You could even get a little flannel belt with two pockets to hold them over your kidneys. I remember loving having mine when I was out sledding as a kid.

I did remember them kicking around for years but not getting much use when we later lived in the Carolinas. Then I had vague memories of having used one down on Cape Cod back in the 80s when I was building houses and slating roofs… right through the winter. I hadn’t seen it since I moved to Maine in 2005… I guess it just went away…. the way things do when you move. You get rid of things and have no memory of doing so… then later on you miss having them.

I looked them up on the Internet, and sure enough, you could still buy one on Amazon. The best part was that they were still being manufactured by Zippo. So, I ended up adding one to a purchase to come up to the free shipping. [ in the same matte black that I purchased, they are currently priced at $12.92 on Amazon ]

Just in case you are not familiar with these units:

You simply pull off the little chromium heating element and add lighter fluid to the bottom half. You then hold a lighter flame under one side of the element for 15 or 20 seconds. Somehow this causes a slow, continuous combustion of the fumes from the fluid. You slip the spring-fit top half back on, let it heat up for a minute or two, and then put the whole unit in the little drawstring bag.


You can get up to eight hours, or even more, on a single fill-up… And it gets far, far warmer then the chemical units.

If you buy the chemical packet heaters over the counter at a variety store they can cost as much as $2 a piece. Doesn’t take too long to come up to the full cost of this unit even if you throw in an extra $5 for lighter fluid.

I have been really delighted to have one again. On cold mornings, even right here in the house, I will fire it up and put it inside the collar of my fleece, against the nape of my neck. It warms up the blood going to my brain, and at my age that’s probably a pretty good thing. Of course, once you head outside, it will warm your fingers up in just a few moments, even through gloves.


Imagine my surprise this morning when I was rooting around in the back corner of one of my bureau drawers… Voila!


Old Faithful.

Note that the old school unit features a large hole so that you could poke a cigarette  in and then light up off of the glow coil.

At some point I had hand-sewed a replacement bag out of an chamois cloth LL  Bean shirt remnant after that same hole burned a corresponding burnhole in the original red flannelette bag. Yes, this old unit would need a consumer protection warning in today’s weenie world. The chromium metal gets hot enough to cause first to second degree burns.

The design has changed only minimally. Real plated brass, real metal chrome like on yer ’53 Cadillac’s bumper, a bit heavier, and it appears to be a few/16ths thicker, so it holds a bit more fluid, and lasts a bit longer. [now going on nine hours]

I put some fluid into the old antique… it fired up instantly. I think that it’s fairly certain that it even gets hotter than the current units.

One for each pocket.

Something Absurdly Simple


I freely admit to being a “scrounger”. I salvage, save, “preserve”, conserve etc. any number of things that otherwise would just go in the trash bin. Sometimes it works out unexpectedly.

The piece in the photo above is the rubber finger-grip off of an old gel-pen that got tossed out. I pull the grippies off figuring they might come in handy to put on the handle of some small tool or other, at some point in future time. I found this one hanging out in a bowl when I was doing a bit of cleanup just now.

A couple of weeks ago, I found some old brass, 45 cal. pistol casings and had played around with them, blowing across the top to see what kind of freebie peep-whistle they might make for emergency kits. Imagine my surprise when I put my finger over one end of this little piece of rubberized tubing and it emitted a piercing shriek… F# below middle C.  It is as loud, and carrying as any emergency whistle I have ever seen.

Best of all, because it is of rubber, it will squish down flat and pack into a kit taking up much less room… and much more flexibly.

The bad news is: I pulled out several other grips I had saved and none of them produce any kind of clear note at all. Win some, lose some. I have no idea at all what kind of pen this might have come off of, but all the other grips are of a softer, more “silicone-gel”-like material. They are all too flimsy to produce a clear note. This one however is a champ. It’s going right into my kit.

Always look around, see what you might find. You never know what comes in handy for the most unusual application. That’s what your junk drawer is for…

A “Down ‘n’ Dirty” Anorak

You probably would be hard-pressed to find a faster, cheaper DIY project than this one…


Yesterday I picked up this chemical “splash guard” suit down at the Fell-Off-A-Truck-Stop [shown here undergoing the rigorous Moosenut Falls Development Labs Quality Control Process by one of our certified technicians]

It only ran me $3. And, yes, it does look like it’s sized for Shaquille O’Neal. For my purposes that’s quite fine. I think it was actually a 3X. Because I was planning on making an anorak and rain chaps out of it, the extra size to allow for warming layers underneath was just what I wanted.

I laid it down on my deck and made a shallow crescent out of six or seven pushpins curving down from one side to the other. This was to hold it firmly and to guide my cut through both layers at once. I used the catenary curve rather than simply cutting it off square. That way it will be easier to pull down over my knees if I want to sit.

Quite literally, 30 seconds later I was finished. It took longer to set up and take the photos than the project itself took.

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The whole package rolls down without any excessive force to just larger than a soda can. I don’t have a scale, but it seems to be about the 1/3 the weight of a full soda can. The suit I used had a zipper that came down fairly deeply, perhaps almost to my crotch, so I believe that I will be able to just step into the anorak and pull it up. Unlike a lot of the white Tyvek jumpsuits I have seen other people on the Internet use for this project, it even had a full-length placket over the zipper. The sleeve cuffs were also elasticized to prevent flapping. I’m going to cut the legs off of the remnant using a pair of jeans as a template. They will be single leg chaps that tie off to my belt.

The one thing that remains to be determined is that, while this is designed to protect from chemical “splashes”, I have no idea how waterproof or water resistant it actually is. So, I have taken one of the legs, folded a couple of pieces of paper towel in under just one layer of fabric, and set it out in the rain with a rock on it to see what it’s “soak through” time might be.

Regardless, and in the worst case, I’ve got a pretty nice, very light-weight wind-suit that allows for layering underneath. Even if it proves not to be terribly waterproof, I have a spray can of Scotchgard that I got a couple of years ago to re-treat an older, but expensive, parka. I’ll give that a shot before I give up.

The river “Treasure” repacked …and repacked …and repacked


You may remember the Altoids Survival Tin that the dog and I found down along the river.  It had some nice things in it, most notably the Swiss Army knife. However, it was also really badly lacking in a lot of basic needs.

Here is my version, to fit in the same tin. Clockwise from 12 [w/ some links]:

  1. a simple ziplock baggie- H2O carry
  2. 2 long, sturdy toothpick/skewers and one orangewood true toothpick… I gotz baaad teeth
  3. [the black thing] a heavy duty twist/fold tie
  4. the pins etc. from the original
  5. that cool ResQme-Red whistle
  6. WetFire tinder/flame cube
  7. some StormFire matches and some from the original kit w/striker
  8. a cheapo Chinese Mini compass that actually points North [or at least to where my other compasses point]
  9. Razor Knife/Saw Combo Tool [WHOA! This link is charging an arm and a leg for something that I got at $2.98 a pair!] This was to replace the full Swiss Army knife that was in the tin when it was found. That heavy a knife is simply overkill and over-crowding. Carry a decent knife in your pocket EDC.
  10. one of my DIY first aid packs
  11. A roll of dental floss
  12. 8′ for mason’s twine
  13. a “walk-out” light– this one was in a two-pak at the dollar store

Even being pretty generous with an estimate on cost, all of the stuff couldn’t have gone more than $5. Think ahead about what you need/might want and what would fit. Then you just have to start to look around, pick up stuff as you find it, scrounge a little, visit a couple of the dollar stores and the roadside tool tents and pretty soon you’ll find you have everything you need. And more than likely, enough stuff to make up several kits for the whole family, or to give your buddies.

Scrounge is the name of the game. You don’t even have to be very fancy to find something perfectly acceptable to tote a decent kit of emergency items around in.

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Here are ALL of the same items simply pushed into an old cigarette pack and all the same stuff in a heavy “disposable” vinyl pouch that some dog chews for my labrador came in. Both of these could just go into the trash without a thought, but both of them are perfect containers for an emergency kit. Either one will slip easily right into a pocket so that you are more likely to take it along. Just a strip of duct tape to seal them closed and you’re ready to go.

The best thing about making up an emergency kit is that it makes you think about what you might need, and starts you thinking about getting “out there”.

Remember: “You don’t know what you might need until you don’t have it”.

Be Safe- Be Prepared… Onward Thru the Fog