Tuesday, February 23, 2010

EDC Knives

My first two choices for EDC (Every Day Carry) knives are:

1. GENUINE Swiss Army knife (don't bother with imitations they are all junk with red handles). The most used "blades" on my Swiss Army knives are the toothpick, tweezers and scissors, but I once sawed through a 2X4 with the saw of one of my Swiss Army knives.

2. GENUINE Leatherman Multi-tool (again don't bother with cheap imitations) One of my GENUINE Swiss Army knives has a tiny pair of pliers that might come in handy if working on something really small. For real gripping ability I go with one of my Leatherman Multi-tools with either regular or needle nose pliers.

I can't imagine going into the wilderness without those two tools and I wouldn't want to spend many days in the burbs without them either.

"But Dave," I hear you say, "for WTSHTF or TEOTWAWKI we're gunn'a need a BIG knife." Well yes you will, which is why I own a genuine Randall model #14 with a seven and a half inch blade. It's not for nothing the Mountain Men carried large knives and hatchets as well as smaller knives for skinning and camp chores. The question you have to ask yourself is just what do you expect to be doing with that big knife?

If your survival retreat is anywhere near civilization you'll probably find a GENUINE Swiss Army knife & Leatherman Multi-tool to be the most used ever day carry tool. On the other hand if you plan to be dressing out elk and moose…

GENUINE Swiss Army knives & Leatherman Multi-tools are both "generalist" tools doing many things but not optimized for any one specialized task.

With larger knives you necessarily have to get more specialized. Do you want a hunting knife, a Combat knife, a Survival knife, a Fishing knife or a Skinning knife? All of the aforementioned will do just about anything any of the others will do, but some will perform certain tasks faster or easier (i.e. better) than others.

First you figure out just what it is you want to do with the big knife then you pick a knife that does that.

A quality Bowie knife will kill men and bears, chop down small trees* and impress the heck out of passersby. So will an Arkansas toothpick but it's hard to gut/skin a squirrel or clean a trout with either of them.

On the other hand fishing or skinning knives will kill you just as dead as any combat knife but are ill suited for combat. So what to choose?

If you decide one of the military knives will do what you want done try to buy the real thing. A real Ka-Bar or genuine Pilot's survival knife will outlast those cheap imitations.

Ignoring, for the moment, fantasies of swinging on a vine over a crocodile infested pool of quicksand to cut through the wall of the log cabin with your sheath knife and save the damsel in distress, we must ask ourselves "What will I most likely be doing day in and day out that would require a knife?" Then get a knife that'll do that.

Whether it's the burbs or the bunker, I don't leave home without my Genuine Swiss army knife and/or Genuine Leatherman tool.

*Chopping at small trees with large knives used like an ax is one way to cut young trees, but a knife blade doesn't have the weight of an ax head. Placing the cutting edge of the blade against the sapling and then striking the back of the blade with a small wooden club EXACTLY above the point where the cutting edge meets the sapling concentrates the weight of your club at the point of contact. Be sure to strike with the force of your blow pushing straight down through the blade – NOT at an angle to it.

Use a small log about the size of your forearm as a club and use alternating cuts (from above then from below) just as you would with an ax. This technique doesn't work as well with a standard butcher knife because the thin back edge of the blade of a butcher knife can cut into the log almost as well as the sharp side can cut into the tree.

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GWQ comments:
My EDC is a Leatherman Micra. The folding scissors work well and are handy. It also sounds more "normal" to carry folding scissors than a knife. The bottle opener is a good feature, too. It does have some basic tools and a small blade on it. If TSHTF and I need some of the tools on it, it'll be infinitely better than not having any knife even if it's not as comprehensive as some of the ginormous multitools out there. It's a Leatherman so it's good quality and works.

I like that its small enough to fit inside my key chain pouch. I have my housekeys on the keyring that's attached to a small zippered Coach pouch (look for the mini skinny styles).

In there I have my Micra, an expired drivers license (in case I ever get hit by a car walking the dog and don't have any other ID on me), and some emergency cash (usually $20, right now it's only $5 so I need to add some more).

At last! Something to do with old driver's licenses! That's a great idea.

And, yes, scissors may be as handy to have as pliers if the urgent need ever arises.

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SSM comments:
My EDCK is scissors. They cut paper, tape, and string better than a normal knife and will defend you well in a bad situation. That said I have a slew of knives but from a pure utility perspective, scissors do most cutting tasks a lot better than the latest sexy $200 Benchmade autofolder.

My favorite knife, that said, is the big ol' Cold Steel Vaquero Grande. It will cut down trees about 2" thick in under a minute.

- - - SSM adds:
If you haven't used any Cold Steel products, they're the toughest knives I've ever owned. Shave hair sharp too, out of the box, and after use. Many of their knives use very low carbon, thus very hard and sharp, steels. However, they corrode easier and have to be taken care of.

I have one of their fixed blade Bowie knives too that is about 3/8" thick and is essentially indestructible.

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HCF comments:
My every-day carry is a Leatherman Juice S2. It's small enough to be on a keychain. It has a nice assortment of screwdriver blades, scissors, pliers, and a small knife blade. But my favorite feature is it's BRIGHT SCREAMING ORANGE which makes it hard to lose.

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GH comments:
Mine is simple, it's the minimist Swiss Army knife, [Signature Lite] which has a 1) knife blade and 2) nail file (with flat head screwdriver) on one side, and scissors on the other. The toothpick and tweezers have been replaced with a ballpoint pen and a white LED flashlight which you use by squeezing the handle. About $30, IIRC. The flashlight is surprisingly powerful, considering. I have used it as a signal lamp to get my wife's attention in a large and busy train station, and, obviously, to light the keyhole on the trunk of our van on a dark night. It would certainly be helpful to "flash" a helicopter overhead, should the need arise. I had a previous one for two years without replacing the battery; I did replace the ball point pen once because I used it so much.

This one is even thinner than my last, which was also a Swiss Army knife with 1) knife and 2) can opener (with phillips screwdriver at the top) and on the other side 1) nail file (with flat head screwdriver) and 2) scissors. It also had the ball point pen and LED light, although that one was one of their first models and only came with a red light, which was less useful. I have fairly regular use for the screwdriver(s), but have to be careful not to use the knife handle as the torque mechanism, as they can bend at the hinge if the screw is balky, ruining the knife. There's plenty of "grip" along the knife blade or file blade to accomplish the task.

I find having a ball point with me at all times invaluable, I'm forever having to write down something in the middle of a store, or the name of a CD I found at the "used" store but don't want to buy until I check it out online or something.

Usually there is a toothpick and tweezer nearby, because my wife carries one of the older SAKs [Swiss Army Knives] which has those. The one I have now is the smallest, sleekest yet, and I'd feel lost without it. It's on my keyring always, except going through airports for the obvious reason.

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jC writes:
For years I carried a Buck lock back folding knife in a belt sheath; a strong, easily sharpened useful tool with a legal length. Too many people objected to it as a lethal weapon, so I went to a 3 bladed whittler, probable the most versatile knife around. (see Schrade knives or Case knives)

With the aftermath of 9-11 anything sharp was a reason to call Security as you were most likly an ax murderer, so I clipped a Swiss Army knife to my USB flash drive. Now I was just prepared to file my nails and open letters. But had only one blade [Editor's note some SAK now come with built in USB drives.]

Recently I have been carrying a 2 bladed mini knife. The whole idea is to have a knife that is not a weapon and will not be confiscated. I could stab you right in the heart with the 1 3/8 inch blade and you would live. But you still can't take it into Court or on an airplane. Mine is a Winchester, probably from Walmart sporting goods.

Most used and abused knife?
Murphy knives use a Quality high carbon blade you can hammer on and not worry about breaking it because it is cheap. You can use a propane torch and a ball peen hammer to make a harder blade, but it is a fine work knife for daily use. Check their site for tool box and working knives. I have several; yes they rust so oil them or paint them lightly for a longer life.

No One has mentioned a sharpener. Several survival knives have a stone in the sheath. Not a problem with the 2 sided grey stone. Except they break.

I have a diamond sharpener made by Diamond Machine Technology. It is about 3 1/2 x 1 x 1/4 so it fits anywhere, gives a good edge and lasts a long time. And you can't drop it and break it. Use oil or spit for a better edge, dry if you have to. I have a medium, red stone; it sharpens quickly and gives a good edge.

Somewhere around is a set of 3 Arkansas stones, which I still think puts the ultimate edge on a knife. But you do have to spend the time on it to get a blade you can shave with, and also 2 grades of oil or soapy water.

I am NOT a fan of the round rods. You don't get a good edge and often distort the cutting edge. When you see a chef using one he is often just honing the edge and it takes skill and practice to do it well. DMT has a nice section on sharpening.

I don't have to tell you a Safe Knife is a Sharp knife, you already know that.

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Jmalefyt writes:
Great article, I just wanted to add a few things in the comments to clarify to people reading...

First just so everyone knows there are actually two brands of quality swiss army knives, there is Wenger, and Victorinox. Wenger refers to their knives as GENUINE swiss army knives where as Victorinox calls their's the original swiss army knife. Generally you see more Victorinox swiss army knives and they have a much wider selection and are generally the knife you think of when you see a swiss army knife. That being said Wenger also makes a quality knife that can be relied upon.

I also wanted to add that being high carbon makes a blade steel tougher, the higher the carbon content the better. Carbon content has nothing to do with rust resistance however, the only way to make steels rust resistant is to add other alloys like chromium, vanadium, cobalt, molybdenum etc. I saw someone who left a comment saying that cold steel uses a lower carbon content which makes their blades tougher, which isn't true. Cold steel does use high carbon steel though when compared to other brands they use lower quality steel. Not to say cold steels knives are bad, I own multiple cold steel knives myself and they are excellent, but typically spyderco, benchmade, and kershaw use higher end steels than cold steel. One other knock on cold steel is that all of their knives are made in taiwan which is unfortunate, the quality is still excellent but spyderco and benchmade make their higher end knives right here in the US.

Finally just to get my little bit in(after that whole lot :) ) I EDC a Spyderco Delica, fantastic knife!

Thanks for the note Jmalefyt,
On April 26, 2005 Victorinox acquired Wenger, becoming once again the sole supplier of knives to the Swiss Army. Victorinox has stated that it intends to keep both consumer brands intact.

Yes, Spyderco makes some of the best knives around and its Delica line has a well deserved reputation as a handy, quality knife.

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Monday, February 8, 2010

Bike or Hike?

At dawn you were surprised by what looked at first to be a WTSHTF (When the $#!t Hits The Fan) event which quickly turned out to TEOTWAWKI and now you're stranded many miles from home.

The lights, TV and clock radio went out simultaneously in your hotel room. Looking out your fourth floor window you see the whole city is dark. The phone didn't work anymore nor the elevator. You suspected this isn't a local WTSHTF event. Your just recharged cell phone is dead, as is your laptop. EMP?

Your large dark gray airline compatible suitcase is also a rucksack that came with you as checked luggage so you've got your genuine Swiss Army knife and genuine Leatherman multi-tool in addition to 50 feet of 550 paracord, a boonie hat, a good pair of hiking shoes (with two pairs of wool socks and a packet of Moleskin stuffed inside), pants (with small first aid kit in one cargo pocket and a space blanket in the other), shirt (compass and Bic lighter in one breast picket and waterproof matches and a bullet space pen with waterproof notebook in the other) and a jacket with gloves in the pockets.

You empty out your suits and shirts from the suitcase to the bed repacking the big bag with two hotel blankets and the extra roll of TP the hotels always provide. Then you put on your hiking clothes.

You consult the local phone book then tear out two yellow pages and a map page.

You take both bags down the fire stairs to the lobby where confused business sheeple are demanding hotel management "Do Something!" right now.

Your smaller camouflage pattern carryon is also a backpack which, you can piggyback onto your large pack. You fill its pockets with complimentary hotel matches and fruit.

As you munch on what is likely the last cream cheese covered bagel you'll ever see (even if you survive) you contemplate the continental breakfast bar.

Handy little individual size boxes of dry breakfast cereal? Light but bulky.

Handy little cups of yogurt? Maybe one or two for the first day, but they'll spoil soon without refrigeration.

Handy little cartons of juice and milk? Same problem and they're leaky.

Handy little packets of honey? Yes! A compact nonperishable energy source that is not only food but an anti-bacterial agent. You take them all.

Crushing some of the dry breakfast cereal boxes flat you extract the flattened wax paper bags from the cardboard and stuff them into the camouflage backpack with the honey.

Bottled water? You betch'a! Ed Begley, Jr. be damned! Humans need a gallon of water a day so you load up the side pockets on both packs before leaving the increasingly hysterical business class to their whining as you walk out the side door with an open carton of juice in one hand and a half eaten bear claw in the other.

Poking around in a nearby construction site you find a two and a half foot long piece of one inch rebar with one end cut at an angle. It'll have to do until you can find something better. You 'dismount' the smaller bag and carry the small backpack like a satchel with the rebar sword/club between the handle straps so as to be instantly available yet not obvious.

Wearing the large bag as a backpack you walk forcefully, like you know where you're going, with your head on a swivel looking out for danger from all sides. People tend to avoid you on the sidewalk.

By ten am it's pretty obvious to everyone that "something" is going down. The owner of the pawn shop has come down to guard his goods. You have to talk your way in by offering to pay with cash then shop by sunlight coming through the windows.

You slit open one of the secret compartments in your carryon bag and show him the hundred dollar bills. He informs you he can't legally sell you any pistols from the case, however he'll sell you his 'personal' .38 stub nosed double action revolver. For an extra hundred dollars he throws in his holster and a box of bullets.

Outside, as you consult your yellow pages and the map, you see him rearming from stock. You head for the sporting goods store stopping to buy some road maps at a gas station along the way.

You must get home as quickly as possible, but the roads while not impassable will be patrolled by local cops turned highwaymen and desperate refugee sheeple unable to think outside the trunk of their cars. Eventually thirst and hunger will force them off the highway. In the meantime they'll be sponges absorbing the resources of any who come near.

Freeways and highways offer smooth, convenient, fast travel; out in the open where you can easily be seen from afar and ambushed from cover.

You've decided your choices are hike or bike, but offroad.

The few employees that showed up for work at the sporting goods store are mostly just standing around. With no power to run the cash register or credit card machine there's not much for them to do.

You find a ready to go mountain bike on display with saddlebags and a rack for mounting them. Grabbing some other gear and a topographical map of the nearby park from the camping department you take the lot to the manager who says he and the employees are just there to watch over the merchandise until the power comes back on because accounting wants him to sell everything through the register.

You show him some hundred dollar bills saying you'll take a hand written receipt now and he can mail you the register readout later. He sells you the bike and gear but won't sell you any guns or ammo. You talk him into selling you a hunting knife and a plastic backpacker's camping trowel instead. He doesn't offer change or a receipt and "forgets" to charge sales tax. You don't bother to remind him he'd need an address to mail that receipt to you.

You spend the last of the hundred dollar bills filling up your packs with freeze dried food.

As you're packing the food some boisterous customers enter the store so you exit the store quickly then install your rack and saddlebags with your Swiss Army knife and Leatherman multi-tool under a tree behind some bushes in a large vacant lot across the street from the store.

With the Swiss Army knife and Leatherman tool on one side and the revolver on the other your most basic survival gear is on your person at all times. You fill the small camo pack with food and water stowing the rest of the freeze dried food and large backpack in the saddle bags you head off across country as the sun hits it's zenith in a sky devoid of airplanes.

By dusk you've reached the suburbs. Staying off the roads has cost you a lot of time but you haven’t been robbed, mobbed, molested or arrested. It's a good tradeoff.

You find a small tree atop a small rise surrounded by large bushes. You disappear into it with a last look around to be sure no one is watching.

You dig a Dakota fire pit and heat some water in the Sierra Cup on green branches over the pit without bothering to remove the store's price tag then pour it into a package of the freeze dried food.

From your position you eat your food and watch the candlelit houses as the dusk turns into dark.

Resting until rise of the crescent moon as the fire burns out you fill in the hole before walking game trails to the railroad tracks. Careful to take your last compass reading several hundred feet from the metal tracks you determine the direction you want to travel before pushing the bike up onto the tracks. The spaces between the railroad ties make it too bumpy for bike riding so you walk.

A few miles later you're at the railroad crossing. Both the railroad and the road will take you home. Or you could break new trail between them which would take even longer.

Riding the bike on paved surfaces would be the quickest way home, provided you weren't waylaid on the way.

On the plus side the bike's tires would be nearly silent on the pavement and riding at night would vastly decrease the chances of running into other refugees. In theory you'd be past anyone camped by the roadside and disappearing into the darkness before they realized you were there.

But as Yogi Berra once said: "In theory there's no difference between theory and practice, but in practice there is." You'd be exposed on the roadway and a bullet is faster than a bike.

Walking the bike on the railroad tracks would be the second fastest way home but, again, you don't know how bad things are going to get or how soon. There'd be no trains, of course, but there might be other refugees and the raised railroad line would make you obvious to anyone who happened to glance in the direction of the railroad tracks.

Both road and railroad would tend to go through towns and cities. Also roads tend to accumulate homes and businesses along their route. One of the principles of Escape and Evasion is to avoid people and the places people frequent like buildings, trails, roads, and railroads.

You could abandon the bike and use your Escape & Evasion skills breaking new trail through the wilderness with just your backpacks. It would take much longer, but you could be virtually certain to not run into any Robin Hoods.

It's all a question of speed vs. security.

What would you do; bike or hike?

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Saturday, February 6, 2010

How much is enough?

If the world went to hell in a hand basket tomorrow would you have enough?

Enough what?

The answer is obvious: enough to get you through whatever it is. Whatever that is.

It matters not whether the "whatever" is depression, hyper inflation or any of the dozen or so long term disasters that could impact your life, when you get right down to it enough means enough to eat. Period.

Would you rather be hungry in a palace or satiated in a hovel? I'm guessing you'd go for the hamburger on a tin plate over the airburger on a gold plate.

Since air is free and abundant and water is nearly so when we talk about "enough" we're ultimately talking about food and the things that it takes to get food. For most of us that means money.

We give the grocer money and the grocer gives us food. But what if the value of the money decreased? Would the grocer still be willing to hand over the same amount of food for the same amount of money? Probably not. It's called inflation.

When it gets really out of control we call it hyper inflation and think of the Weimar Republic in 1923 Germany and fifty million Mark postage stamps but there are other examples of hyper inflation.

So how do we protect ourselves from hyper inflation? Gold? Silver? Foreign currencies? Food? True, we can get the latter by holding the former but there are translation problems. A gold coin may buy more groceries than you want but do you want to accept your change in a currency that's decreasing in value so quickly that the grocery store clerk who hands you your change demands to be paid twice a day so as to be able to afford to buy food on his lunch break before it doubles in price at quitting time?

Silver, particularly U.S. pre 1965 Junk silver dimes and quarters would come in handy at the grocery store.

If you look at recent hyper inflation in other countries you'll see currency black markets springing up overnight so having the right currency could be helpful.

The American dollar has been the currency of last resort for decades, but what do you resort to if the US dollar goes hyper? Swiss francs (CHF), New Zealand dollars ($) (NZD), Canadian dollars ($) (CAD), Australian dollars ($) (AUD) or maybe you'd like to bet on the Chinese Renminbi (¥) (CNY)?

Long term the Renminbi is probably the one to bet on, but let your grandchildren worry about that you're worried about being hungry tomorrow.

If the American dollar catches hyper pneumonia the rest of the world will catch an economic cold. You won't be able to escape hard times, but you can alleviate them by having some savings in a foreign currency in a foreign bank.

But why not eliminate the middle man? Most of the canned food in your grocery store now bears readable expiration dates. Join Costco or one of the other big box store clubs (I receive my membership fees and more back from Costco every year by using my True Earnings card from Costco and American Express) and save by buying canned goods (among other things) by the case.

Buy canned foods you normally eat. Store them in a cool dry place; a closet or your garage will do. Put the new stuff on the back of the shelves and eat from the front of the shelves always eating the oldest first.

But do you want the family fortune in cans of Campbell soup in the hall closet? Probably not, but a years supply of food would go a long way towards helping your family through a bout of hyperinflation. Having your savings in a foreign currency in a foreign bank would enable you to take care of your other financial obligations

And, of course, you'll want to have a bag or two of pre 1965 "junk" silver coins.

How much of any of the above is "enough"? Well, as Yogi Berra is said to have said "Prediction is difficult, particularly about the future." Exact amounts would depend on how long the hyper inflation lasted, but having preparations in place should help ease you through whatever comes.


HCF writes:

Zimbabwe has recently experienced the worst inflation in history. They survived. People are clever and find ways around things.

Zimbabwe may yet beat inflation.

Instead of change, some merchants resorted to hard candy as change. The ultimate solution for Zimbabwe was to disown its own currency and make American dollars, South African Rand, and Botswana Pula legal tender in Zimbabwe.

If it happened in the US, I'd expect Canadian dollars and Mexican pesos to be used if they had stable values. You do occasionally run across Canadian change in circulation in the US anyway.

In the longer term, especially if there was no viable alternative, expect precious medal coins to become the de facto medium of exchange. This is where silver coins are more useful than gold. Gold is great if you're trying to sneak out of the country. Silver is great if you want to buy staples in the market or a tank of gas.

Good point, HCF, I'm expecting pretty much the same thing (alternative currency wise) if hyperinflation hits the US dollar. If anyone were to ask me I'd say put your faith in precious metal coins (particularly US pre 1965 silver coins) and Canadian dollars.


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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

History Channel's Last Supper

History Channel's Last Supper

I watched the Last Supper episode of the History Channel's Life After People series last night. Keeping in mind that food in residential pantries is virtually the same as food in supermarkets and is normally stored similarly, here's a short list of my takeaways from the show:

Non-survivalists who plan to live off the food and bottled water in grocery stores after Armageddon may want to buy a gas mask or at least a clothespin to help with the smell. Seems all that rotting meat, fruit and veggies will keep all but the most insensitive noses out after a few days without refrigeration.

The show interviewed a guy who'd been involved in the cleanup of an abandoned supermarket where, after weeks without electricity to run refrigeration units, the cleanup crew had to wear Hazmat suits and breathe bottled air. Of course all the rats, mice, flies and other vermin attracted by the smell won't add to the ambience of post apocalyptic supermarket dining either.

My favorite pull quote from the interview was: "The flies were so thick you couldn't see your own hand at arms length."

Canned goods will likely last longer than stuff in cardboard boxes or cellophane packaging, but will eventually rust from the outside due to moisture or rupture from the inside due to pressure from multiplying organisms when the cans are exposed to hot weather.

But the good news is that Twinkies sealed in their packages will, according to experts, last up to 25 years. That estimation is at variance with the manufacture's assurance that Twinkies are good for 25 days on store shelves.

The experts also opined that sealed freeze dried food would likely last up to 100 years. And that freeze dried food had been tested after 30 years and found by the testers to be "almost" as tasty as similar "fresh" freeze dried food.

Unfortunately the experts didn't say how the freeze dried food had been stored. The US military stores its MRE's in temperature and humidity controlled warehouses and expects them to last three years. But freeze dried foods are just part of an MRE package.

Pointing out that edible bee honey had been found in the pyramids of Egyptian Pharaohs the experts claimed that bee honey stored in glass jars would last between 4000 and one million years.

Now I'm all in favor of honey. It's nature's perfect food. You can supposedly live for years eating nothing but honey. And it will store longer than human life expectancy. And it gets better, honey fights infection on wounds.

Ayup! If you're out of povidone iodine, rubbing alcohol and hydrogen peroxide honey will do the job.

But my question is: The glass may last for a million years, but how do they seal the jar for a million years? Steel, even stainless steel, will rust eventually.

Lessons Learned
Don't expect to be able to eat refrigerated or frozen foods from pantries and grocery stores for more that a day or so after the power goes out.

Don't expect to be able to eat perishable foods (fresh fruits and vegetables) from pantries and grocery stores for more than a few days.

Don't expect to be able to eat canned goods, unless they've been stored in a cool dry place, for more than a few months if they've been exposed to moisture. If a can is bulging it's poisonous.

Glass jars and bottles will likely hold edible food longer than cans so (after waiting for the smell to die down) when foraging at the local Food Emporium eschew the cans and embrace the bottles and jars.

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