How to Make a Rope Bridge

There are certain skills that won’t benefit you right away in the P.A.W.  Knowing how to build a rope bridge is definitely one of them.  If you’re on your own and still wandering around looking for a safe location, this skill will be of almost no use to you.  However, if you’re traveling in a group with more gear than everyone can carry on their backs or you’ve made a permanent settlement and you cross that particular stream/chasm frequently, knowing how to build a rope bridge and cross it is an invaluable skill.

There are more types of rope bridges than you can shake a stick at, so I’m going to go over some of the most basic varieties: the one-rope, two-rope, three-rope, and simple suspension bridges.  All of them rely on several fundamental basics.

  1. Anchor all ropes on both sides of the bridge to a solid, permanent anchor point, like a large rock embedded in the ground or an old tree (big trunk).  In the military, they call these “bombproof” anchor points, as in if you were being shelled, your anchor points wouldn’t give way and leave you high and dry.
  2. You need a suitable loading platform on both sides of the bridge.  The loading platform is where you get on or off of the bridge.  With the more permanent bridge types, this is less of a concern because you can always build a suitable platform.  The platform needs to be relatively flat and close enough to the anchor rope that it isn’t difficult for anyone to attach themselves or any equipment to it.
  3. When constructing the bridge, make sure there is some space between your rope and the anchor point.  Once your bridge is complete, the ropes will all be incredibly taut but they’ll still move around a little bit once the bridge is in use.  If you don’t leave a gap, this can cause the rope to rub against the anchor abrasing the rope, weakening it, and risk the rope snapping.
  4. When tightening the ropes, be careful to not overtighten them.  This will put undue stress on the rope at the knots which could cause the rope, knots, or both to fail while using the bridge.
  5. Never let more than two people cross any of the bridges at a time, especially if they are carrying equipment with them.  The more weight placed on the system, the more likely it will fail.

Transport Tightening System

The anchor mechanism on the near side is referred to as the “transport tightening system” because it is tied in such a way that all the slack can be taken out of the rope, thus tightening the whole system.  It is a rope and series of knots tied around the anchor point in such a way as to secure the bridge and tighten the ropes to the desired tautness.

The first knot you will tie is a static knot (like a wireman’s knot or a figure-eight slip knot) around three to six feet from the anchor point.  Clip a carabiner through the knot with the gate facing upward.  Continue wrapping the rope around the anchor.  At this point you need to decide whether you’re going to do a “dry crossing” or a “wet crossing”.  A dry crossing is when everyone but the first person cross over the bridge.  A wet crossing is when the last person is required to dismantle the bridge prior to crossing. 

If you decide to perform a dry crossing, you will need to add a transport knot into the system.  I personally prefer this method because you only have to have one strong swimmer/climber to initially take the far side rope end to the far side.

Transport Knot

Now that you’ve brought the rope around the tree, go back to the part of the rope on the other side of the tree and make a loop with the piece of rope coming from the far side crossing over the piece that goes around the tree.  Now go back to the part that you just looped around the tree.  Make a bight in the rope and pass it through the back of the loop you just made and clasp it into the caribiner on your static knot further down the rope.

Tightening and Anchoring the Rope

If you didn’t tie the transport knot into the system, clasp the rope into the carabiner attached to the static knot.  Now you need to tighten the bridge.  Pull the loose end of the rope coming out of the carabiner until the bridge is the appropriate taughtness.  Tie the rope off on the anchor point.  You can tie the rope off with any number of knots, but the easiest on to use is a round-turn with two half-hitches.

Collapsing the Bridge

For a dry crossing,after everybody but the last two people have crossed, untie your rope anchor knot and tie it to the second-to-last crosser and have him cross.  As long as the slack end is directed toward the far end from the loop in the rope, the tension will be maintained.  If you want to be doubly safe, you can twist the rope at the carabiner to bind all the rope.  Once that person has crossed, pull the loop from the transport knot out of the carabiner and let the transport knot collapse.  At this point, you basically have a rope tied on the far end anchor point, that crosses to the near end, loops around the near anchor point and back across to the far end.  Have several people on the far end pull the rope tight and anchor the rope to the far end anchor point as described above.  After you cross, untie the rope at both end and pull on the end until all of the rope is on your side.

One-Rope (Commando) Bridge

The one-rope, or commando, bridge is the simplest to build and tear down, but the most difficult and physically demanding to cross.  As the name hints, you only use one rope to traverse your obstacle, meaning you’ll be in an awkward position, using pure muscle strength to drag yourself along the length of the bridge.  This is ideal if you’re only crossing with minimal gear and able-bodied individuals, and in a hurry.  Also, this is probably what your going to need initially when building a permanent bridge in order to move things back and forth during construction.

Crossing the Bridge

Crossing a bridge made with one rope can be tricky.

Two-Rope (Postmans) Bridge

The ever fancy Postman’s Bridge adds a whole additional rope to the Commando Bridge… Fancy!  In this configuration, you walk on one rope and hold onto the second rope at chest level or slightly above.

If you have a lot of equipment or people incapable of crossing a Commando Bridge, but you still need your bridge to be temporary and/or hastily constructed and dismantled, then the Postman’s Bridge is your best bet.  It is a reasonable balance of stability and expediency.  When constructing this bridge, you are basically just building 2 Commando Bridges at different heights.

Three-Rope (Monkey) Bridge

 The Monkey Bridge requires a bit more preparation, and because of the required resources and investment of time in this bridge, it is likely that you will use this in a semi-permanent capacity.  One benefit that this bridge has over the previously discussed is that it can be used to span further distances. 

Fortunately, the construction process is not overly complicated.  Lay your hand and foot ropes out and tie stringers onto them so that the strings wrap each rope at approximately three foot intervals. 

Build the shears by laying out two equal-length pieces of wood and tying them 2/3 of the way up.  Spread them apart at the feet and lash them to a cross brace.

Lay the foot rope in the crux of the lasher, tie it to the anchor on one end and then tighten and tie at the other end.  Do the same with the hand ropes, looping them over the tops of the shears first.

How to Pick a Pin Tumbler Lock

DISCLAIMER: The following is highly dangerous or illegal and it is not recommended to be used under any circumstances, except zombies.

In a P.A.W., there is potentially going to be a whole lot of empty buildings with no owners around.  These buildings will be treasure troves of supplies, tools, and shelter, but the more goodies inside a building, the more likely it is to be guarded by locks, barred windows, and thick doors.  The easiest way to gain access to this stuff is just simply break the door or a window or something like that, but that may not always be convenient or the best approach.  To take a scenario from the UK series Survivors, say you come across an inventory depot for a grocery store chain (a warehouse where all the inventory for a number of stores is stored until they need it).  It’s locked up tighter than a drum with serious security (steel doors, deadbolt locks, barbed wire fences, no windows, etc.).  If you happen to find a pickable lock (and you can pick locks) you could get into the building without permanently ruining the security – meaning you can stay there and keep all the supplies inside away from everyone else’s grubby little hands.

How a Pin and Tumbler Lock Works

Cross Section of a Lock

Take a look at any key you have in your pocket.  The shaft of the key is a series of peaks and valleys.  Each of the peaks coincides with a pin inside the lock.

Every lock has a series of pins of varying lengths.  Each pin is divided into two pieces, the top halves all being the same length and the bottom half being the excess length.  If the wrong key (or no key) is inserted into the barrel, the pins prevent the barrel from being turned.  If the appropriate key is placed into the barrel, the pins will line up so that the top portion is perfectly outside the barrel, and the bottom portion is perfectly inside the barrel – allowing the barrel to turn freely inside the lock (and thereby locking or unlocking the door).

Picking Locks with Lockpicking Tools

A Tension Wrench

A lockpicking set (at its most basic) consists of a tension wrench and a pick.  The tension wrench is a strong, thin piece of metal with a 90 degree bend at one end.  As the name implies it needs to be strong enough to withstand a little tension.

The pick can take on any number of shapes.  A masterful locksmith or lockpicker might be able to tell you the benefits of using one pick over another or what benefit different shaped picks have, but for our purposes you only need a simple half-diamond pick.  This is the most versatile pick in any kit and the one pick to have if you only have one.  The half-diamond pick is a straight pick with a triangle-shaped peak at the end of the pick.  The half-diamond pick is used to trigger each pin individually.

A number of lock picks

Insert the short end of the tension wrench into the bottom of the lock and apply a little bit of pressure.  The idea is to create enough force to create a misalignment in the barrel, but not enough to grip the pin and not allow it to move freely in the pinhole.  Finding the right amount of pressure is a trial and error endeavor and you’ll get a better feel for it the more you practice.

Insert your pick into the top of the keyhole and feel your way back to a pin.  I prefer to start at the back and move my way forward.  This gives you an opportunity to count the pins on the way back.  Once you find the pin you are trying to trigger, push it up slowly.  You will feel a faint click from the pin.  This click is the top portion of the pin leaving the barrel, allowing the break in the pin to align with the break between the barrel and the rest of the lock.  Since you’re applying pressure to the barrel, when that break alignment occurs, the barrel will twist ever so slightly, causing a misalignment in the pinhole which forms a lip that the upper portion of the pin will rest on.  You’ll do this pin by pin until all the pins are resting on this lip.  At this point, what you’ve essentially done is simulated inserting the key into the lock and the barrel will freely rotate, unlocking the door.

Alternatively, you can use a rake pick (which looks similar to a saw) to pick locks, if you aren’t so good at picking locks yet.  Just making a sawing motion back and forth until the barrel rotates freely.  This won’t work for every lock, which is why learning with a half-diamond pick is preferable.

Picking Locks with Improvised Tools

The methodology of lock picking doesn’t change, just the tools.  As difficult as lock picking can be sometimes, using improvised tools makes it that much harder.  As far as the tools go, you can use anything that you can think of to do the job.  You essentially need something that fits into the bottom of the lock that won’t bend, and something to stick in the top of the lock that will give you fine manipulation.

For a tension wrench, you could use a small flathead screwdriver, a large flathead screwdriver with the end filed down, an allen wrench with the small end filed down, etc.  The two most common items used as a pick are paperclips and bobby pins.  To use a paperclip, you just need to make a 90 degree bend very close to one end, or if you have access to needle nose pliers, make a very small loop at one end.  You don’t need to do anything with a bobby pin except to break the ball off one end.

Bumping Locks

A 6-Pin Bump Key

By far, the easiest way to “pick” a lock, but requires very little skill and no finesse.  Modern lockpicking enthusiasts frown on this practice, but in the P.A.W. nobody cares.  This may not be a feasible technique in the P.A.W. because you need a bump key, also called a 9-9-9 key, configured for the number of pins in the lock you’re trying to bump.  If you don’t have one of these ahead of time, it’s going to be close to impossible to get one after Armageddon.  A bump key is just a key with the valleys cut as deep as possible (the setting is 9, hence the 9-9-9 key) and a number of valleys equal to the number of pins in the lock.

Place the bump key all the way into the lock and the pull it out until it clicks once.  Place a bit of pressure (about the same as if you were picking the lock) on the key and then hit it with a rubber mallet.  This will force the key into the lock all the way and jolt the pins all the way up, allowing the barrel to rotate freely before they come back down, giving you free access to the other side of the door.

This won’t work on all locks, and a lot of lock companies are now marketing “bump proof” locks that make it harder to bump the locks.

Doomsday Ark

Back in 2006, scientists started discussing the idea of a “Doomsday Ark.”  This proposed idea is to create a way to rebuild society should the end of the world come about.  While the idea met with skepticism in the scientific community, it has taken a foothold and was formally presented at a conference in 2008 in Strasbourg, France.

The Doomsday Ark is similar to the seed vault locked away in a mountainside in Norway, which contains seeds for every type of plant we know of so that in the post-apocalyptic world, we can regrow any lost crops.  There is also a similar vault in Great Britain that stores genetic samples for all kinds of life on Earth for the same reason.  The main difference is that the Doomsday Ark would be kept on the Moon.

The initial plan for the Ark is to house hard disks containing all of human knowledge recorded in Arabic, English, Chinese, Russian, French and Spanish.  This knowledge will contain DNA sequences, technological information, agricultural instructions, how to make metal, basically anything that could be used to rebuild civilization.

The initial Ark will last for approximately 35 years, at which time it will (hopefully) be replaced with a more advanced version that will include a synthetic atmosphere which can house living samples of plants as well as the given information from the previous incarnation of the Ark.

This is all well and good, but how do we go about accessing this information.  The plan is constant radio transmissions beamed back to Earth.  There will be roughly 4000 receiver stations that will double as supply stations that contain supplies for any survivors.  The problem here is that if these stations are publicly known, they can become the target for anarcho-terrorist groups who decide that having that knowledge would be bad.  The other problem is that these facilities will be susceptible to any disasters that may befall the planet.  However, since it is a constant broadcast and assuming it transmits in the clear, anybody with a radio can pick up the transmission and get the information.

Just another reason to have a radio on hand for the apocalypse.

Found on the Internet: Brewing a Cup of Coffee Without a Percolator

Yet again, Lifehacker shows us an interesting way to do an everyday task in an emergency situation.  This time it’s how to brew an “emergency” cup of coffee.  A first world problem to be sure, but something that could soothe your soul post apocalypse:

So you’re desperate for a cup of coffee, but you don’t have a coffee maker nearby. If you need to get your caffeine fix as soon as possible, you can hack together a small coffee maker out of just two paper cups and a filter.

[Brew an Emergency Cup of Coffee with Two Paper Cups and a Filter] via Lifehacker

How to Make Ketchup

There’s no avoiding it: Ketchup is a staple of the American diet.  We drench our fries in it, put it on our burgers, some of us even dress our scrambled eggs in it.  Ketchup gives us a way to add flavor to what might otherwise be considered a bland meal.  Ketchup is a preserved product, meaning it will last longer than the tomatoes it is made from.  Knowing how to make ketchup can be a useful skill when you start to resettle after the Armageddon event.

The original tomato ketchup was a derivitive of a fish sauce discovered in Malaysia during the 18th century.  By the 19th century the tomato version had been created and consisted of tomatoes, salt, mace, nutmeg, allspice, clove, cinnamon, ginger, and pepper.  As the recipe evolved, vinegar replaced salt as the preserving agent, making it sweeter.  During World War II, GIs stationed in Southwest Asia saw a shortage of tomatoes and ketchup, so they invented a ketchup based on what they had available: bananas.  Banana ketchup became so wildly popular in the area that it was commercialized and is still sold and used today.  It is essentially the same as tomato ketchup just a bit sweeter.

Ketchup Recipe

  • Tomatoes
  • Vinegar (3 cups per 100 tomatoes) or Salt (1/2 pound per 100 tomatoes)
  • Spices to taste (typically onion, cayenne pepper, garlic, black pepper, cinnamon, celery seed, etc)

The first thing you need to do is remove the skins.  The best way to do this is shock the tomatoes.  Boil them for about a minute and then put them in extremely cold water.  This will cause the skins to seperate from the meat of the tomato and will allow you to remove the skins fairly easily.  After removing the skins, cut the tomatoes open and scoop out the seeds and water jelly.

Simmer the tomatoes until they are mushy enough to be pushed through a sieve (usually about 30 minutes).  Surprise, surprise – the next step is to run your tomatoes through a sieve.  Add your spices to the tomato puree and cook between 200 °F and 325 °F for about 12 hours.

You will end up with about 60 ounces of ketchup for every 100 tomatoes you use.  Remember to store it in sealable containers to prevent contamination and enjoy a little luxury in an otherwise bleak existence.

Further Reading

Spicing Up Your Canned Meals

You’ve survived the initial disaster, scraped by on what bits of food you could find, and you’ve scavenged a healthy inventory of canned goods.  What’s for dinner?  Franks and beans again?  After a while, you’re going to get bored with eating the same stuff day in and day out (a luxurious problem to have in this scenario, but a problem nonetheless).  You can do some things to spice up your meals so they aren’t the same drab thing all the time.

In this day and age you can get nearly anything canned and if its in a store now, it’ll be there after the Apocalypse.  From canned fruits and vegetables, to the more exotic canned meats.  There’s even a company that sells canned bacon (shelf life ten years!).  The point is that you can find all sorts of items in canned form and you can then mix and match these to make a more palatable meal than just eating a hunk of spam until you’re full.

At the very basic level, you can make a proper meal by just pulling out some canned meat and a vegetable for a side.  You can go a little further and mix some things together.  Got a can of stewed tomatoes, corn, black olives, and jalapeno peppers?  Mix them up for some salsa (chips not included).  Want to go all out?  Add some none-canned goods into the mix.  Remember the recipe for Bannock?  Use that dough to make a shell and put a stew inside, cook it and you’ve got yourself a pot pie.

The key is to add a little something to your meal to make it different enough that it’s no longer a bland meal.  Even just adding a shake of some seasoned salt or some other spice to a can of food can make it so much better.  From personal experience, I added a few shakes of generic seasoned salt to a can of corn one time and I’ll never eat corn without it again.  You can find all sorts of canned food recipes on the internet, unfortunately most of them have 15 ingredients, only one or two of which are actual canned food and the rest would be highly difficult to find post-Apocalypse.

How to Brew Beer

Post-apocalyptic life is hard.  Every day that goes by it’ll feel harder.  That’s why it’s imperative that you find a little joy where you can.  One thing you might try is brewing your own beer.  It’s also helpful if society starts getting back on its feet since people will gladly barter for alcohol.

Beer brewing has been around for centuries and hasn’t always been as precise a science as it is today.  The basics of beer brewing are:

  1. Soak malted grain in hot water to release malt sugars.
  2. Boil the malt sugar solution with hops for flavoring.
  3. Cool the solution and add yeast to begin fermentation.
  4. The yeast ferments the sugars, releasing CO2 and ethyl alcohol.
  5. After fermentation is complete add sugar and bottle to create carbonation.

Depending on the ingredients you use, these steps can make an infinite number of flavors of beer.  Sadly, some of these ingredients will be hard to come by in the PAW.

Grain

Barley is the type of grain typically used to make beer, but you can pretty much use any type of grain.  You can scavenge grain for all kinds of places.

Hops

Unfortunately, unless you live in Germany, the Northwest US, or the UK, you probably aren’t going to be able to find hops for your brew.  You could always scavenge at a local Co-Op or brewing supply store for hops and yeast, but its not a renewable resource.  This isn’t a show stopper, hops are just for flavoring and aroma so we can actually make beer without them.

Yeast

Yeast in a concentrated form is difficult to come by as well.  But unlike hops, yeast occurs naturally pretty much everywhere in nature, so it’s just a matter of exposing your concoction to the elements for a little while.

Armageddon Brew

  1. First you need to malt your grains (about 5 pounds).  This can be accomplished by toasting them near a fire.
  2. Now you need to boil the malted grains in 5 gallons of water for about an hour.  At this point, if you have them, add about 2 ounces of hops.  At this point, your concoction is called “wort”.
  3. While the wort is chilling it, place it in a field or forest for a few days where it can gather the wild yeast in the air, just make sure to put a screen of some kind over the wort so no leaves or twigs or other contaminants get into it.
  4. Under ideal temperatures (60-70F), the yeast will need roughly 1 month to complete the fermentation process.  Add time for colder temperatures and subtract for warmer temperatures.  If the temperature is too extreme, the yeast will die and the fermentation process will terminate before completion.  You can tell the wort is done fermenting when it stops bubbling.
  5. At this point, add 3/4 of a cup of sugar to the beer, stir it up and bottle it.  Let it sit for about a week and it should be properly carbonated.

So kick back with your tasty beer and forget about life for a while.

How to Bake Bread Over a Fire

So you’ve survived Armageddon.  You’ve gotten away from danger and you’ve eked by scrounging food.  Eventually, the premade and canned food is going to run out and you’ll need to know how to fend for yourself a little bit further.  The first, best thing you can learn to make to sustain yourself is bread.  Bread has been a staple of the human diet since prehistoric times.  It’s also simple, with very few ingredients, and easy to make.

Traditionally, bread is made with flour, water, sugar, and yeast, but it doesn’t necessarily need yeast or sugar.  If you add yeast to the mix, the yeast will convert the sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide.  The alcohol will cook off when the bread is baked adding flavor to the bread.  The carbon dioxide causes the dough to rise, giving your bread a light and fluffy texture.

Mix your ingredients together in a bowl of some kind until mixed all together.  Knead the dough for several minutes.  If you added yeast to your bread, let it rise for at least an hour before baking it.

Ideally, you’ll want an oven to bake in or, at the very least, a dutch oven.  A dutch oven is a pot with a tight-fitting lid and thick walls, which causes a uniform temperature inside the pot.  The main thing you need to worry about when baking bread over an open fire is temperature.  Ovens are designed to cook the contents uniformly, which an open fire won’t do.  It is imperative that when cooking the dough over a fire you make sure that you rotate the bread so that all of it gets baked evenly.

You can cook the dough in nearly any container, from an actual loaf pan to a coffee can.  You can even wrap the dough around a stick and cook it that way!  The point is, as long as you’re diligent, you can make bread to feed yourself in any environment that you can start a fire.

How to Siphon Gasoline

Whether it be for a generator or a vehicle, at some point your quality of life will be greatly improved by having access to gasoline. But where do you get it? There might be some in the underground tanks at a filling station, but this tends to be a bit more difficult to access. There might be some in abandoned vehicles on the side of the road. But how do you get it out of either container? It’s likely that you don’t have an electric pump to extract the fuel and it’s unlikely that the filling station will have power to operate the pumps. Enter the siphon. 

How a Siphon Works

A siphon is a very simple tool used as far back as the ancient Egyptians. The premise is that you use a tube to move liquid from one container to another. The tube you use is placed in a U shape with each end of the tube facing downward into each of the recepticles (the longer end of the tube being placed in the receiving vessel). There should be liquid in the tube at this point and when let free to do what it will, the liquid will begin to flow into your receiving vessel. This is due to our old friend gravity. Look at the tube, the longer leg of the tube has more liquid in it, thus more mass, and therefore gravity exerts a stronger force on it, causing it to fall into your receiving container. Gravity gets this party going, but dynamic fluid pressure is what keeps it going. Dynamic fluid pressure is the pressure exerted by a moving fluid. Since the liquid falling into the receiving container is exerting a higher dynamic pressure (greater gravitational acceleration and eventually greater velocity = greater pressure), it causes the liquid in the other leg to follow it. Now the liquid from the shorter leg is in the longer leg free falling into the receiving container, which in turn cause liquid in the source container to flow into the tube for the same reason. This creates a cycle that will only be broken when the source recepticle is empty or cavitation occurs (this isn’t likely in this scenario so I won’t even explain it). 

How to Siphon Gasoline from a Car

Applying the principles discussed, siphoning gasoline from a vehicle should be no problem. Place on end of your hose into the fuel tank via the refueling hole on the vehicle. Make sure to feed it as far in as possible. Place the receiving container lower than the fuel tank of the vehicle. At this point you have 2 choices on how to prime the siphon. You can either create a vacuum by sucking the first bit of fuel through the hose, or you can fill the hose with water. I highly recommend sucking gasoline from the tank even though you may end up with a mouthful of it (not a pleasant sensation, trust me) because water can ruin the gasoline, causing the fuel to oxidize much faster than normal. Either way, once your priming liquid reaches a point lower than your fuel tank, you should be able to drop it in your container and watch the fuel flow!

Stale Gasoline

Yes, there is such a thing as stale gasoline. But is it that serious of a problem? Yes and No. Gasoline can be considered “stale” very shortly after processing. This is because the more volatile chemicals in gasoline will have evaporated and decomposed. These compounds improve combustion and improve fuel efficiency, so if they aren’t present it’s not the end of the world, it just means your fuel economy is downgraded. That’s the part we don’t really care about, fuel is fuel and whether you lose a few miles per gallon or not is not a concern. 

The big concern is oxidation. If the fuel you collect is oxidized this can cause much bigger problems. You can tell if the gasoline has begun to oxidize because it will have a particularly sour smell and will be a darker color than normal. Once it begins to oxidizes, gasoline will start to have particles of a gummy substance that can cause a build up in your fuel system, which can cause your engine to cease working. You could try to filter these particles out, but its a lot of work for something that only may work. 

You also have to worry about water contamination. Getting water in your fuel can cause a decrease in performance and, at worst, can cause your fuel lines to freeze and potentially burst. There is a simple solution: add isopropyl alcohol to your fuel. Simple rubbing alcohol will bind with water molecules to create a combustible compound which will then burn off in the engine. 

Further Reading