Monday, October 29, 2012

Thoughts on My Emergency Essentials

So another weather emergency is about to hit the east coast of the United States.  Odd having a hurricane in October, especially one that is moving into the Northeast which has in the past been a safe haven against hurricanes.  With the mountains, rivers, lakes all over the northeast which are able to be moved around lots of damage comes from mud, water, trees falling etc.  Many are rushing to the stores to buy things that they don't keep on hand normally, like bottled water, matches, batteries etc.  Its cold up here too, so how with no electricity and lots of snow do people stay warm in their homes without electricity?  As an outdoors person, I have always when preparing for a trip considered "Being Prepared" and making sure I had the 10 Essentials with me.

First, for those not familiar with them, what are the 10 Essentials?  The 10 Essentials are items/gear you might need in the wilderness to survive if stuck out there unexpectedly.  Generally, its because you've lost your way, found yourself out past dark, been injured or someone with you has been injured or you get caught in dangerous weather conditions and need to stop.  This link will take you to an informative article concerning these: .

So, what can this list teach us about preparation at home?  My humble opinion is that many of us who are outdoor people have a good amount of these things at home already.  The national site for emergency preparation is very good and can be found at: .   These guys know what they are talking about and although I have been pretty cavalier about making an emergency kit, I have always had an idea in my head about what I would need to grab out of my backpacking supplies in order to be ready to leave quickly, if necessary.  

Here is what "I" have in my backpacking closet or car already that I could use if caught in an emergency situation.

A couple of sleeping bags rated 0 to 45 degrees.  However, if you have quilts, blankets, sheets you can make your own sleeping bag by layering together and tying with rope to contain it in a waterproof stuff sack or doubled garbage bags.  It is VERY important to always keep your sleeping gear dry.  It is your best friend against hypothermia if kept dry.  Down is light and small, synthetic fill bags are sometimes better when wet so pick one that is best suited for your personal skill level and situation.  I have both.

Garbage bags are useful as vapor barriers to keep you warm or even can be used as an emergency shelter or raincoat. They can be double bagged and filled with water or used to collect clean rain water.

Sleeping pads can be used as ground protection against the cold ground, laid on floor of friends houses provide some comfort or used as rafts if suddenly you find yourself in the water.

Water filtration "stuff" like chlorine dioxide pills (Aquamira, Katahdyn pills etc), water filters or purifiers from Katadyn, MSR, Steripen etc may be used with rain water to get  your gallon of water/person/day.  Water is always tricky especially if in an area that has been flooded and has been standing.  So do your research about how to handle water that is stagnant or has dead things in it.  Hopefully, you will get away to a safer place and be able to purify running water.  Make sure that you have water bladders, Nalgene bottles, milk jugs or other containers available that will hold your clean water.

In a normal backpacking kit, I would always have a map and compass.  So, transferring this thought to your car and a home emergency always carry a local map and a national map and a non-electric compass.  In bad weather, electronic gadgets can fail/not work/run out of juice, etc so have on hand and learn how to read a map and use a compass.  I always have a state road map, an atlas and will probably add local topo maps.  You can buy state maps that have some elevation details on them from a company called Benchmark or the maps I am familiar with are the Delorme Gazetters.  Make sure your compass has an option for adjusting declination and if you have NO idea what I'm talking about then find someone who does and have them teach you how to use.  In a survival situation, I will always have an advantage because of this knowledge. 

Like any good backpacker, I have a plethora of flashlights/headlamps. I'd probably take a combination of several of my favorites.  I have a small lamp (not a bping model) and a small handheld flashlight in my car which is BRIGHT.  Both would go into any kit.  I have my old reliable Petzel headlamp and my new small Petzel which blinks.  All use AA batteries except the small Petzel making battery buying really easy. Combined together they are all bright and have many uses.  If possible, I also have a Coleman lamp....keep supplies for these with your emergency kit...and grab it if you can.  Coleman fuel does age and get junky so if you have a can in your garage that has been there for awhile...make sure you replace it every year.  (this fuel gets crudy and stuff settles causing blockages in fuel line)

In my gear closet are many backpacking stoves.  Alcohol stoves, propane/butane bping stoves and in the basement a white gas Coleman backpacking stove. (garage holds a large 2 burner Coleman stove).  In an emergency I'd probably take a canister stove with canisters, my favorite TinMan alcohol stove set with HEET and the small white gas stove.  All are portable, small and able to be carried on my back.  White gas is easily obtainable, as is HEET making the canister stove the first one I'd dump if fuel became unavailable.  However, in any emergency the knowledge of how to build an efficient cooking fire using wood is a valuable skillAlso, needed would be at least 1 small backpacking pot or a decent stainless steel one that would fit on a small stove or fire.  Plastic handles are no-nos, they will melt over a fire.  Make sure you have at least 1 bandana living in your pots to be used as a washrag or potholder.  If you have a pot gripper, good for you, throw it in...I don't take it backpacking but in an emergency could be useful.

Sharp, sheath knife, my tiny Swiss Army knife with scissors and probably a Multi-tool (which I NEVER carry bping) would be in any kit.  Along with a sharpening stone which I NEED to learn to use.  If I need to take to the bush...I'd grab the Sheath knife and Multi-tool.  

Let me just say a little word about bugout clothing.  I'd not wear my bluejeans or cotton t-shirts exclusively.  Like in any adventure, I always wear nylon backpacking or exercise wear because it dries quickly, is easily washed, durable, can be layered over or under things to keep warm because its thin not bulky.  Staying warm in an emergency is a key component to survival and cotton simply takes forever to dry and does not insulate.  In the backpacking community we often laugh about how, "Cotton Kills!" and really it can.  You need to have clothes that will dry quickly.  Pick materials like wool, fleece, microfiber, synthetic down or down for outerwear.  Have a combo of thick and thin gloves, hats, balaclavas, mittens and maybe some silnylon mitts to cover hands.  A sun hat from Sunday Afternoon hats is my favorite hat but Outdoor Research makes a waterproof hat that many like too.  Don't forget lightweight raincoat (silnylon, Dry Ducks or Marmot/MSR make decent lite rainwear)  A pair of rain pants are very useful.  Don't buy that heavy stuff...get some good rainwear that will NOT let you down and that have some breathablility. 

So why would I take my backpacking gear with me instead of the stuff that FEMA says I should take.  Well, its a lot smaller and lighter.  If I have to leave my car, its portable.  A Coleman 2 burner stove is not.  The bping gear gives me more options and can go with me if I have to get a boat, helicopter, plane or airboat ride so I don't have to leave all my stuff in my car.  So, have a bugout, emergency plan that has the best emergency survival stuff which goes into your car but then a backpack full of your pared down, live in a shelter stuff that you can grab out of your car and go, if necessary. Don't forget to have your most basic stuff contained in plastic waterproof plastic bags, dry bags, ziplocks or stuff sacks.  Dry is better. Your gear in your pack can be double bagged with garbage bags. OH and do NOT forget to carry a massive supply of Duct Tape.

I have not talked about first aid kits because you need to follow the rules with this one.  Throw in an emergency blanket or bivy in your first aid kit.  Shelter is another biggie and I'd have my tent, hiking poles and role of plastic or blue plastic tarp with rope in the car. Again, you need to personalize this for your family and remember bottom line portable.  Don't depend upon others to keep you safe and warm.  Even a small child can help by carrying a 2 lb, 8 x 10 ft piece of plastic which can be used by a family of 4 to shelter under.  Don't forget to have CASH and credit cards and your ID information and Passport.  I carry my personal stuff on my person in a neck wallet thing, in a pocket in my pants or in a safe place in my backpack if the bp is on my back. 

Make sure you have clothes for the season which you know will work for you...don't use/take gear with you that is not tested by you so you know how to use it.  (ie dont' go to REI and buy bping stuff and put it into a closet for an emergency..if you are not a bper get with one and have them teach you how to use your equipment) Get out and use your gear, have fun, don't wait for an emergency.   

Ok I could go on forever and there is a lot of info in this post.  I have forgotten important stuff for sure.  I can only include a few ideas that maybe some of you haven't thought about concerning what to have available in an emergency.  My disclaimer is that I am not an emergency planner, I do not play one on TV.  I am not responsible or to be blamed for injuries or death that might occur because you read or didn't read this blog.  Planning is something we all are responsible for and need to personalize.  So, do your own research, take classes, learn new skills.  There is a lot of info on the internet.  I AM an outdoor educator so I have the skills needed to teach anyone about the backpacking gear or outdoor skills that I've talked about above.  Stay safe my friends and if you want me to clarify any of this just email me.