What light and darkness meant for us

light for survivalI remember when all was over, and electricity came back in street. We managed to repair some installations and wires inside house and lights go on.

We were quiet for couple of minutes staring at the light bulbs like some tribe from Amazon that sees light bulbs for a first time. And then one of the older guys from the family breaks the silence and says: „Oh my God we lived in pig shack for a year“.

Wall paint was gone, holes were everywere, in corners there was all kind of junk, and everything had dark colour from improvised oil lamps, everything was sticky.

I guess we did not see all that because even during daytime, with covered windows you can not see too many details, not to mention that small lamps during the night do not give enough light to see everything. And also we did not care for some things I think, we did not have time.

Also we were not prepared for all that hell, when everything started most of the folks had few candles inside the house, and maybe one lamp in car or garage.

Soon we realized that we needed to „invent“ some new way of lighting. Actually not new, again old folks jumped in with solution from their past.

So we used mostly lamps with oil. Sometimes with cooking oil, or sometimes with mixture of pine resin and diesel I believe. It was small lamp in the glass, made from bottle cap and rope, or shoe lace. It went off regularly, stank like hell, gave lot of thick black greasy smoke. But also gave some light. And that was important.

Importance of light is not only to see where you are going or what you are doing in your house. I think it is something that divides us from animals. Just like fire it gives you feeling of being at home. So to have light in house in those days, when we sit all together to eat or to plan something meant a lot. It is one of the little things we take for granted but can make big difference.

But to talk about importance of light means also to talk about importance of darkness. In darkness we go out and do things. All things.

Forget about picture of guy with strong lamp walking around and using light to see where he is going. To have lamp on at open during the night usually meant drawing somebodys attention. And you all probably know already that drawing somebodys attention was bad thing.

Light in form of lamps and batteries was good for very short terms, if you are moving very quickly, I mean to light something very quickly, one second or two and thats it. In closed areas it was different, but even then we covered lamp with hand, using only small amount of light.

You try to stay hidden so when it comes to light or making noise you always keep things minimal.

Best way for walking out in terms of light was clear night with moonlight, and good idea was to go outside of my house, to sit in yard for some time in order to let my eyes some time to adapt to night and moonlight.

Then it would be fine to walk, when you adapt yourself to constant greyness of everything, and shadows.

Even today when I go out from my apartment, I usually spend some time in dark hall, before going out during the night.

There is something called peripheral vision. You can see objects in night outside of your central (forward) vision.

In reality I went out and moved very slowly, with many stops where I would take few deep breaths and look with eyes wide open, trying to catch any sign of movement.

Try it, practice your night vision, I mean natural night vision, you’ll see that you can see during the night objects that are moving when you are ready for that and you get used to some of the tricks shadows can play on you.

You have sort of tunnel vision when you use your flashlight. Human eyes just need too much time to adapt from light to darkness. And of course too much time if we are talking about real survival situation.

Darkness can be your friend, just like light can be your friend. But again both can be your enemy.

Using your flashlight too often and then your eyes need to adjust to darkness again can mean difference between life and death.

I am not saying that flashlights are stupid, or you do not need flashlight when SHTF. I have around 60 lamps and flashlight, different kinds, from led stuff, hang on wall lamps to powerful torches. I am taking things very serious in this part of preparation. It is just no camping trip where you go out and point light at everything.

Once I was out at night with two friends looking for useful things like always and we met other group. One guy from my group put light on them and we saw they have guns. We turned and ran like hell and got away. That he pointed light in their face might have saved our life. They just shouted some bad words but the light must have blinded them and it seemed they had no real flash light so they could not follow us before their eyes adjusted to darkness again.

Just like with all what I write, I suggest you to go out during the night and test it. It is gonna be maybe hard for you to find destroyed city, without eletricity, with shooting in background, but do not worry.

Practice your night vision

For example go to woods, or bigger park close to your home, and bring lamp with you. Have plan before that, I mean trip plan how to get from point A to point B.
First go trough the park with lamp, all the way. You’ll see clearly part of ground that you are putting light on that given moment, but for everything else you are blind, not to mention you are clearly visible with your lamp in darkness.

Then spend some time, 30-40 minutes in dark, adapting your eyes, then go back without lamp, all way. Depending on terrain, you’ll see that sometimes it is much easier to go without lamp. Using your eyes after adapting them to darkness. You’ll see maybe silhouettes only and shades, but you are seeing bigger picture. Some trees maybe that you can remember and other “landmarks”.

I suggest to use night with moon, partially cloudy, so you can see difference when moon is covered with clouds, and when clouds go away. Get to know your neighborhood in darkness.

Learn pros and cons of moving in both ways, because there is gonna be situation when one is better than another, you never know.
And of course, just like with everything use some common sense, never stare directly to light, lamp, candle or whatever.

When it comes to lamps, flashlights and all other sources of light, there is no perfect answer for every situation. You may find yourself in situation that you need some really small light, just to see silhouetes, or just to see in what you are going to put your shoe in next step.

I mean for example you gonna find yourself trying to take something useful from ruined apartment building in the middle of the night, at the third floor. You can not see anything, so you need some kind of light.

From this picture what kind of light source is gonna be best for urban survival situations?

survival lights

If you ask me I would choose this Pelican light, or that small white „penlight“. All other things on picture are stronger sources of light, and if you ask me why I do not choose them, answer is simple: I want to see things in order to use something. I do not want to flash so strong so anybody can see me and my light. So between good visibility around me, and danger that I might be seen I chose some kind of compromise, with small light.

That Ultrafire flashlight is very good to see clear and at much longer distances, or to „blind“ someones eyes. First one is cool if you want to hang it and light your room, can go very long on three AA batteries, and it is very cheap (around 2.50 Euros here).

I mean there is no too much sense to use UltraFire flashlight to light your room while you having dinner with your family, it is too expensive and not so practical way to do it.

Those are just few examples, not to mention gas lamps operated on gas or oil, so best idea is to have lot of stuff so you can choose.

How do you prepare when it comes to light?

Fire for survival

Again and again, you need to think in some other terms in order to understand importance of some everyday and usual things when SHTF.

It is hard in way to explain importance of some thing that is so common and usual for us today so we do not even notice it, because we take it for granted. We take it like it was always there, and it going to be there always. When SHTF only then we understand real importance of these things.

Fire means lot of things (especially for survival), fire means warm place to sleep, fire means hot soup. Fire also means clean clothes and clean water. Fire means life. It’s no surprise that our ancestors thought about fire as something holy. It is really that good.

In old history fireplace was almost magical place where all important things happened, wars started or peace was made. It was center of the house. Fire had to be kept alive.

There is reason why lighters were so valuable during my time in war. They enabled people to make fire and with that a lot of very basic but important things were possible.

I remember clearly guy who was walking over open space on one intersection, on sniper alley, in the middle of the night with flaming torch in his hand. He did not perform any strange ritual. His fire went in his stove in house because he did not have any matches or lighter or anything to start it again.

He went out walk for a few kilometers, found fire somewhere and went back in his house to start fire again. People died while trying to get fire from one place to another. I talk about this in detail in my course.

And all that happened maybe few months after war started. How many ordinary folks have 20-30 lighters or matches stored somewhere in house? I know you probably have now and that is good.

But other than you not too many of them.

You are completely dependent on fire

Just do one practice, go and sit in cold and dark room for a few days and then let someone offer you cold soup, or hot soup. Small thing, but single hot soup just makes amazing difference.

You need to have fire place inside your house. That does not mean that you need today to smash walls and change your house plans in order to install fire place.

It can be done on some simple ways like hole in wall for exhaust, or finding some small stoves that you can install when SHTF and use all kind of fuels for them. Even a bigger grill for barbecue is better than nothing.

Stoves are not such big problem, finding fuel for them is.

So good idea is to have some amount of fuel ready stored somewhere. I have currently 300 liter of diesel fuel and 50 liter of petroleum stored. Or if that is not possible try to have plan where you can quickly take some fuel for fire when SHTF, again before others.

You as prepper have hopefully “first mover advantage” that you realize what you need before others.

After some time all folks just realize “let’s go out and take those trees from park“. So do not wait for everybody else to go there in that park. Just like with everything else try to be ahead of other folks.

Of course this does not mean that you need to go tonight to park and start to chop trees. This actually means that you need to have all tools ready today, and plan how to drag the trees and where to put them when SHTF.

Good idea is to have some kind of storage for firewood and some amount of fire wood, but since that is almost impossible for most of the folks who are living in urban areas, today you can do everything in order to be ready to start quickly to gather firewood when time comes.

When SHTF just go out and do it quickly. Do not learn where and how to do that when SHTF. Have plan for that today ready. If you never chopped wood go and help someone at rural place and learn to chop some wood safely.

Getting a stove

There are all kind of stoves around to buy and to make by yourself. Without going into the brands and models of them, here are few things to think about when you buying it.

1. You are needing stove for what?
As I mentioned already, you gonna need fire for lot of things. To make food, clean your water(boiling), heating… So when you are obtaining wood stove for you think for what thing you are gonna use it? How that thing gonna look like is not important thing at all.

It also helps A LOT to have some kind of metal frame to hang things over fire. You can buy it here but make sure it is really sturdy. If you are with group you want to cook a lot of water at same time.

2. How much fuel you are gonna have?
If you are living in area where wood is no problem then you are lucky when it comes to stove, because in other case you are in situation like I was, always something like half cold and freezing.

I used two types of stoves, real wood stove, old type, that used lot of wood, but gives lot of heat, and keep heat lot of time (long time). I just do some upgrading on that thing by switching heating plates (thick) with thinner, in order to boil things faster.

Other type was very thin and small stove, something like big can. You could bring that thing to red heat in few minutes with very small amount of wood, or cardboards and all junk. Intense heat was good to make something very quick (food) or to warm yourself with small abount of fuel in very quick time. That thing went cold very quickly after fire went down of course.

3.Look around you
Again and always: have and do what most folks around you are doing-that means actually LOOK like you are looking for and doing what everybody else is doing.

I mean if most of the folks are freezing around you, it does not mean that you need to freezing too. Just look like that. Do not talk about how warm and cozy your place is when you see neighbor or someone in the streets. Pretend to be still cold. Once your body is cold it takes long time to warm up again so pretend to freeze. It is easy to forget but people are not only hungry but cold too. They want to get warm no matter what, even if that means move in YOUR house if you want or not.

Just like everything else, there is no universal advice for everybody. If you are living in lonely place, thick smoke from the chimney and tasty smell of chicken soup is something like invitation for not wanted guests when SHTF.

In my case smell of burnt ruins and burning stuff was in the air all the time together with smoke, and other worse smell, so I did not have problem with visible smoke and smell.

4. Have portable stuff
You will eventuall go out and take trips for many reasons, and on these trips you are gonna spend time, take shelter somewhere and need fire. Think about solution of portable stove and what kind is best for your situation and surroundings.

Military type portable stoves, with liquid fuel, simple „can“ type portable stoves, or you are gonna start fire in place, on ground. But be sure that you have some stove to move around. For example something like this here.

5. Take time today and make some tests
Be familiar with all kind of wood in your sourondings and learn what you can expect from different kinds of wood or other fuels. You gonna save some important time when SHTF if you check that things today. Know what wood chips you can use for tinder and if you have some tinder fungus in your area for example. Also know what kind of wood or other fuel gives how much heat, and for how long, and also important how intense smell and smoke.

If you can not try it because you are in urban area try to go to parks and other places with public fireplaces or areas. Even trying things with wood on barbecue grill somewhere is ok to get familiar with different materials.