Oxygen, Lost submarines, and Scrubbing

A little over a week ago an Argentine submarine (ARA San Juan) was lost at sea and time begun to run out as the search neared its 7th day. The theory was that if the submarine had surfaced and refreshed its air supply just before the last time it was heard from on Wednesday the 21st, it would have approximately 7 to 10 days worth of air within its hull. Recent reports indicate that there was an explosion near where the submarine was last heard from before going missing.

ARA San Juan

Obviously an explosion on a submarine is not a situation that I expect to find myself in anytime soon but when I heard this story my mind immediately went to how would I survive if in a situation where air was limited or running out. Assuming I had the tools and resources I needed to construct a rebreather, would a rebreather be worth building? Would it be able to extend my total breathing time?

What is a rebreather?

Wikipedia describes a rebreather as:
A rebreather is a breathing apparatus that absorbs the carbon dioxide of a user’s exhaled breath to permit the rebreathing (recycling) of the substantially unused oxygen content, and unused inert content when present, of each breath. Oxygen is added to replenish the amount metabolised by the user. This differs from an open-circuit breathing apparatus, where the exhaled gas is discharged directly into the environment

How does this differ from a CO2 Scrubber?

A carbon dioxide scrubber is a device which absorbs carbon dioxide (CO2). It is used to treat exhaust gases from industrial plants or from exhaled air in life support systems such as rebreathers or in spacecraft, submersible craft or airtight chambers. Carbon dioxide scrubbers are also used in controlled atmosphere (CA) storage. They have also been researched for carbon capture.

Submersible craft typically have C02 Scrubbers installed within them as part of their life support systems to constantly pull the carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. I was not able to find out if the ARA San Juan had a CO2 Scrubber but for the air in the submarine to last 10 days with the crew of 44 it would likely have needed a scrubbing unit.

A CO2 scrubber is a component of a rebreather. If the CO2 is not removed from the air being breathed it will rapidly build up in the body and cause problems. Wikipedia does a great job of describing why a rebreather can only really be an option as long as you have an additional oxygen source to supplement the exhaled oxygen. The most important line from the Wikipedia page on rebreathers and the most important line in this article is:

Continued rebreathing of the same gas will deplete the oxygen to a level which will no longer support consciousness, and eventually life, so gas containing oxygen must be added to the breathing gas to maintain the required concentration of oxygen.

This is essentially the situation that we are seeking to avoid, the loss of consciousness and or life. Regardless of removing CO2 from the air you breathe, if the air doesn’t contain oxygen, you will eventually pass out. If that situation continues, you will eventually die. How long it take to do wither depends on many factors too numerous to mention here.

Effect of C02 over time


Given the information listed above even if the resources were available to create a rebreather from nearly scratch it would only be effective for as long as I was able to add oxygen into the system. So, short of having an air tank handy, how would one generate oxygen? One way would be to use electrolysis to separate hydrogen from oxygen in water. While this would generate Oxygen it also creates hydrogen, a highly explosive gas. This Wikipedia page on electrolysis details how much electricity would be needed and how much of each gas would be generated. Conveniently enough this process would need water that is capable of conducting a current, salt water would be able to do just that.

Generating hydrogen and oxygen without a way to capture and separate the two would mean that you would end up breathing both into your lungs. The would not cause you a problem but hydrogen on the other hand is more dangerous.

Hydrogen isn’t poisonous, but if you should breathe pure hydrogen you could die of asphyxiation simply because you’ll be deprived of oxygen. Worse, you won’t necessarily know that you’re breathing hydrogen because it’s invisible, odorless and flavorless — much like oxygen.

So in addition to building a contraption to capture and clean exhaled gases, an oxygen generating device  would need to be built. if it also happened to generate hydrogen you would need a way to store the hydrogen without oxidizing it or causing it to explode.

Would it be possible to build all of these items form scratch? yes, would they be worth the risks to do without it being an extreme survival situation? no. the only time it would make sense to build such a device would be as a test or proof of concept and even then such an item could be potentially fatal.

The good news is that companies make cans of breathable air, for example:http://www.spareair.com/

I am not affiliated in any way with the above company and found them through a Google search, there are others as well.  Carrying a can of spare air could be a consideration for anyone that lives in areas where the air may become unbreathable for short stretches. For me however I don’t believe I’ll be adding it to my BOB any time soon. Your mileage may vary though.



References/ outside links:



First Aid Kit Considerations

Recently my son and I went primitive camping. The kind of camping where you take everything you need in and take everything you took in out. As we were preparing our packs we went through the usual lists of items to take and deciding if we really needed this or that or could make do with just one. We packed all of the basics you might expect like clothing, shelter, food, water, etc… We also packed a few extras like flashlights, wind up radios, multi-tools, water shoes, swim shorts and gold panning gear.

– Side note, part of the reason that we camped where we did was to get some practice with gold panning. –

When I packed the first aid kit I considered this a necessity item and packed it promptly. Thankfully ended up not needing it but like many of the things I brought I would have it and not need it than need it and not have it.

I performed a cursory check to see what the first aid kit contained and was satisfied with its contents. The first aid kit had the usual bandages, gauze, antibiotic creams and anti-itch slaves, etc… What I should have done was make an inventory list and place it in the kit as well to make it easier to track what I have used and what would need replaced as well as having expiration dates listed in one spot so I could tell what needed replaced. Several components in a first aid kit can expire and while the item itself if not bad, the seal that keeps it sanitary may have broken down and it can no longer be counted on. In an emergency, I am going to use expired gauze and such but the components of a medical kit are usually not too expensive to replace.

Basic Components of a First Aid Kit

According to the American Red Cross there are several items that any first aid kit should contain. The below list is direct from the red cross website.

  1. 2 absorbent compress dressings (5 x 9 inches)
  2. 25 adhesive bandages (assorted sizes)
  3. 1 adhesive cloth tape (10 yards x 1 inch)
  4. 5 antibiotic ointment packets (approximately 1 gram)
  5. 5 antiseptic wipe packets
  6. 2 packets of aspirin (81 mg each)
  7. 1 blanket (space blanket)
  8. 1 breathing barrier (with one-way valve)
  9. 1 instant cold compress
  10. 2 pair of non-latex gloves (size: large)
  11. 2 hydrocortisone ointment packets (approximately 1 gram each)
  12. Scissors
  13. 1 roller bandage (3 inches wide)
  14. 1 roller bandage (4 inches wide)
  15. 5 sterile gauze pads (3 x 3 inches)
  16. 5 sterile gauze pads (4 x 4 inches)
  17. Oral thermometer (non-mercury/nonglass)
  18. 2 triangular bandages
  19. Tweezers
  20. First aid instruction booklet

In addition to the list above you will also want to ensure that you include personal items such as medication that you need, phone numbers of doctors and personal contacts, and a set of spare glasses if you wear glasses.

Optional Components of a first Aid Kit

In addition to the basic components there are several items that should be strongly considered to be included. This list is not exhaustive but contains some things that you may want to include in your kit. Your personal kit should be different and personalized to you needs.

1. A list of any allergies that you have
2. Your basic personal information like Name and birthdate.
3. RATS Tourniquet
4. QuickClot
5. Suture kit
6. Emergency dental filling kit
7. Eyewash
8. Burn Cream
9. Burn Dressing
10. Headlamp and batteries
11. “Write in the Rain” notepad and pencil
12. Sharpe/Permanent Marker
13. Epi Pen – Or similar emergency allergy response device
14. Scalpel
15. Moleskin
16. Sanitizing wipes
17. superglue

     Some of the extras above are things you would find in a Trauma kit. There are many more items that you could include but it depends on the things that you will be doing. The kit described above would not be enough for a search and rescue operation but would maybe be too much for a camping trip if you put all the extras in there. First Aid Kits should be readily available in your home, car, and workplace. The kit you keep in your car may need to be adjusted as some things may not store well in the changing heat/cold conditions of the car.

The most important thing is that you should consider the most likely scenarios you may face and try to prepare for those first and build your first aid kit around the expected hazards. Always keep your first aid kit handy and up to date. Be sure that your medications are current and that you set a schedule for checking the kit and rotating the supplies out.


Day 30 #100DaysofFitness

In the last 10 days I have worked out both in the home gym and in the real world. I have hiked some hills, dug for a septic tank, moved new gym equipment from someone’s basement to my own (maybe 700 lbs), and several other physical fitness related activities. I haven’t taken the time to post about them all but believe me it’s been exhausting. The below post is one I just shared to the Facebook page. Be sure to like http://facebook.com/outoftheboxsurvival


Had a big week, lots of activity and little time to post about it. I hope to have a blog update out shortly. For now keep your eyes and ears open to the current events stacking up.


More and more often I see things in the news that make me thankful that I prep. One of my most recent changes was to move my personal fitness and health higher up the priority list. All the canned goods and ammo in the world won’t do me much good in the event of congestive heart failure or even just a mild case of the flu if doctors suddenly become hard to get a hold of.


By investing time in my fitness level now I will be better able to carry those bug out bags, build those shelters, hike those miles that can carry me to safety as well as being better able to assist others. Prepping is a community activity and the better prepared we as a community are the better our chances and those around us.


I’m currently working on developing a workout routine that takes into account the different challenges that could be faced if the SHTF. I’m looking forward to working out the kinks and making it as effective as possible before I share the plan contents. Some martial arts, some strength, some cardio, all pepper mentality.


Suggestions for exercises are welcome. If you have a suggestion comment it or message it to me with what it should be called, how it is performed and how it relates to prepping/survivalism.


Thanks and as always, stay prepared!

Day 20 #100DaysOfFitness

Upper body workout came sooner than expected. I have some equipment that I can use for what I need but only for a short time. The last time I was regularly using my weight set I found that I progressed beyond the maximum weight and needed to get more creative with my routine. My goal isn’t to be able to lift a Volkswagen or anything like that, it’s more about getting leaner and building up my body’s ability to do more work over time aka endurance.

I have been taking a slow apprach after what happened to my leg, I don’t want to injury my upper body. As far as my leg day, I cannot do squats or calf raises with my calf the way it is so I will need to concentrate on leg extensions mostly with a few other things here and there. 4 weeks should cover my healing time but we will see.

Today I lifted light weight with normal reps. You don’t always go to battle with the army that you want, you go with the army you have. I could wait and see what Craigslist or eBay deal I could scoop up for a new weight bench and Olympic weights but I shouldn’t waist that time since I do have something I can use for now. The bench is a little shake and not designed for the weights I have but it works and I’m not pressing 300 lbs so I think it’ll hold just fine.

I did some preacher curls, military presses, bench press and modified butterfly press. Right now the weight is pretty light as I am conditioning my body and attempting to rebuild proper form. Without proper for on the light weights you will have a greater chance of hurting yourself when you have heavier weights. Safety is important when conducting a workout, especially in my case where I’m in the basement and everyone else is asleep. I don’t have a spotter and so I have to be sure to know my limits.

The last 20 days have been an eye opening experience. 20% of the way to 100 days, it has gone by pretty quick. I had planned to add strength training into the routine in another 10 days but had to adjust my planning due to tearing my calf muscle (lightly). Once these 4 weeks are up, approximately day 40, I should be able to alternate running with strength training. Around that time I’ll also begin being more mindful of my calories, macronutrents and maybe look into some supplements.

The ability to adjust on the fly to changing conditions is a skill everyone needs, especially peppers and survivalists.