I’m not the greatest navigator. I learned a long time ago that I have a poor sense of direction. Put it this way…I can become turned around in a culdesac! I CAN read a map, but knowing north from south when walking or navigating is something I’m pretty miserable at. When my GPS on my phone says “head west toward Johnson Street,” I get upset because if I knew which way WEST was I might not need to use the frickin’ GPS!

Anyway…this method uses nothing but a few sticks and as long a the sun is shining you can use it. I can even use it. Ron Hood discuses this technique in one of my favorite survival skills videos that I wrote about on this site: Survival Basics. This method assumes that you’re in the Northern Hemisphere.

Take a straight stick and poke it into the ground so it stands up straight. Find where the shadow falls from the stick and place a medium-sized rock at this point, at the top of the shadow. Let some time go by. You’ll see that the shadow has moved. Place a second rock on the tip of this second shadow.

I did this at home on a recent sunny day. At first I went out there after 15 minutes and you could see that the shadow had moved, but it was not a great change. The movement is a lot more noticeable if you let an hour or so go by, but if you’re in a hurry to do your navigating you can pretty quickly tell which is which. Of course, this has its drawbacks if the weather is not consistently sunny.

navigating with a stick and a rock
The first rock placement.
navigating with a stick and a rock
The second rock placement after an hour or so.
navigating without a compass
The end of the shadow.

I found that the irregularity of the grass made the end of the shadow, where you put the rock, hard to see. But it’s there, as you can see in the photo of my hand.

Obviously, given that we know the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, you’ll know that the line created by the two rocks is the east-west line. Allow some more time to go by for a third point, and mark it with a third rock. The direction in front of the stick is north. If you’re on the move, you can do this a few times throughout the day to ensure that you stay on course.

navigating with shadows
The final rock placement, showing a clear east-west line.

After I placed four more rocks over the course of an afternoon, a clear east-west line emerged, which you can see in the photo above.

If you’re on the move at night, use the moon and the stars. Many people learned as children that the “Big Dipper” or “Plough” constellation points north. If you find the handle of the Big Dipper and follow it along to the farthest “Edge” stars and follow them on farther up, those point to the North Star, Polaris. This star is helpful because while other stars rotate in the night sky, Polaris stays relatively fixed. The Dipper does rotate around Polaris, but those “saucepan” stars always point to it.

Polaris is also the end star in the handle of the Little Dipper constellation. Of course, it’s helpful to not have too many clouds in the sky to use the stars.

The moon can be helpful but I have a harder time remembering this and if I was in a panicked situation I would worry that I would remember wrong! The moon also rises in the east and sets in the west. The horns of its crescent point to south when a line is drawn from the top point to the bottom point and then extended to the ground.

Also (and this is the part I get mixed up on!), if the moon is rising before the sun sets, the bright side of the moon will always face west. But if the moon doesn’t rise until late in the night, the bright side of the moon will always face east. If you think about it it makes sense, right? The bright part is reflecting the sun’s light, so whichever side is bright tells you east or west.

I don’t fly super often, but when I do, I always get anxious about not having any self-protection gear with me. It’s one of the most common topics that comes up here at Shadowfox Headquarters. What non-lethal self-defense gear you can take on a plane is a common question. Let’s look over what you can take on a plane.

First off, before you try to slip something past TSA agents, give this list of “What Can I Bring” from the TSA website a good look over.

Tactical Pens

Tactical pens are good punching and glass-breaking tools. (Read for tips on how to use tactical pens for self defense.)

The TSA website doesn’t specifically list tactical pens as an allowed or banned item. I have flown with tactical pens in my checked bags, and used them at my destination, then flew back with them in my checked bag. I didn’t want to try carrying it in my carry on bag and risk them taking it. Checking it is a good option, but it leaves you defenseless during the flight. After talking with other people who have flown with tactical pens, I don’t think there’s any consensus on whether or not they will get confiscated. It depends on where you are and the agent and if they have nothing better to do that day or not, it seems.

Millwall Bricks

Carrying on a broadsheet newspaper isn’t a bad idea. You can use it to make a Millwall Brick, so named for its use by the Millwall Football Club in England. Several large sheets of newspapers rolled up tightly and then bent so it’s held in the hand turns the sheets into a solid, hard blunt instrument.

A Roll of Coins

It doesn’t matter if it’s pennies, nickels or quarters. Use whatever fits in your hand.

A Padlock

A basic Master Lock can be held in the hand or strung over a sock or bandanna and swung.

A Flashlight

A sturdy flashlight can not only be a club, it can give you life-saving light if there’s an incident at night or in the dark of a plane cabin.

Your Body

Learn some self-defense moves so you feel comfortable using your hands, knees and elbows if you have to. Enhance your situational awareness skills with these suggestions written by Shadowfox’s firearms instructor.

When you travel, you might feel limited in what survival gear you depend on, because you can’t always take your important items with you. If you’re flying on an airplane, TSA has strict guidelines regarding the type of products and their sizes that you’re allowed to carry on board and pack.

Review the following checklist for survival items you can take on an airplane. The good thing is that these items don’t take up much space and whether you travel regularly or just once in a great while, you’ll feel better knowing that you can be far from home and still be prepared.

1. Sunblock. Sunblock is an essential everyday item to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful rays. If something unexpected happens — especially in a sunny or tropical location —  sunblock will be a lifesaver. Take a small bottle with you, no more than 3.4 ounces.

2. Portable water filter and pouch. The pouch is a container that can give you filtered water in case of an emergency. Taking these survival items on a plane is ideal because it consumes minimal space when empty.

3. First aid kit. Take a basic first aid kit with you that includes common medication and wound care items.

4. Hand sanitizer. Small bottles of hand sanitizer will pass TSA screenings. For obvious reasons, this product will make traveling more sanitary by helping you keep the germs in check of the billions of travelers have touched multiple surfaces you’ll encounter. An extra bonus to hand sanitizer is that it’s highly flammable and can assist in starting a fire, a major survival tool in emergency situations. Keep the size limit to 3.4 ounces.

5. Baby wipes. If a situation arises in which you can’t shower or bathe, baby wipes will suffice for hygiene. Take a small package with you on the plane.

6. BIC disposable lighter. This brand is highly advised since it’s more dependable than other “flimsy” lighters, according to The Preppers Dome. Fire is a vital part of survival, so you’ll want something reliable.

7. N95 masks. Respirator masks will help you avoid contracting contagious diseases and shield you better from harmful particles in the air following a disaster. The masks are good at preventing the inhalation of smoke and many other trace particles.

8. Compass. A compass can aid in navigation when you’re in a place you aren’t familiar with. You’ll at least know which direction you’re heading with a compass in hand.

9. Space blanket. These blankets fold into small squares and go far in keeping you warm, and shelter you from the elements. It has a dual purpose in that it can be used to alert search planes with the shiny side that reflects light. Invest in a high-quality blanket because the dollar store brands are prone to tearing the first time you use them.

10. SAS Survival Guide. This is a miniature guide that has 625 pages of clear, precise instructions for a variety of survival situations in a broad spectrum of environments. It’s a great survival item for preppers to take with them on an airplane.

11. Solar lantern. New models like the “Luci” light are plastic and inflatable. They deflate to a very compact size which makes them perfect for tucking into a suitcase.

12. Scissors. Check to see if TSA regulations regarding scissors change with time, but in the past they have allowed scissors with blades up to 4 inches.

We received a package of two travel towels by Snugpak, along with some other cool items that we are currently reviewing. We were excited to get the towels because, even though towels are not the sexiest or most necessary survival or preparedness item, lightweight quick dry travel towels are an essential that you shouldn’t travel without, in my opinion.

They sent us a Snugpak Hands and Face Travel Towel in the 24-by-32-inch size (62 by 80 centimeters) and the Head to Toe Travel Towel in the 47-by-49-inch size (120 by 125 centimeters). We found both sizes to be ample. The Head to Toe towel was more than big enough to cover a larger size body and was soft and comfortable to use. The Hands and Face Towel was actually bigger than my bathmat and I think it would make a fine towel to travel with unless you really wanted the larger size of the Head to Toe Towel.

After showering, I used the larger towel and with just one pass of the towel it soaked up all the moisture on my skin and the towel didn’t feel wet in the slightest. My one complaint, which isn’t really a complaint, is that these microfiber towels don’t feel like using a regular towel. They are much softer and not as nubby as a traditional bath towel, so if you really want that familiarity and comfortable feeling of using your home towels, this is going to be a bit different.

Safety orange is not my color, but luckily both of the towels are also available in Coyote (brown) and Olive (green). The towels are lightweight and each one has a loop buckle on the corner that comes apart to allow you to hang it from a hook, your backpack or any sort of line. They also each come in their own sacks. I appreciated that the sacks had air holes and zippers. The larger towel also had air holes in its bag but it also had a solid bag that could enclose the towel in case you had to pack it away wet.

Even if it does get soaking wet, it won’t stay that way for long. The microfiber technology is able to absorb 7 times more water than its weight and 3 times more water than a cotton travel towel of the same size. Even though it absorbs a lot of water, it can easily be wrung out with a twist and a squeeze to the point that it barely feels wet.

One cool thing about the Snugpak towels is that they are made using Silvadur Technology that binds silver molecules (silver ions) microscopically to the travel towel surface. This makes the material antibacterial and antimicrobial to discourage the growth of bacteria and the presence of any odors, if you are in a situation where the temperatures are hot and you can’t get to a washing facility.  I didn’t use the towels every day for long enough to notice any smell building up but I did use both towels for three days in a row and the towels seemed as fresh as when they were opened from the brand new package.

One other thing to mention is the weight of the towels. Dry, the larger towel and bag weighs only 13 ounces (360 grams) and the smaller towel with bag weighs a mere 4 ounces (120 grams). Next time I travel, one of these lightweight quick dry travel towels is definitely going with me. Get the towels from SnugpakUSa.com for $15 for the hands and face towel and $25 for the head-to-toe towel.

Image courtesy of SnugpakUSA.com

When we travel, we are usually keenly aware of the possibility of getting ripped off. Many of us look like tourists, although we may try hard to fit in, we’re the ones oohing and awing of the architecture and food of a place that the locals get to see everyday. We may choose to stay in hotels with in-room safes to keep our valuables. We may choose cross-body bags or keep our wallets in zipped-up pockets so we can wander around and worry less about pickpockets.

Even if we’re just doing something normal and everyday such as walking across down or on our college campus, we have to be aware of the possibility that we may be victimized. In a crowded city environment, someone could come up and attempt to slash through a backpack on our backs and we wouldn’t even see it coming. That’s where the TrustBag, a secure theft proof bag, comes in.

The TrustBag looks like a regular gym bag, with a strap and a cinch top, but look more closely and you’ll see it is a revolutionary material made from the same material as bulletproof vests that can’t be cut or slashed, so no more worries about someone walking up behind you and emptying your bag’s contents when you can’t see them coming. The bag is theft resistant, because the top cinches with its own combination lock, which also allows you to lock it to something, such as a table when you’re sitting at Oktoberfest in Munchen. The bag’s super soft material could be stuffed full of shirts and used as a pillow.

Inside the TrustBag is a water-resistant lining, so no more worries about rain pouring down from the London sky, or your bag falling into a puddle with your iPhone inside. Even the zipper is 100% waterproof. There’s more than water to worry about though, isn’t there? In today’s world, digital data also needs protection. Digital data from credit cards and other items people commonly carry in their wallets can be easily scanned with RFID. The TrustBag comes with an inner bag made out of RFID-blocking material, so your data is safe.

The combination lock is available in two options. The Abus combination lock is aluminium with an anodized coating. The lock comes in different colors and opens with a three-digit code which can be set to something you create. The Master Lock option is made out of hardened steel and opens easily.

To make this all even better, the TrustBag is 100% vegan and latex-free.

My only complaint is that the bag seems on the small side. At only 15.75 inches (40 centimeters) it’s a bit small for someone like myself who likes to take everything along with me. But when thinking about the function of the bag, the small size makes sense because you don’t necessarily need to lock up your valuables along with bags of granola snacks or your hair ties and mascara. This bag is intended for the things you really want to keep safe, such as your electronic gadgets, passports and other identification, money, hotel keys, and the like. Still, I’d like to see it a tad bigger or maybe with the option of a larger size.

The TrustBag is available for purchase from TrustBag’s site for $189.

Traveling comes with a lot of challenges, especially when you may be worried ensuring your safety. Even though you can’t bring obvious self-defense weapons such as firearms or knives in your carry-on bag when traveling by plane, there are some effective tools you can pack for self-defense that are unlikely to arouse the suspicion of TSA agents. Here we present 5 self-defense tools you can carry on a plane.

1 – Pen

When used properly, a pen can make an effective self-defense weapon. You don’t even have to have a special tactical pen to cause some damage and fend off an attacker, although tactical pens offer reassurance and a writing utensil. Hold the pen in your fist with the sharp point extended out about an inch so you’ll be ready to stab the attacker as necessary.

2 – Monkey’s Fist Keychain

A paracord monkey’s fist is a great self-defense option that shouldn’t be an issue for plane travel. The monkey’s fist consists of a ball bearing that’s wrapped securely in paracord. To avoid the potential of confiscation, you should make sure the ball bearing is of a relatively small size so that it looks more like a key chain and less like it’s meant to be used as a weapon.

3 – Sock Full of Coins

So far, there are no regulations about the number of coins you can carry in your carry-on baggage. Some survivalists load a sock with coins as a self-defense tool when they’re traveling. It might not be the most menacing-looking tool, but you can use it to inflict some serious pain on your attacker.

4 – Rolled Up Newspaper or Magazine

With practice, a rolled-up magazine or newspaper can be an effective self-defense tool. Roll it up tightly toward the spine to contain the loose edges of paper. You can use rubber bands to keep it in its rolled-up position so it will be ready to use in case you need it.

5 – Flashlight

A flashlight can make a great self-defense weapon in a pinch. Although there don’t seem to be any rules against carrying a flashlight in your carry-on, it might not be worth packing an expensive tactical flashlight just in case the TSA agent decides it’s worth confiscating.

Although these tools can help you defend yourself, the best weapon against an attacker is training and preparation. Realistically, you cannot predict when you may find yourself a victim of an attack. If your TSA-approved “weapons” are still safely stored in your bag, you won’t have time to access them and fight off your attacker. In addition to carrying these helpful tools, it is a great idea to get training in martial arts. Many martial arts schools offer self-defense training to help you mentally and physically prepare for an attack.

Image of tactical pen courtesy of gerbergear.com

For many of us, summer is a time for traveling. However, it’s important to remember that our safety doesn’t go on vacation. If you’re planning to travel this summer, be aware of the laws and regulations regarding firearms. Gun laws are complicated and vary by jurisdiction. As a responsible gun owner, it is up to you to know the laws and regulations wherever you go to make sure you are legally authorized to carry your firearm. The following tips will help you prepare for your upcoming vacation and ensure you’re protected.

Traveling by Car

When traveling throughout the United States, it is important to know the gun laws of each state you will pass through. Some states have restrictions on certain types of guns, so make sure you pack accordingly. Make sure you know which states offer concealed carry reciprocity for your permit. If you’re traveling to a state that does not recognize your concealed carry permit, you might have to leave your gun at home.

If you’re just passing through, the Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986 will protect you from liability as long as you are only stopping briefly for essential services such as getting gas, using the bathroom or to buy food. When passing through states with strict gun laws, it’s best to keep your firearm unloaded and locked in a secure compartment that is not easily accessible.

Traveling by Plane

If you’re traveling by plane, you will have to check your guns, gun parts and ammo. They cannot be transported in a carry-on bag. The TSA requires guns to be unloaded and stored in a locked, hard-sided case to prevent the firearm from being accessed. Only the passenger who is checking the firearm should have access to the key or combination of the lock. You must declare each firearm when you present them to be transported as checked baggage.

The TSA does change its policies from time to time, so before you travel, check the agency’s website for the latest regulations regarding firearms transport.

Traveling by Train

If you’re traveling by train, you’ll probably have to check your gun in your baggage. As always, make sure you understand the rules of the train company before you travel. Amtrak allows firearms to be carried on trains, but they must be transported in checked baggage and stored in a locked, hard-sided container. In addition, you must notify Amtrak at least 24 hours before your scheduled departure that you plan to check firearms and/or ammunition. Further, your firearms/ammunition must be checked at least half an hour before your train’s scheduled departure.

Traveling by Bus

Before traveling by bus, make sure you read up on the bus operator’s firearms policy. Some bus operators do not allow passengers to transport firearms. Other companies do allow booked transport of firearms. Again, these policies may change, so be sure you do your research before you buy tickets. If you’re committed to traveling with a firearm, you may want to consider alternative modes of transportation such as renting a car or using a taxi.