A review of a solid laptop and setup for preppers / bushcrafters and survivalists

So you are packing your rig to bug out, what entertainment do you have?

A review of a solid laptop and setup for preppers / bushcrafters and survivalists

Written by product review editor Jesse Mathewson

General Dynamics 6000First ask yourself the question, can you physically carry every book you will want and need with you? If you answer that one book is enough, or I only need a few; the odds are you haven’t spent much time in the woods alone or even with just a few people. The first week you are busy, routines settle in and by the second week you are getting bored, sure the work is hard and you sleep well. However, not being able to read something just for pleasure can be the difference between sanity and cabin fever.

Since the beginning of time cabin fever for those who have braved new worlds and more, has ended up killing or turning back far more than any disease. Cabin fever causes everything from paranoid delusions to murder and has even resulted in cannibalism. What many of us forget is that entertainment, mindless entertainment for the sake of a laugh, or cry or simply to enjoy a poorly made movie with actors who don’t matter in the end is essential to the modern man. Just as much as the town brothel was in the west or the neighborhood bar, a nightclub or the like. And if you have children, well, trust me, without some form of entertainment reading a book or playing a game to watching a funny film they will eventually drive you nuts.

My approach for the vehicle bug out rig is simple. I have a General Dynamics 6000 (similar or same as most cops use and some military) with an SSD (solid state drive) to prevent electromagnetic interference. I carry it in a grounded Faraday cage in the vehicle, along with three or four one terabyte SSD external plug and plays. On the roof of the vehicle is a shielded (copper mesh) grounded Faraday cage is a solar panel that follows a path directly down through two kill switches (power relays/circuits that kill the power if a surge occurs) and into the battery bank (3 sealed deep cycle 12 volt 35amp hr batteries) while it isn’t perfect it will resist most electromagnetic events and keep running. Besides, given that we have around 290 days of full sunlight where I live any given year, the solar panel keeps things humming.

General Dynamics 6000Do I carry hardback books, absolutely, Foxfire Series (first 3), Sun Tsu (Giles and Sonshi versions), Rogers Rules of Ranging (1863 edition), Thomas Paines works (early 1800s compilation), Thomas Jeffersons works (1832 version), several other philosophers and some great early editions of Sherlock Holmes through Charles Dickens. Around 55 lbs of hardbound books some quite rare. I also have several modern prepper guides; including Mr. Creekmore’s Dirt Cheap Survival Retreat and 31 Days to Survival I do not however have guides from some of the other “pop” icons in the prepper world. And I do not have the SAS Guide; in fact I sold that awhile back. For $25 bucks at a gun-show I added several military manuals that amount to the same thing without the extra unnecessary aspects for my neck of the woods.

In my hard drives I have photographs, movies (over 2000), television shows (over 200), music (over 125,000 songs), and over 300,000 books from every known author and many unknown ones. I also have thousands of papers written by individuals who have lived this life, indexed for easy finding so that we can build anything, grow anything and survive as much as possible. My inner circle has copies of everything, which allows for redundancy, plus I have backups of all hard drives and the computer stored in a sealed Faraday box. (Article on this will follow, with testing results)

You see, having a single laptop allows such a huge variety of possibilities on top of the decks of cards, chess sets, checkers boards and regular daily work that it keeps us from going stir crazy. My daughter and I with others from our core group have camped for weeks on end, panning for gold, trapping, tracking, stalking game, hunting and much more. At 7 she knows more than I did at 20 and can start a fire with a ferro rod, skin small game, has watched and could if necessary skin out large game, prepares food, knows how to boil and filter water without specialty filters as well as how to find it. How many 7 year olds do you know can do that, heck, how many do you know that can be trusted without supervision around an open flame. Of course, somehow she was born with a much better brain than I, that and she adapts quickly regardless situation. This is just my daughter, I have a 14 year old son and wife that while not fans of living in the sticks, can and have done quite well when needed for practice and training.

General Dynamics 6000In the end, none of this matters if you cant stay entertained and or be entertained. If you get snowed in, or it is too hot to be outside in the sun, having the ability to kick your shoes/moccasins off and relax in front of a silly show is essential. Why do you think theater/burlesque and otherwise were so big during the expansion west? Vaudeville shows and circuses were the next step, than radio and television. Entertainment is an essential part of keeping moral up during a crisis, you have to be able to come down from black to at least yellow on occasion. This approach allows that to occur. Besides, having a solid inverter and solar battery setup keeps radios charged, and cars starting on bad days. You could even get small refrigerator for the cabin or trailer and a hotplate for those days when you simply do not want to start a fire or are afraid the smell may carry.

General Dynamics 6000Remember, multiple uses, always try to have multiple uses for anything that will weigh more than you can carry in a three day bag. This is my philosophy, it may not fit everyone, and however, it works well for me. Anyhow, what are your approaches to entertainment, why do you decide what you do? Have you thought about stress relief beyond a flask etc., regardless, love to hear the feedback and can’t wait to see what everyone thinks?

Some real quick specifications based on my purchases…
1. GD 6000 laptop, water resistant, shock resistant built for vehicle use in military or LE situations. Runs between $175 and $250 used from reputable sales people on Amazon. Brand new this unit runs in the multiple thousands.

2. OS for the laptop, windows 2007 partitioned with a Linux OS as well. Updates unnecessary as I have been working with linux for years and can easily tweak as needed.

3. Updates were required, but can be easily found and applied for some of the applications, like the GPS radio (it has its own GPS radio) so if you have a solid mapping program, you can use GPS even without wireless or other signal.

4. SSD hard drive, replacing the one in the computer, Samsung V-Nand SSD 850 EVO 250gigs for $90 on Amazon currently.

5. You may need new cords or batteries both easily found for this model and under $50 apiece depending on manufacturer.

6. Solar Panel is a simple 150 watt 2 foot by 4 foot model – but can be replaced by anything you want. I have mine mounted to the roof of the 4 Runner with hinges and tie downs and cage – total cost $250 (including cage and mounts) will go into detail later on the full solar generator setup I have. You cannot even see it except from directly above.

7. 3 – 4 Batteries, 1200 watt Inverter, Cables, Additional Cage, grounding wire, rubber mounts, Protective Case, straps and additional parts all ran right at $400 – however, like I said, you have power and ammunition, charge for a charge! I plan on it. After everyone’s noisy expensive to feed gas generators run out, I will have power.

8. Backups add once, and bam, a setup that is always in my bugout/ camping vehicle and stored in such a way where no one really even knows its there.

9. Vehicle, Toyota 4 runner Sport V-8/ trailer with a Baja Bug on back and 100 gallons of water + 30 gallons of fuel for the vehicles in milspec metal 5 gallon cans. (Spares of spares always) every two months I rotate gasoline, the tank is always full in both vehicles and I have sensors to let me know battery life, longevity etc.,

10. Batteries are the only thing I do not have spares of, the reasoning is simple, and batteries have a shelf life from the moment they are made. Regardless what you do. I rotate them in vehicles every other year, and the deep cycle ones get rotated every five years. I can sell used batteries with 10 years left in their life to others for close to what I pay for the new ones using backpage and the like. Another benefit of a solar powered generator, battery backups are nice, however, the reality is they have a lifespan. I carry spares for all battery powered equipment except for the deep cycle ones, simply because they are built to be used. Setting them in storage is the quickest way to decrease their life.

So again, thoughts, ideas –

I am providing pictures of the computer itself and the hard drives but not the solar generator setup and vehicle at this time. I do plan on writing an in depth build and buy approach based on almost a decade of doing so myself. However, for the purposes of this article, it exists.

Let me know what you think and in advance thanks for the feedback.

Comments

  1. I have found that these (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00WLI5G7G/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o09_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1) Bags are working well for us. I don’t have anything as complicated as the above, it all travels in a padded backpack, but it is working for us.

  2. I like my laptop and use it for hours most days. Lots of stuff, videos, books, etc. to enjoy if the internet is down. But it is also affordable $199 at Walmart. It just doesn’t make sense to spend $1000 or even $2000 for a laptop.

  3. Northern wolf says:

    I have an iPad with 64 GB and have been putting books on it as well as the music I have, only 203 songs but working on more as I go.also have an inverter 1000 w and a solar panel. Will be checking out the fara day bag .what do you think about rechargeable batteries ,I use those for the C Crain short wave radio I have it only needs 2 AA batteries.

  4. Years ago I used to work at gas stations . Once in a while we would sell a battery , so I would take one off the shelf , fill it with electrolyte (acid) and put it on the charger . You can probably buy a deep cycle battery somewhere that’s not actived , fix it up yourself ?

  5. OhioPrepper says:

    Jesse,
    Sounds like a well thought out approach. Our case is a little different since the plan is a shelter in place (SIP) or Bug In. For power I have lots of batteries sitting in chargers as I type this, and my ham check has numerous gel cells in float mode on the power bus. Nearly everything here that requires power sits on its own UPS from cordless telephone bases to satellite receivers and battery chargers for the NiMH (50+) and the 18650s with more than a dozen sitting in chargers.
    We’re still working through the old multi era electrical system of this old house; but, should be getting the whole house genset in the next few months. With plenty of propane on site, and probably more storage being added agin next year, we’ll be OK for basic power.
    I’m looking at some small solar systems to keep batteries topped off and power the radio station along with some lighting and fans.
    The fans I’m using are ones I’ve removed over the years from computers and other electronic equipment. They are the small 5” box fans that run on 12VDC and can move an appreciable amount of air when their all running, with little drain on the batteries.
    For computers I have too many to mention and since I’m now on disability until I hit formal retirement next April, I’m packing perhaps 2 dozen different Linux systems up to ship back to my employer. These are units I had here for software development and testing.
    I will still have several Unix systems from rack mounted servers to raspberry pi’s and a 1 inch cube machine called the VoCore and more than 30 years of *Nix experience, so even running at the command line, I’m pretty happy.
    I have numerous SSD, USB thumb drives, and SD cards containing lots of data backed up numerous times.
    I still have a lot of real books in the library, and since the plan is SIP, they will always be available.
    In any case, the biggest thing however you do it, is to plan ahead and implement the plan. Sounds like you’re well on your way.

    • Curley Bull says:

      OP, look at salvaging an elec. cooling fan from a vehicle. Moves an amazing amount of air (12VDC).

      • OhioPrepper says:

        Bull,

        OP, look at salvaging an elec. cooling fan from a vehicle. Moves an amazing amount of air (12VDC).

        That’s a great idea for another project I’m working on before winter arrives; but, the bulk of the work on my little cooling fan project is nearly complete with just some foam board and a few of the 18 computer fans I have just sitting around waiting to be used.
        I’ll have to look at how much current the cooling fan uses; but, the extra air volume would be great for my other project and I was already wondering if the small box fan would do the trick, so this could do it.
        Thanks

    • I used computer fans to build heat sticks that move hot air from the ceiling to the floor in the two rooms where we have 14′ ceilings. Got the idea from the following page:
      http://www.heatstick.com/_Heat%20StkBluBox.htm

      Since they run on 12 volt power it’s easy to keep them running. Got an old UPS that’s now hooked up to a standard car battery to power them. Recharge the batteries with a solar charger or swap them into the little truck for a while if the weather won’t let either the Anker or the Goal Zero solar charger do it’s thing. It’s the high tech redneck way….;)

      • OhioPrepper says:

        tommy2rs,
        “the high tech redneck way” eh?
        I like it, and it should not be too hard to build from scratch.
        I’m doing another project with my furnace and a fan or two with a similar high tech redneck approach. The room containing my furnace and some storage is about 8×10 feet with a louvered door to the room providing the cold air return. The furnace is a high efficiency forced draft type using PVC pipe for the exhaust and all of that works well; however, with the furnace plenum being in that room, the room often gets significantly hotter than the rest of the house, so I’m redneck engineering this solution. I purchased a Rex C100 temperature controller and programmed it to trip at about 80 degrees F. I’m mounting some fans on the door blowing air back into the living space, and I’ll be using some simple relay logic to run the contraption.
        If the temperature in the room hits or exceeds 80 degrees F (a number I can change) AND the furnace plenum blower is NOT running, turn on the fans. The plenum blower fan is much to powerful fir the small box fans to overcome the backpressure; but, waiting for it to be off fixes the problem. The entire system runs on 12 VDC and can be built with parts on hand except for the temperature controller that I already purchased. Total cost of the contraption will be around $15.00 plus my time.
        Another one of the C100’s and some plastic pipe can easily be used to build the project you mentioned, so it will now go into the queue. Except for the fans that are on hand and a piece of pipe which should be inexpensive, this thing should be easy to build, and since it’ s going to be in the house, I can construct it from the same foam board I use for other things. Foam board is relatively inexpensive and sturdy, and works well for constructing a lot of indoor projects.

    • I do love my Linux and definitely am going to be setting up a raspberry PI intranet for aome properties several rl friends have, looking at using ham radio to do data burst transmits for information sharing. Any suggestions on setup?

      • OhioPrepper says:

        Jesse and the hams on this forum,
        Nothing specific to your question; but, there is a Debian distribution which contains a lot of the Amateur Radio utilities already included. Even if they’re not specifically targeted for the Pi, knowing that the packages exist and what they do can be valuable information, so here we are, sending this post once again into moderation, LOL.

        https://www.debian.org/blends/hamradio/

        From the site:
        The Debian Hamradio Pure Blend is a project of the Debian Hamradio Maintainers Team who collaborate on maintenance of amateur-radio related packages for Debian. Every Pure Blend is a subset of Debian that is configured to support a particular target group out-of-the-box. This blend aims to support the needs of radio amateurs.

      • OhioPrepper says:

        Jesse,
        One other thing.
        How close are the stations with whom you wish to communicate and how much data, i.e., how big are the packets and how many or how often per transaction?
        If you’re within simplex range and the data is relatively small, basic packet radio @ 1200 bps AX.25 running on an inexpensive Baofeng radio could easily do the job. I used to run packet with dedicated TNC (Terminal Node Controller) units and I still have a few around; but, the Pi with some software and a few simple wired connections could easily do the trick. In days past we ran the TNC’s in KISS mode and could perform TCP/IP transactions on the link, and I suspect that could still be done.
        Keep in mind however, that the data packets may NOT be encrypted; so, the packets themselves could be intercepted and read; but, the meaning of the content could be encoded in such a way as to be useless to the outside observer.

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