imageWhen my life-long chum was out last week, a topic went by in conversation that I meant to expand on in a column one of these days.  And today is that day.

The topic is wheelbarrows and hand trucks.

Now you would think that living in the East Texas Outback, as we do, that we would be up to our ears in wheeled devices…and we are…but in different ways than most.

A word or two about the genealogy of such devices is worth considering.  As you know, we have our Seven Major Systems of Life and of these, one category is “Transportation.”

Furthermore, you we would know – if I had bothered to publish my book “Victims of Process:  How unwritten recipes run your Life” that Transportation is divided into Land, Sea, and Air.

What’s more, there is the “friction layer” to deal with in each of these – and these have given birth to a number of specialties such as Naval Architecture, Aeronautical Design, and Wheeled Vehicles.

These may then be divided further into power sources:  Human, electric (including solar), internal combustion, and so on.

Which is why we are spending some time this morning at the intersection of Housing and Transportation [subset Land, power source Human] this morning.  Don’t bother mentioning that it’s unusual to think about such things in such an orderly manner; by doing so (gridding the world conceptually to a fine level) it is easy to invent new ways of being.  Which is what we like to do around here.

So my chum has a wheelbarrow and I do not.    He lives in a very nice neighborhood and the wheelbarrow gets a lot of use.  There is firewood to move around.  Being a good prepper, he’s got a whole chord or three of wood.  And his wife is a superb gardener, so there’s work for a wheelbarrow there, as well.  And for simply moving stuff about.

We both have hand trucks, mine was picked up at the local Tractor Supply store about 10 years back, on sale, for $21 bucks.  That was when goods from China were just ramping up.  And something the Chinese have always excelled at is two-wheeled carts – from hand trucks on up through rickshaws.

Inflation – not to mention all those Trade Deals that are going to save the American Consumer which haven’t exactly worked, and the price at Amazon for a decent little hand truck is what?

The Safco Products 4069 Tuff Truck Continuous Handle Utility Hand Truck, Black is $61 bucks.  Mine happens to be red and has pneumatic (air-filled) tires, as opposed to the solid ones. 

Some discussion about which kinds of wheels are best is in order.  As you’ll see, my old hand truck has pneumatic tires.  I learned long ago (from Uncle Stanley, I believe it was) that hard wheels are fine – as long as your work is on super hard surfaces, like concrete or flooring.  But, if you want to do work on soft dirt, the best choice in wheelbarrows or hand trucks is to get one with air filled tires that can be adjusted to the work surface.  Blow ‘em up to 40 pounds or more for inside work.  But 10 pounds with a modest load on dirt or gravel is a lot easier to handle.

Its like back in the bike riding days:  A Schwinn was a much easier bike to ride of gravel, soft dirt, or sand.  The hard tired (60 pounds) worth of narrow tired English Racer while keen (and fast) on asphalt or paving, sucked rocks and generally had to be pushed on gravel or sand.  Same concept applies to wheelbarrows, so I assume my chum’s wheelbarrow is pneumatic because he uses it all over his yard.  Smaller and fewer tracks.

imageWhat you see here is my 10-year old cart with a 20 pound propane bottle and a “flame thrower” attachment.  Just the thing for lighting off burn piles, clearing out a fence line, and so on.

A bungee strap and something like a Red Dragon VT 2-23 C Weed Dragon 100,000-BTU Propane Vapor Torch Kit ($55) and not only will you be able to burn out weeds and start off brush piles, but you can also quick-start mesquite if that happens to be your thing BBQ’ing.  Or hard coal (don’t knock it until you’ve tried it).

OK,” you’re wondering to yourself, “Why no wheelbarrow on 28.82 acres, more or less?  And are you getting to a point?”

Well, we have this thing called a tractor and where most people might decide to use a wheelbarrow, the way I operate best is buy using as many “big tools” as possible.

When there is some wood to be moved around here, more often than not it is not cut up into wheelbarrow sized pieces.  Even when it is (not often) I can still shove the front loader bucket under damn near anything  up to about 550 pounds and place it with a high degree of precision.

A late uncle of mine was a cat skinner up in the Aleutians during WW II and I always admired people who could tame a cat, cut a road, put in an air field, or whatever.  So therein lies my desire to be a tractor artist.  It’s not a six-way blade on a joystick on a D-6 Cat, but  it turns out that it works exceptionally well for everything from moving furniture to hauling gravel around.

Even more impressive, its use requires a few brain cells but few sweat glands and it’s getting to be the time of year around here when that really matters.

As a bug-out vehicle, the tractor will carry a 500 pounds of personal gear, make its own road when necessary, and it can carry (when I get it welded up) two 55 gallon drums of diesel on the back.  With a full tank, that will go 12 miles an hour for 115 hours, roughly.  Pencils out to 1,300 miles and some reserves.  On flat ground and lower throttle setting, it might go further.

Nothing against wheelbarrows, but like people’s views on the Income Tax, they seem best suited for everyone else.  Working at peak performance (age 67 remember) my power output over time is likely less than 1/3rd of a horsepower. A bit more if I work up to it.  But with a twist of the starter key, the tractor is 24 horsepower and power steering to boot.

As someone who has studied urban preparedness to the n’th degree, I would suggest taking a look at old photos of refugees.  Hell, even some of the new photos are revealing.

People will have some kind of push cart with their personal possessions piled up.  While we don’t like to think that such a fate would ever befall us, all those government ammunition buys and all the meetings on “domestic security” argue there is a reason to be a bit paranoid.

A number of “hiking carts” have come out over the past 10 years, or so, and many of these are almost ideally suited to personal bug-out missions. 

If you live in an apartment or condo, and you need a vehicle or cart for serious bug-out consider something like the Pack Wheel.  Yes, these are made in the USA, thanks for asking.  No, they are not cheap, either.  Still, something to think about.

Next step up might be something like a deer cart, in terms of carrying capacity.  Something like the Best Choice Products Deer Game Hauler Utility Hunting Accessories Gear Dolly Cart, 500 lb. will only set you back about $65…or you can get a couple of bikes at WallyWorld and take a cutting torch to them and brew your own.

I really like the idea of a powered bug-out system and when I look at the game hauler, I think to myself “Could I make that a solid axel and put one of those 100 CC moped rigs on it?  Easier if you start with a bike cut in half, I suppose.

Still, of all the bug-out and UrbanSurvival rip-offs on the net, few if any actually offer serious thinking on the topic that matters most – which is how to survive when the crap hits the fan. 

If you don’t have some way to move personal goods in a non-automotive way, you do stand the risk of being stuck in place and that’s not the kind of outcome we like to think about.

Wheel-up along with your prepping and maybe a couple of good mountain bikes isn’t such a bad idea, after all.

  Put them on a tractor with a loader bucket full of freeze dried foods and seeds…and maybe a middle buster plow…yeah, where’s that land in Colorado, you were talking about?

Write when you break-even,