Let There Be Light

Dear Black Bag Confidential Reader,

I received some great questions this week, a few of which address topics we haven’t yet covered in depth.

Don’t forget, I’m here to help you. So if you’ve got any burning safety or survival questions, send them to spy@lfb.org.

Now let’s dive in.

In the event of a power loss here in Surf City, which happens occasionally, please recommend some type of “electric lantern” that we could use as an emergency source of interior lighting. One that would be rechargeable at an outlet, rather than use a battery…

— Gary S.

That’s a tough one, Gary. The majority of lanterns operate on either propane canisters or large batteries.

However, if you want a lantern with an internal rechargeable battery, I suggest checking out the Camp Chef Mountain Series Summit lantern. You can charge this lantern using an AC outlet, a 12-volt car charger or solar power — which means you never have to mess with batteries.

According to the manufacturer, this lantern will last 10 hours on a full charge. It also has a USB port, so you can use it to charge your cellphone if needed. Selling for around $75 on Amazon, this is one of the few lanterns I’ve seen with an internal rechargeable battery.

I believe my boyfriend has put a tracking device on my car. As you may know, these devices can be quite small and hard to find, especially because you can pop the plastic off anywhere to place one. Any advice for finding them?  

— Melinda A.

Unfortunately, Melinda, you are 100% correct that these devices can be incredibly small. The fact is GPS trackers can be easily concealed in all sorts of nooks and crannies, making them very difficult to find.

First, I recommend checking areas of your vehicle that are easy to access. Start with the wheel wells, under the bumper, the console and any other area you can think of where someone could hide a tracker.

Now, the problem is trackers can be placed under plastic parts of the vehicle where you won’t be able to see them. To be on the safe side, consider contacting a local private investigator or security company and asking them to sweep your vehicle for GPS trackers. They’ll have the knowledge and the right equipment to locate any devices in or on your vehicle. You could purchase a bug sweeper and do it yourself, but I recommend going to a professional company.

Would it be advantageous to have multiple “go bags” for each season instead of packing and repacking as the year progresses? What should I pack in my under-12 child’s “go bag” compared with what is placed in mine?

— Richard C.

It’s important that your go bag provides adequate supplies for the weather or season. Obviously, the gear you’ll need to survive in winter is going to be different than what you’ll need for the summer. So it’s definitely not a bad idea to have different bags for different seasons.

The only advantage to repacking the same bag is that it forces you to check your supplies regularly to see if they’ve expired or need to be replaced.

As for your child’s go bag, the biggest thing to remember is to prepare a bag that fits their ability. What I mean is you need to make sure any bag you pack for your kid is one they can actually carry. The majority of the heavy items should be in your bag, and you should pack lighter items in your kid’s bag.

As a father of small children myself, I’d also suggest packing small hard candies and perhaps some playing cards to occupy your child and help them stay calm in a stressful situation.

I’m in Florida and have an 11,000-gallon swimming pool attached to my house. It’s a salt pool, and according to my pool store, when it’s at the proper salt level, it’s only 1/10th as salty as the ocean. My question is, is there any reason I can’t use this pool water for drinking and cooking in an emergency situation? Would I need to run it through a purifier first? 

— Bill S.

Unfortunately, Bill, most water filters can’t filter out salt. So even though the water in your pool is not as salty as the ocean, you need to distill the water in order to drink it, which can be a slow process.

In fact, to do this, you need a constant heat source. You basically need to boil the water and then capture the steam in another container to remove the salt. As I said, this is a very slow process and not as easy as it might sound.

A note about using a lanyard: For any reason, someone can grab it and pull you toward them.

— Ken M.

You’re right, Ken. That’s why, if you choose to carry your tactical pen on a lanyard, I recommend a breakaway lanyard or one that pulls apart.

Otherwise, I suggest putting the lanyard inside your jacket or shirt. In other words, the only exposed part of the lanyard would be the part around your neck. And you’d still be able to grab the pen from under your jacket quickly enough to defend yourself.

I read the letter from Dave Q. and quickly realized the uselessness of arguing with TSA and other airport officials. The Australian Customs are the strictest in the world (outside totalitarian countries), and therefore, I will not bring the tactical pen or similar items in my carry-on luggage. I want to thank you for publishing that letter from that reader.

— Arturo T., Sydney, Australia

No problem, Arturo. And you’re absolutely right. When you’re traveling, the last thing you want to do is argue with TSA or customs. These agents have a lot of discretion in their jobs. Even if you are right, you won’t win an argument with them. It’s better to let them do their job and not cause a scene.

I sent for the monkey fist, and then I remembered in the Navy, we sewed an egg-shaped fishing sinker in our neckerchiefs we wore. We didn’t have pockets in our uniform in those days. I’ve been out now 62 years. Praise God I never had to swing it, but it was always there. Also, we had a monkey fist tied to a length of line we would throw ashore to the line handlers so they could pull our tie-up lines ashore.

— Larry R.

Thanks for sharing, Larry! The monkey fist knot certainly has many uses. When you make it out of paracord and combine it with a steel ball, it’s a great tool for self-defense and breaking windows — or you can unravel it and use the cord to tie things down like we talked about last week.

Stay safe,

Jason Hanson

Jason Hanson

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