Books & Video

More VDEGs have arrived . . . now includes photo addendum

We've finally received a new shipment of the Vehicle-dependent Expedition Guide. It is essentially the same book as edition 4, with a few minor updates here and there and, importantly, the inclusion of the Expedition Photo Gear addendum, which was formerly a small separate publication. Printed in color (the first time color has appeared in a VDEG edition since the original, collector's-item hardcover), the 16-page addendum is a brief guide to choosing an expedition camera system—and getting the most from it. The price of this "Edition 4.1" will stay $75, despite the additional color section. 

4x4 Driving by Tom Sheppard, Edition 4

How do you review a book to which you made a small, but full-disclosure-needed, contribution? One way might be to simply avoid reviewing the bits you contributed, so that’s what I’m going to try here.

Tom Sheppard’s classic and comprehensive book on four-wheel-drive technique had its genesis in 1993 as the hard-bound The Land Rover Experience—a User’s Guide to Four-wheel Driving, sponsored by the manufacturer. I picked up a 1994 second edition, which I still own. Despite its exclusive focus on Land Rover vehicles, as an exhaustive and authoritative guide to four-wheel-drive technique in general it was like nothing I’d seen. By that time I’d owned a Land Cruiser for 15 years, had negotiated some of the most difficult trails in my region, and was using it to lead sea kayak tours to remote beaches in Mexico, yet many of the lessons—especially those dealing with driving in sand—were instantly useful.

Of course 1994 was the Paleolithic in terms of four-wheel-drive technology. Electronic traction control, then a brand new feature on Range Rovers, barely merited a sixty-word paragraph. Axle differential locks weren’t mentioned (not surprising, given that Land Rover has yet—in 2016—to embrace the feature). Hill-descent control? Electronically disconnectible anti-roll bars? Not even invented yet.

Flash forward to 1999, when Tom’s own nascent one-man publishing company, Desert Winds, took over production of the book, and the title was changed to Off-roader Driving and, in 2006, to Four-by-four Driving. Printing was changed to soft cover and monochrome to hold down the price, but each time the contents were thoroughly updated to explain the latest in four-wheel-drive systems and technology, until in the current, fourth edition, it takes up nearly a third of the book.

Why? As Tom puts it on the back cover, “ITDS.” It’s The Driveline, Stupid. Understanding how your vehicle works—how it converts engine power into traction on the ground, or how it can fail to do so—is absolutely critical knowledge if you want to exploit its full potential. Whenever I hand someone a copy of Four-by-four Driving, I say, “Don’t skip the first two chapters!” From explaining how an open differential works to investigating the astonishing traction-control system of the $250,000 Bentley Bentayga, Tom describes each advance and feature with the thoroughness one would expect from a former RAF test pilot—not sparing the criticism where necessary.

The driving sections, too, are set apart from similar books, chiefly by the overarching Golden Rule practiced by someone who has driven thousands of miles completely off-tracks in the Sahara, solo: Mechanical Sympathy. Everything from accelerating to braking is discussed with consideration for the vehicle as the number one priority. Learn the lessons here and you’ll not only be able to drive places you couldn’t before; you’ll do it with a lack of drama that will mark you as an accomplished operator. The analogy I like to use is of a pool player who has become fairly proficient at the game and shows off by slamming balls into pockets, versus the real pro who drops each ball in with a whisper, and sets his cue ball up perfectly for the next shot. Ascending and descending steep slopes, side slopes, water crossings, ice and snow, rocks, ditches—all covered.

Four-by-four Driving then goes on to a discourse in vehicle recovery, and much of this section I’ll let you critique on your own since I contributed the sections on Hi-Lift jack use and winching. Sheppard, you see, mostly eschews such crutches while playing around solo in the Algerian desert.

There is a further, valuable, advanced driving section, a primer on driving with trailers, and a useful introduction to expedition basics.

Criticism? Okay, a small one: In the last edition of the Vehicle-dependent Expedition Guide Tom allowed me to debate his, um, stubborn adherence to tube-type tires for heavy-duty expedition use. There’s no such second opinion in Four-by-four Driving, so I’ll restate here that I believe tubeless tires have surpassed tubed equivalents for virtually all practical use. A significant majority of tire problems in the field—even in remote regions—involves simple punctures, which with a tubed tire require complete breakdown to repair. A tubeless tire can be durably fixed with a plug in a couple of minutes without even removing the wheel from the vehicle, and if more extensive work is needed a Tyreplier and a set of tire irons will facilitate everything up to and including complete removal from the wheel. Any properly equipped expedition vehicle will be carrying a compressor capable of reseating the beads, so the overall time and effort spent on tire repairs is hugely reduced. There, I did my reviewer’s duty. 

So—okay, I contributed a tiny section; yes, we sell this book on the Exploring Overland site. But Four-by-four Driving is simply too important to ignore for reasons of vested interest. If you are seriously interested in becoming a better backcountry driver, it’s a worthwhile investment. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go, because as I was skimming through the book to review it I found some stuff I, er, need to get caught up on.

$45 well spent. Find it here. Need I add it would make an excellent Christmas Present? 

 

Now it can be told . . .

Bear with me for a bit? Sometime in the early 1980s I happened across an intriguing article in a U.S. four-wheel-drive magazine. In it was a photo of a fellow standing in a sandy expanse of desert, next to a very early Range Rover. A line bisected two words scrawled in the sand: ‘Mali’ and ‘Algeria.’ The fellow leaned on a shovel, apparently the tool used to scribe this middle-of-nowhere border.

That was my introduction to Tom Sheppard, ex-Royal Air Force test pilot and the leader of the first west-to-east crossing of the Sahara Desert, the Joint Services Expedition, in 1975. In the years to come I followed his (frequently solo) excursions through the most isolated regions of the Algerian Sahara, often completely off-tracks. In 1999, when I heard he had published a book called Vehicle-dependent Expedition Guide that would be available at Land Rover dealers, I drove 120 miles to the swank showroom in Scottsdale, and stood in line to pay for a copy behind wealthy urbanite Range Rover buyers picking out Africa-themed spare tire covers.

Fast forward eight or nine years, when I was fortunate enough to work with Tom during my time as editor of Overland Journal. A year or so later, Roseann and I had the opportunity to meet him on a trip to England. To my amazement, there was not a trace of the ex-test-pilot-Sahara-explorer-RGS-medal-winner arrogance I would have expected. Instead, we were welcomed by a quiet, humorous, and steadfastly self-effacing man who doted on the horses and sheep that grazed on the farmland adjacent to his modest cottage. Over the next few visits we became friends.

Fast forward again to 2014. We’d been trying to convice Tom to publish a fourth edition of VDEG (‘veedeg,’ as he and everyone refers to Vehicle-dependent Expedition Guide). The third edition had sold out in half the time he expected. He agreed it was needed—but then sent me a mockup of the proposed cover, which (as you can see from the header image) was a complete shock. 

So now, after seven months of exhaustive research and writing on both Tom’s and my part, I can announce that the fourth edition of Vehicle-dependent Expedition Guide, by Tom Sheppard and Jonathan Hanson (woo hoo!) will be out in mid-May, with copies also available at the Overland Expo. This edition has received the most extensive updating and expanding since the original, with much more content specifically relevant to North American readers than in previous editions. Total content is up by nearly 20 percent—it's now a 600-page book.

Any verbose attempt on my part to explain what an honor this is would be futile. So I’ll just say I’m thrilled and humbled to have contributed in a very minor way to a classic in the field of expedition literature. If you don’t yet own a copy of VDEG, or if you have previous editions and need to complete your collection, please follow this link and put your name on the waiting list. As before, VDEG 4 will be produced by Tom’s one-man publishing enterprise, Desert Winds, and quantities will be limited.

Vehicle-dependent Expedition Guide, fourth edition

VDEG4

It’s confirmed! The fourth edition of Tom Sheppard’s overlanding and expedition travel bible, the Vehicle-dependent Expedition Guide, is coming this spring. 

Since its first iteration in 1999, VDEG, as it’s known colloquially, has been an indispensable resource for anyone considering vehicle-based adventure travel, whether it’s for a family vacation or a six-month scientific expedition. There are over 500 pages of dense information, and multiple photographs, charts, and graphs on virtually every page. Some of the subjects investigated include:

  • Vehicle selection
  • Vehicle modifications and accessories
  • Electrical power
  • Camping equipment
  • Clothing and footwear
  • Cooking and food
  • Water
  • Navigation
  • Communications
  • Shipping
  • Team selection

 . . . and more. Whether you read it end to end (a daunting task!) or refer to relevant chapters as you need them, you’ll find decades of expedition experience from which to learn. 

VDEG1
VDEG3
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Every previous edition of Vehicle-dependent Expedition Guide has sold out, with the result that used or hoarded copies sell for far more than their original price (a fact that annoys Tom and was much of the impetus for the new effort).

The fourth edition is being updated and expanded significantly, and, for the first time, extensive information relevant to North American overlanders is also incorporated. This will certainly be the most comprehensive and useful VDEG yet. However, once again the print run is limited, as Tom Sheppard runs a one-man publishing company. If you’d like to be informed when the book is out, please use this link and add your name and contact information.

For more about Tom Sheppard and the detailed and majestic books he creates, check out the Desert Winds Publishing website.

Need gift ideas for the Overlander in your life?

OVERLAND EXPO IS HERE TO HELP WITH A HANDPICKED LIST: 

Threshold Provisions energy bar subscription (from $12/month)
Remember fruit of the month? Or, worse, fruitcake of the month? This is better. Every month your lucky recipient will receive a selection of four of Threshold Provisions’ delicious, all-natural energy bars (other options are available too—salmon jerky anyone?). Give the gift that keeps on giving energy. 

Somewhere Else Tomorrow DVD ($19)
A beautifully shot story of one man’s journey, not only riding around the world, but making his way as he travels around the world. This film is guaranteed to inspire any rider considering a journey of this kind and might make him re-think how to achieve it.

OutdoorX4 subscription ($25)
Among several good overlanding magazines, OutdoorX4 is the one that most concentrates on simply getting out there and having a wonderful time. You won’t feel like you need some über expedition vehicle to participate. Now starting its second year, each issue gets better.

ADV Moto subscription ($29)
Find the latest industry news and product reviews for adventure motorcycles that will take you to on a weekend ride or around the world. Also indulge in stories from riders who have traveled off the beaten path.

Chaos in Harmony by Alison DeLapp ($49)
An inspirational, lavishly photographed account of Alison’s 16,000-mile solo motorcycle journey from the U.S. to the tip of South America. Aside from a short introduction to each country, Alison lets her images do the talking, and they have a lot to say. Worth of coffee table placement and frequent browsing. 

Tsuga Large Catchall ($55)
While it’s not sexy enough to warrant giant comparison tests, a heavy-duty hold-all-cum shopping bag is one of the most useful items you can have on a long overlanding journey. Groceries, car parts, firewood—you name it, the stout 18-ounce vinyl of the Tsuga will handle it. 

Moto-skiveez Adventure Skiveez ($59)
Long days in the saddle has your rear end begging you for another? Chances are you are wearing a pair of Adventure Skiveez. This innovative riding underwear has padding in all the right places for both on road and aggressive off road riding.

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Equipt/National Luna clip-on 9-LED light ($64)
I have a hard-mount version of this light in the cargo area of my FJ40, and it’s superb. The clip-on version, with a 27-foot cord, is even more versatile. The low (62 lumen) setting will light a dining table; click to high (176 lumen) to light the entire dining area. 

Mosko Moto 30L waterproof scout duffle ($69)
For the minimalist packer or small bike enthusiast, this duffle does the trick. Not only will it keep your items dry during all types of weather, it features an innovative strap system so it doubles as a backpack or shoulder bag off the bike.

Coyote Enterprises Automatic Tire Deflators ($80)
An improvement on the original excellent Staun deflators, the CE deflators will automatically deflate four tires at once, to a pressure you preset between 3 and 50 psi. Airing down is the best thing you can do to your vehicle to enhance traction, reduce trail erosion, and improve comfort. 

Surefire 6PX Pro ($90)
I’ve been using Surefire lights for 20 years and have never had a failure—including one lost on a dirt road, run over for a week, then recovered. The 6PX Pro is a dual-output light (the only kind to get in my opinion) that combines a brilliant 320-lumen high beam with a camp-chore-oriented 15-lumen low beam that will last 45 hours on one set of lithium batteries. The only flashlight you need. 

KinderRider Explorer motorcycle jacket ($100)
Kids deserve the same protection you do on a motorcycle. But they grow so fast it could get expensive buying new jackets every six months. The KinderRider Explorer features expandable sleeves to keep up for at least a year or two. Fully featured with vents, a thermal liner, and CE armor. 

REV'IT! Sand Pro gloves ($119)
After spending a day gripping handlebars either on or off road, you know what comfortable hand protection is. REV’IT gets that with the Sand Pro gloves and offers a flexible and durable glove. 

Canyon Coolers Outfitter 22 ($120)
You’ll never realize how inefficient cheap ice chests are until you try a good one. Whether you’re out for a day trip and don’t need the weight and bulk of a fridge, or just want an extra cooler in the cab, the Outfitter 22 will hold all you need—and keep it chilled with minimal ice—while not taking up a lot of room. 

Anti-Gravity Batteries Microstart XP-1 ($159)
Simply put, this absurdly small lithium-ion battery/power supply is a miraculous product. We’ve jump-started a 460 cubic-inch V8 with one, and a Tacoma V6 three times in a row. We’ve even hooked three of them in series and produced a beautiful field weld (NOT recommended by the maker). Sure, you can recharge your iPhone/iPad etc. too, but its real value is insurance against ever getting stranded by a dead battery. 

Mojoe Outfitter’s griddle ($195)
You know the trouble with most camp griddles. They’re too damn small. The Mojoe Outfitter’s grill solves that with over three square feet of cooking surface. It can be used on a standard Weber charcoal grill, above a propane heat source, or, on its screw-in legs, over an open fire. It’s 24 inches in diameter (and a full 1/4 inch thick) but stores flat—all 40 pounds worth of it. Titanium option? 

American Camp Chair ($230)
For 20 years Roseann and I never found a camp chair that was as comfortable as our old South African tripolinas. The American Camp Chair—actually prototyped from one of those South African chairs—is superior in every way: better materials, more rigid setup, and more comfortable. The king is dead; long live the king. 

Giant Loop Fandango Tank Bag PRO ($230)
Not your average tank bag. Made for the traveler in mind, the Fandango PRO has upgraded features for keeping your electronics organized and charged, as well as a concealed document pocket for easy access at the borders. 

Baja Designs Squadron Pro LED auxiliary lights ($220 - $350)
Whether you want more light down the trail for a motorcycle or a four-wheel-drive vehicle, there is a Squadron Pro that will fit and hugely increase your margin of safety at night. Unlike earlier generations of LEDs, these cast an even, purple-haze-free carpet of brightness. Best of all, with a simple lens switch you can choose between fog, driving, and spot patterns. 

Overland Experience package ($285 / $490)
Give an Overland Expo full-tuition education package, which includes access to hundreds of specialized classes taught by world-class instructors to help prepare for the trip of a lifetime Custom Overland Expo gift certificates for any amount are also available.

Fly fishing lessons with Hunter Banks ($375/day for two people)
Unlike some fly fishing schools, where you start on a lawn or pond, With Hunter Banks you’ll be wading in a beautiful North Carolina river and catching fish right from the start, with an expert guide coaching your technique. Prepare to be (you know this is coming) hooked. All equipment is included. 

DeLorme inReach Explorer ($379)
More than a way to keep in contact with your loved ones, this satellite communicator now has built in navigation. In addition to sending and receiving messages, you can view your route using waypoints and share it with those at home.

My Camp Kitchen Outdoorsman ($579)
Nothing will make your camp feel like something out of an old Winchester ad than a proper chuck box, and the Outdoorsman is proper. The Baltic birch (or okoume) marine plywood construction is tough, but adds a nice organic touch, and the interior will hold all the vintage or modern cooking gear you own. Feeling handy? Buy it as a kit and save $175. 

Tonto Trails Expedition Vehicle Rental (from $2,000)
Thinking about investing in a Sportsmobile or Four Wheel Camper? Or is your significant other unsure about this overlanding thing? Rent a fully equipped rig from Tonto Trails first, and explore some of the best of the western U.S. from their base in Durango, Colorado. Virtually everything you’ll need except food and clothing is included. 

Bivouac Trailers M.O.A.B. Fort (from $5,695)
The base prices of some adventure trailers can leave you pondering whether to just buy a second four-wheel-drive vehicle to drive behind your main ride. Bivouac’s Fort offers a heavy-duty chassis and sturdy box but keeps the architecture simple to hold down the price. Of course a full range of options lets you accessorize as far as your taste and budget allow—add a tent, kitchen, water tank, electrical system, and more if you choose. 

Seven Wonders of Peru motorcycle tour (from $5,995)
If you have always wanted to explore the Amazon, ride the heights of the Andes, and see the driest desert in the world, you're in luck – Peru has it all. No better place to take a 17-day motorcycle adventure packed with diverse scenery, culture and history than with Peru Motors. 

EarthCruiser (from $165,000)
If Hammacher Schlemmer sends you not just a catalog, but a hand-signed Christmas card as well, perhaps you’d consider giving someone on your list a fully self-contained, globally capable EarthCruiser. Designed to fit into a standard shipping container to be transported to the continent of your dreams (or all of them), the EarthCruiser’s roof then raises to transform it into a spacious and comfortable home away from home—no, that’s wrong: The EarthCruiser isn’t a substitute; it is a traveling home. 

Vehicle-dependent Expedition Guide: fourth edition?

I remember waiting in line to pay for my first copy of Tom Sheppard’s Vehicle-dependent Expedition Guide, at the decidedly upscale Land Rover dealership in Scottsdale, Arizona. It was 1998, the first, hardbound edition of the book had recently been released, and I’d driven 120 miles with the express purpose of securing a copy. At the counter in front of me, a woman was agonizing (trust me, that’s the right word) over whether to buy the giraffe or rhino-illustrated spare tire cover for her new Discovery II. She vacillated for at least five minutes while I flipped through the thick book, skimming Sheppard’s exhaustive sections on vehicle selection and modification, communications, loading and lashing, navigation, and team selection. I had decided I would definitely not select Disco woman for any team I led, and was about to suggest aloud that, since she had dropped $40,000 on the vehicle, why not buy both the stupid $30 tire covers, when the giraffe won out. (“He’s cuter.”) The gulf between her universe and that in the book I held could have been measured in parsecs.

Back home, I discovered that within the 500-plus pages of the VDEG (say “Veedeg”if you wish to be counted among the cognoscenti) was virtually everything one might need to know to plan, organize, and conduct a vehicle-dependent expedition, whether of 100 or 10,000 miles duration. The stunning level of detail was what one would expect if the author were, say, a former test pilot for the Royal Air Force, or had, for example, led the first lateral crossing of the Sahara Desert in prototype Forward-control Land Rovers, or had driven a further several tens of thousands of miles in that same desert, much of it solo and completely off-tracks. All of which was true of Squadron Leader Tom Sheppard, whose articles I’d been reading for almost two decades. Random example from Section 2.6: two full-page spreads on engine oil characteristics, service categories, and labeling. It seemed excessive—until you realized that oil is quite literally the blood of your vehicle’s engine. There were similar in-depth investigations into wicking fabrics, camping stoves, high-frequency radios, electrical loads, water purification—on and on—plus extensive sections on shipping, 4WD systems, provisioning and cooking, and navigation.

But it wasn’t all technical jargon. The book was liberally sprinkled with personal anecdotes and photos from four decades of exploration. For several weeks my writing schedule suffered as I detoured into Tom Sheppard’s world, and learned as much as I ever did from any university textbook—while having much more fun. 

Copies of the original VDEG now sell for hundreds of dollars on eBay (a fact that rankles Tom, who has since become a friend). Through his one-man publishing company, Desert Winds, he has since produced a second and third edition, bound in paperback and printed in black and white to keep them affordable for both Tom and readers. Each was subjected to meticulous updating to reflect advances in vehicles, communications, GPS technology, and countless other details—and even these have been subject to price-gouging. (The original was also published in association with Land Rover; succeeding editions have been independent efforts, arguably allowing Tom more scope when discussing vehicles.)

The third edition of Vehicle-dependent Expedition Guide recently sold out. Tom originally thought (swore!) it would be the last, but now he is considering a fourth edition, which would once again be thoroughly updated. If, like me, you own every previous edition, you’ll certainly want this one. If you don’t have a copy of any of them, your overlanding library is tragically incomplete. 

Now, here’s the thing: Whether a fourth edition comes to pass is entirely up to you. Tom is tallying the number of people on his email waiting list to determine if he can commit the substantial time and energy to another round of test-pilot-level scrutiny and revisions. You can bet I’m on the list; if you wish to be as well, send an email to him at mail@desertwinds.co.uk. Use a suitably pleading tone, but gently remind him of his duty to the worldwide overlanding community. That works really well on retired RAF squadron leaders.

Desert Winds—i.e. Tom—also publishes several other books, some useful, some merely lovely. You can order them directly from him here

And an update: It seems Tom's printer found a box of VDEG ed. 3 in a corner. Available while supplies last, probably not long. Then it's on to VDEG ed.4!

New VDEG imminent . . .

I just received this cryptic note from an unnamed source somewhere in the U.K.:

"Desert Winds Publishing (i.e. Tom Sheppard) is pleased (relieved) to announce to its patient, faithful customers and enquirers – some of whom started the list last July – that VDEG3 (otherwise known as the new, third edition of the 500-page Vehicle-dependent Expedition Guide), has been proofed and should soon be available. At the same price as before (36 GB pounds) – and not through Amazon, or ‘used’ at four times that figure. (Postage: UK £5.85; EU £9.50, elsewhere, inc US, £16.00) 

‘Relieved’ because the techno-gremlins chose the 11th hour to attack the layout software, calling on the true spirit, tenacity and ingenuity of overlanders  to get things back on track. Desert Winds Customer Service Department (i.e. Tom Sheppard) quotes their Chief Proof Checker (i.e. Tom Sheppard) as saying, ‘Yes, quite a few of the pictures are now the right way up and most of the text has been back-translated from the Indo-Iranian zabani-tadjik calligraphy’. 

 On stage, smartly dressed in a black turtle-neck, Desert Winds’ CEO (yes … ) thanked the small distinguished army of back-order e-mailers for their patience and asked them to keep an eye on the www.desertwinds.co.uk  website which Desert Winds Webmaster (you guessed it … ) will be updating very soon."

A Desert Winds spokesman, questioned by a lady with a clip-board, said, "No, the actual book won't be as large as the sheets on the table in the foreground."Just in case you've been living under a rock in the Sahara (or are new to the overlanding world, in which case you're forgiven), Tom's Vehicle Dependent Expedition Guide is the bible of overlanding, and a copy should be in the library of anyone remotely interested in vehicle-dependent travel. It is, quite simply, superb in its authority, scope, and humor (i.e. humour), and is the standard by which all other books on the subject are and always will be judged. The fact that it can (and can only) be purchased directly from the writer/publisher/proof checker/customer-service representative is a lovely bonus in this day of Amazon.com facelessness. Of all the high-quality and/or indispensable items I try to discover and recommend on OT&T, you'll thank me for none more than this one. In case you missed the link in the text, it's available HERE

The analog iPhone

Ready for the bio-apocalypse: a steel-framed handgun and the amazing Pocket Ref

In the speculative-fiction novel Directive 51, author John Barnes postulates an alarmingly plausible near-future in which all plastics, synthetic rubbers, and oil-based fuels have been destroyed by maliciously created self-replicating nanobots and bioengineered microorganisms. All modern communication, transportation, and just about everything else is brought to a halt, and the world is plunged into chaos. The most advanced technology possible peaks at steam engines and vacuum tubes. The book is so believable that Roseann, normally a both-feet-on-the-ground skeptic, mentioned casually after reading it, “You know, it wouldn’t hurt to have a few cases of canned vegetables stored here . . .”

Given our remote home site, dependable well, and abundant wildlife (not to mention free-ranging cattle), we’d be in better shape to survive a bio-apocalypse than 99 percent of the U.S. population. And I feel about 99 percent better equipped to do so since my friend Bruce handed me a copy of Thomas Glover’s Pocket Ref.

I’ve used various one-subject pocket references before (wiring, plumbing), but this tiny 864-page book covers an array of subjects that is simply stunning. Look through the index and pick an uncommon letter—say, W. Now pick one entry out of the 31 listed under W—say, weather. Glover’s Pocket Ref will tell you the following things about weather: Beaufort wind scale; cloud types; cold water survival time; dew points; Fujita-Pearson tornado intensity scale; heat/humidity factors; hurricane intensity scale; ice thickness safety; weather map symbols, and wind chill factors. Over in the Fs, under formulas, you’ll find a staggering 105 entries, from Ohm’s law to antenna length to load on a wire rope or sling to sound intensity to voltage drop vs. wire length, diameter, and current.

Knots will still work - but better stock up on sisal rope.Other entries: knots—lots of them—treatment for a sucking chest wound; steel tubing specifications; maximum floor joist spans; simple and compound interest factors; area formulas, solvent types; and I could go on for another 863 pages. Need to calculate how much water is left in a cylindrical tank of known diameter and length? No problem. Need to know the rank of the uniformed military personnel who show up after the apocalypse to declare martial law? No problem. Do you have a hard time remembering the geologic time scale (did the Miocene or the Pliocene come first?)—no problem. I can now quickly figure the BTUs available in a cord of Douglas fir, or the clamping force possible with a 15mm 8.8 bolt, or the proper hand signals for a crane and hoist operator. Amazing. 

A reference book such as this shouldn’t be entertaining—its mission is to promulgate information. But it’s fascinating to simply browse through the Pocket Ref and see what you can learn. Take my advice: Buy one and just toss it in your glove box—if you come out one morning and find your tires have melted into blobs of bio-slime, you’ll be ready to face the future.

If someone in the New World wants to sell you a firkin of home-brew, you'll want to know just how much that is.

Available on Amazon—as long as Amazon still operates . . .