Author Archives: Bob

Update to Gravity Feed Water Filter Hack

The Gravity Feed Water Filter Hack article was written when the Aquamira Frontier Pro Water Filter was kind of cutting edge.

It simply isn’t true any more.

The Sawyer Mini Water Filtration System is, hands down, a much better replacement for the Frontier Pro.

The Sawyer Mini is a smaller, drop in substitute for the Frontier Pro in the Gravity Feed system I originally wrote about.

In addition, the Sawyer Mini is “backflushable almost indefinately” and there are no cartridges to replace. That means this one filter, cared for properly, will last you a lifetime.

I’ve seen a lot of people selling the LifeStraw Personal Water Filter
and there are even Chinese knock-offs available now.

The Sawyer Mini costs about the same, is smaller and filters more water than the Lifestraw.

And the Lifestraw DOES NOT lend itself to being used as a gravity, i.e. hands-free, filter.

I have one of these filters for each member of my family and I’ve begun using one of the Frontier Pro filters to filter “artisan crafted spirits”.

As the saying goes, “Two is one, one is none.”

The BlindSquirl

Building a Heavy Duty Reflector Oven, Part 1

Reflector Oven Plans

DIY Reflector Oven Baking a Homemade Pizza (In the Snow)

I’m going to do this in small bites so it’s not overwhelming (for you or for me). I’ve developed this design to be VERY forgiving so this would even be a good project for cub scouts.

I’ll also include a complete parts list at the end of the articles so you can get everything at once if you like.

Disclosure: I’m providing affiliate links to specific items in this post. Clicking these links will take you to Amazon. Your purchase of these items from Amazon will not cost you more and helps me to fund more research and development. If you wish to remain on this page while following the links, right click the links and open them in a new tab.

This project is built mainly from two 3 Piece Cookie Pan Sets.

Take the Medium sized baking sheet from each package and using a straight edge and something like a Sharpie, mark a line across 1 end flange (that’s the short side) on each, about even with the corners. These will become the Left and Right sides of the Reflector Oven.

Reflector Oven Plans

Marking the first bend locations.

Using a pair of Lineman Pliers, slowly work your way along the line you just made, bending the flange upwards on both baking sheets. I used these pliers because they have a wider jaw.

Reflector Oven

This is the direction all of the flanges will be bent.

These will become the feet that the reflector oven stand on.

Next, take both Large baking sheets and repeat this process.

However, on these Large baking sheets, you’re going to bend both end flanges up.

Medium baking sheets, bend one end flange up.

Large baking sheets, bend both end flanges up.

Preliminary Assembly of the Reflector Oven

This is how the sides and bottom will be assembled later. Look closely and you can see both flanges bent up on the lower reflector.

In the next step, I’ll move on to laying out and drilling the holes for the bolts.

In the meantime, follow the links and start procuring your supplies.

The BlindSquirl
Because even a Blind Squirl Finds a Nut Now and Then.

Build a Heavy Duty Reflector Oven

Reflector Oven Plans

DIY Reflector Oven

My hiatus is over and I’m posting again.

Next up will be a series on building the reflector oven seen in this photo from readily available parts and simple hand tools.

BTW, that’s a “from scratch” pizza cooking in sub freezing temps shown in the photo

I’ll be providing affiliate links to the components on Amazon. Purchasing them from Amazon will not cost you extra and the proceeds I receive will go to continue this blog.

Frontier Pro Water Filter Gravity Feed Hack

Disclosure: I’m providing affiliate links to specific items in this post. Clicking these links will take you to Amazon. Your purchase of these items from Amazon will not cost you more and helps me to fund more research and development. If you wish to remain on this page while following the links, right click the links and open them in a new tab.

The Aquamira Tactical Frontier Emergency Water Filter System is available from Amazon for less than a couple of latte’s from Starbucks and is rated by the manufacturer to filter greater than 99.9% of Cryptosporidium and Giardia from up to 50 gallons of water.

Water Filter

Frontier Pro Filter, two 2 liter Platypus Hydration bladders, spare #4 Coffee Pre-Filters and Polar Pure Packed Up and Ready to Move Out

It attaches directly to a variety of hydration systems and standard water containers with 28mm threads.

It comes with a few accessories including a draw tube and 4 replacement prefilters.

The draw tube allows you to use the filter with common water or soda bottles. Simply attach the tube to the intake side of the filter, insert it into the bottle, screw it on and suck on the bite valve end.

If you figure a gallon of water per person, per day (that’s a minimum); one of these filters should provide clean drinking water for a month and a half of constant use by one person.

Plus, with the 28mm threads mentioned earlier, the Frontier Pro can easily be turned into a gravity filter to provide water without pumping (or sucking).

In addition to the filter, you’ll need the following to make it gravity fed:

• Two empty 2 liter beverage bottles (I used sparkling water because I didn’t need to wash them after emptying them.)
• Something to punch holes with I used this 1/8 Inch Hand Punch
• Two pieces of Duct Tape, each approximately 2” long. I’ve used Gorilla Tape in quite a few projects and it will show up in upcoming blog posts.
• Approximately 18” of paracord, fish line or whatever you have that can be used as a handle. (I used the Berkley Leader Crimping Kit. This will also be used in the upcoming post titled, “A Fistful of Snares”.)
• A supply of #4 Cone Coffee Filters

To build:

Remove the labels and caps and cut the bottoms from both 2 liter bottles.

Fold a 2″ piece duct tape over the edge created by cutting the bottom off of Bottle #1.

Fold the other piece of duct tape over the edge directly across from the first piece. This reinforces the plastic so the handle doesn’t tear out when you fill it with water.

In Bottle #1, punch a hole about ¼” down from the edge through both layers of tape (inside and outside the bottle wall) and the bottle side. Punch a second hole directly opposite the first hole (as best you can).

This is where you’ll attach the cord for hanging the reservoir.

Survival Water Filter

Reinforced Walls and Handle Attachment

Using a hole punch makes a nice clean hole.

Simply poking a hole with your knife leaves sharp corners where a rip or tear can radiate out from when you add 4 lbs of water.

In a pinch, you can heat the end of a nail in a fire or with a lighter and push it through the plastic.

Now tie one end of the cord through each hole, creating a loop/handle that the bottle can hang from with the cap end pointing down. This is where I used the Fishing Leader Kit.

At this point, I also punched corresponding holes in the bottom I cut off of Bottle #1 earlier. I threaded the handle/loop through both sides of the bottom so it could be used as a loose fitting cover for the reservoir, helping to keep debris from falling into it when filtering water.

Now tie the cord (or loop and crimp the fishing leader) into the other hole on the opposite side of Bottle #1.

Insert one #4 Cone Coffee Filter into bottle #1. This will become your disposable/replaceable prefilter and should buy you some more use from your Frontier Pro.

Slide the cone end of Bottle #2 inside bottle #1 and push it in as far as you can, without poking a hole in or tearing the coffee filter. Once you have assembled it, you can replace the bottle cap to keep the threads clean.

Hands Free Water Filter

Gravity Feed Water Filter Assembled & Ready to Use

To Use:

Screw the Frontier Water Filter onto the exposed threads of the Bottle #1 (after removing the cap).

You can remove the bite valve from the end of the Frontier Water Filter by simply pulling it off.

Once that’s out of the way, attach the hose from your hydration bladder to the fitting on the Frontier Water Filter that was exposed by removing the bite valve.

In the spirit of doing things on a budget, you can also use empty plastic beverage bottles to filter water into. Simply attach one end of a piece of Latex Rubber Surgical Tubing to the Bite Valve end of the Frontier Pro water filter and let the other end hang down into the beverage bottle.

If you’re careful, you can just hang the filter with only the draw tube inserted into your filtered water container.

BTW, Latex Rubber Surgical Tubing has about a bazillion other uses too (think slingshots).

For filling the reservoir, I took the another 2 liter Bottle and cut the bottom from it and used that to scoop water from whatever source I want to filter and dump it into the hanging system. If you hang the assembly about shoulder high and there isn’t a lot of crud in the water you’re filtering, it’ll filter 2 liters within minutes (with no pumping or sucking). The coffee filter prevents a lot of crap from getting to the Frontier Pro, theoretically increasing its service life. When it’s time to replace the coffee filter, simply pull the two 2 liter bottles apart and replace the dirty coffee filter with a new one.

Coffee filters are inexpensive enough that you can replace them every time if you like.

This hack allows you to filter water while still being able to do something else. Just pour the water into the two liter bottle and let it filter while you take care of other things.

My “belt and suspenders” philosophy also has me treat the resulting filtered water with Iodine, just in case.

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health web site ( “Iodine can be used as an antimicrobial agent for the emergency purification of water. Tablets and solutions are commercially available. Effects generally occur within 15 minutes.”

One form of commercially available Iodine for water purification is Polar Pure.

“It will destroy water-borne pathogens including Giardia cysts and microorganisms that pass through filters when used as directed. One bottle will treat up to 2000 gallons.” The bottle has a dosage chart on it and the cap is used for measuring and decanting the solution.

It is a self contained package that also has an indefinite shelf life.

While Iodine can leave an “objectionable” taste in the water, Vitamin C helps to neutralize the taste.

ELECTRO MIX by Alacer is an electrolyte replacement powder that doesn’t contain the sugars that most sports drinks do. By combining one packet of Electro Mix with one packet of Emergen-C in 1 liter of water, you can cover the iodine taste, replace important electrolytes and get 1000 mg of vitamin C and some other vitamins all at once.

Disclosure: I’m providing affiliate links to specific items in this post. Clicking these links will take you to Amazon. Your purchase of these items from Amazon will not cost you more and helps me to fund more research and development. If you wish to remain on this page while following the links, right click the links and open them in a new tab.

Not many people know that common Ziploc Freezer Bags can be used to rehydrate/cook dried foods on the trail.

Don’t go El-Cheapo here and try it with zip-top sandwich bags, they are not heavy enough.

Use actual Freezer Bags, regular storage bags will not stand up to the heat of boiling water.

One thing you’ll need though is a “Cozy”. A cozy is like a sleeping bag for your food and allows you to utilize the heat from your boiling water by insulating the outside of your cooking (freezer) bag and holding the heat in.

While you can buy them pre-made, they are extremely easy to make.

I use 16″ Wide Reflectix Brand Insulation.

It’s basically bubble wrap with a thin layer of Aluminum on both sides. The Aluminum reflects radiant heat while the bubble wrap provides dead air space. It comes in 16”, 24” and 48” wide rolls. While you won’t need an entire roll for a cozy, there are a lot of other uses for this stuff.

cozy components

To make a cozy:

  1. Take one of your freezer bags and lay it on top of your partially unrolled Reflectix.
  2. Then cut a piece of Reflectix from the roll, leaving about 1/2″ extra insulation on either side of the Ziploc bag.
  3. Fold the Reflectix up over the bag. Leave about a 1”-2” flap of material at the top.
  4. Tape the sides of the Reflectix by folding duct tape (I recommend Gorilla Tape) over both sides of the seam.

finished cozy

You should end up with something like one of those padded shipping envelopes you see from FedEx or UPS.

In fact, in a pinch you can even use one of these envelopes.

Free cozy

I have successfully freezer-bag-cooked in a homemade/scrounged cozy made from a cut down UPS padded shipping envelope with a large sized Beggin Strips dog treats bag inside of it. (Although I could have probably gotten away without it, I did wash the dog treat bag first. And the food itself was still cooked inside of a freezer bag.)

This free setup seemed to perform comparably to the Reflectix cozy.

If you’re planning for a group, get yourself some Ziploc Gallon Freezer Bags and make a larger cozy.

To use:

Simply place your ingredients into the freezer bag.

Put the unsealed freezer bag partway into the cozy and add boiling water.

Close the zipper top until only a small opening is left and squeeze as much air out of the bag as you can without spilling boiling hot liquid onto yourself.

(You will very often see the air inside the bag expand when you add boiling water.)

Then completely seal the zipper top of the bag.

Make sure it’s securely zipped closed all of the way shut, I’ve had my lunch end up all over the inside of my cozy.

Pinch the cozy shut with a clothes pin or simply lay it on the ground and put a rock over the open end to hold it shut. If you want to get real fancy, you can add Velcro to the flap to hold the cozy shut.

When your food is cooked, open the zipper and eat the food out of the bag. The cozy not only keeps the heat inside, it helps keep from burning your hands while you eat.

You can carefully turn the top part of the bag, including the zipper, inside out to help hold the bag open.

Be advised that some foods take longer to cook than others.

Ramen Noodles will be ready almost as fast as you can set the cozy down and grab your Titanium Spork.

But things like Lentils, Pearl Couscous (also known as “Israeli Couscous) and some grains may need to “cook” for up to 20 minutes.

If you’re adventurous, you can pack separate ingredients along with an entire box of freezer bags and improvise along the way.

For less work on the trail, prepare meals at home ahead of time by adding your ingredients to the bag, labeling the contents and then sealing them.

Plan your entire menu ahead (breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks) or simply pack a variety of meals and select whatever sounds good for that meal.

I don’t know why, but when you grab whatever sounds good, it always seems that you never want what you have left for the last couple of days.

Cleanup is easy enough. On the trail, rinse the bags and use for packing your trash out. When you get home, add a few drops of soap. I like to use Dr. Bronner’s Baby-mild Liquid Soap and some warm (or hot) water and seal the zipper then agitate. Empty the bag, refill with clean water, agitate and empty again. You can turn the bags inside out and leave them open to dry or get fancy and use a Countertop Bag Dryer if you like gadgets.

Be careful turning the bags inside out as you can split the zipper top apart on the ends. Then they’re not much good except as trash bags.

In the spirit of multitasking, you can even try putting dirty underwear and socks or partially inflating an empty zip-top bag and putting it inside of your cozy and using it as a pillow.

jó étvágyat

The Blind Squirl

Hello world!

Let me begin by saying that I do not consider myself a “Prepper” or “Survivalist”.

If I was such a person, I still would not have been prepared for TEOTWAIKI.

That world ended in December of 2008 when I was fired, along with about 50 of my co-workers. I had spent the previous 20 years working in both the manufacturing and engineering sides of the American auto industry.

I was very good at my job.

The world I knew was one where being conscientious and hard working was all I needed to be in order to get by. That world ended without any warning because I found myself out of a job when the ass-kissers and office politicians were kept working.

In 2004, after giving birth to our son, my wife, who had graduated with honors from one of the top law schools in the country and whose work was always above average, was told that she wasn’t a “good fit” at the law firm she hired into. She had suffered under the same misconceptions I had about your actual work being what you were judged on.

We struggled for 6 years to get by on the income we could scrounge and, after depleting pension and 401k accounts, we lost our home in 2012.

We (by now “we” included me, my wife, our son, daughter and 3 dogs) moved 9 times in the course of 16 months.

July and August of 2013 were spent in a double room at an extended stay hotel while we waited for (at best, inept and at worst, criminal) people to close 2 separate house deals that never did close. We’re also still out the $2,000 we had provided as down payment.

While we never lived beyond our means (our house was modest and very affordable when we bought it) we’ve learned to get by on a lot less.

This Blog will attempt to pass on some of the lessons we’ve learned.

In the interest of full disclosure, there will be affiliate links in the articles posted here.

We hope to supplement our income with advertising fees.

The vast majority of products we list have either been used by us or they are the closest product that compares to what we have used in the past.

Sorry, no Doomsday, Gloomsday or New World Order conspiracy theories. Other people can cover those better than me.