182220_10151221079641744_1216806813_nEver since I was a kid, I can remember being fascinated by the idea of emergency rescue (Rescue 911 anyone?), wilderness medicine, navigation, and living a subsistence lifestyle. I’ve never fully focused on any one of these interests, but I have always sought to elevate my level of knowledge and experience in them. Doing so has taken various forms over my life, whether it be taking a multi-day wilderness survival course, meeting an idol of mine in Les Stroud (pictured, 2012), seriously considering training as an EMT (I went to grad school instead), or continuously studying topographical maps. The one thing I can say has been consistent throughout my life is the desire to be prepared. Some might say it’s a desire to never be helpless or pure paranoia, but I’m a firm believer that only you are responsible for your own well-being in a large scale crisis… at least for awhile. You needn’t look any farther than Hurricane Katrina for evidence of that.

Why am I telling you this? The honest answer is probably because the term “prepper” has a negative connotation, to me, as a result of popular culture and I don’t like being labeled as one. I very much like to be perceived as prepared, but I definitely don’t see myself as one of the massive stockpilers portrayed on TV. If you’ve made it this far, that means you either enjoy reading banal backstories or are interested in my Cheat Sheet of Reasonable Preparations. Without further ado, here’s my list of things I keep on hand in a semi-structured order. The good news about this list is many items have very practical applications beyond sitting on a shelf waiting for the Really Big One. If it matters, I love research and researched most everything on this list for weeks or months before adding it to our inventory.

  • Water – The only thing you really need, in many geographies, to survive a month. I think the recommendation is a gallon/day per person; we keep a case on hand per… for starters.
  • LifeStraw and Grayl purifier – Two great items to ensure you have access to drinking water if you’re on the move or your supply runs out. These both have very practical applications if you find yourself in the outdoors or traveling to countries with questionable infrastructure, respectively.
  • Food – This is the one area I will admit to needing to focus more on. I used to keep MREs stocked, but have not restocked since we moved. A case of these is good for years and can easily feed two people for a week… or more, if you ration. They also have those emergency food buckets and/or freeze dried foods, but I haven’t looked into them that much. Cycle them out every few years when you go camping or on road trips to keep them current.
  • Camp Stove, Extra Gas, and Camp Cook Set – Other than a grill, all our cooking methods are electric. They’re not only a must for campers, they serve as a great backup during a multi-day power outage.
  • PowerPot – This one isn’t a necessity, but I like it as an addition in our digital age. We do not have a landline and, if the phones work but power is out, we will need a way to charge our phones. What’s not to like about charging your phone while boiling water for your morning coffee?
  • Emergency Radio – We use a handheld GPS and radio that we bought years ago for traveling. I like this version because you can use it to navigate if your cell phone or the internet is dead, you can communicate with people miles away (to call for help), and it has NOAA emergency alerts. You don’t need to go this fancy, as there are many decent models that will also charge a cell phone for <$50.
  • GoTenna – Chalk this one up to living in a technical age, too. This pair of devices (along with our phones) will allow Melissa and I to communicate any time, including when the grid has failed, by sending text messages and our location. Once they actually ship, we will likely carry these in our backpacks/purses so we can find each other if something goes bad. Bonus points for allowing us to communicate if we get separated in the wilderness during a hike or while traveling remote parts of a foreign country.
  • Generator10 Gauge Extension, and Splitter – This is one of those things you don’t need until you really do. Power outages in Seattle are not uncommon due to strong winds and who the heck knows what an earthquake will do to our grid. Some people were without power for a week+ during the last major earthquake and I don’t like the idea of going through the same thing. I made sure to pick one that had enough wattage to run a handful of appliances, including a space heater, and a heavy enough extension cord as not to lose too much power along the way.
  • Sleeping Bags, Pads, and Tent – The primary use is camping, but… yeah.
  • Tarp, Rain Ponchos, and Emergency Blankets – You can’t always depend on a bulky tent and/or sleeping bag to keep you warm and dry. We keep emergency blankets spread all over the place, especially our cars, because you can never be too careful. Don’t forget the bungee cords and rope.
  • 12 Hour Glow Sticks , Maglite, Headlamp, and Battery Powered Lantern – Your fire department doesn’t want you to use candles and these all have specialized uses that won’t burn your house down. Yes, that 10 year old flashlight in your junk drawer will help, but you can do better.
  • Shovel, Axe/Hatchet, Leatherman, and Bladed Tools – Humans did a pretty good job with these during the Iron Age and technology has come a ways since then. I actually carry the linked Leatherman in my pocket every, single, day because it’s a fantastically versatile tool. Do yourself a favor, carry something with you when you can and keep the bigger stuff handy.
  • Waterproof Watch and Compass – Yeah, I get it… your phone does all this. What happens when you drop your phone off a cliff while taking that sweet selfie? It’s good to know where in space and time you are without relying on a single electronic device that can fail any number of ways. While I’m at it, consider keeping a road atlas and localized topographic/trail maps on hand.
  • Propane Torch and Fire Starters – Waterproof matches are good; torches and magnesium (or firesteel) are way better. Keeping warm and cooking your food is so much easier when you actually have a flame.
  • First Aid Kit – We have four, not including those in cars; all for for different uses. I don’t like repacking things, so we have one each for day trips/hikes, travel (linked), a larger one for home, and finally a robust camping version that stays packed with that gear – which serves as our emergency cache. Do not underestimate the value of sterile bandages.
  • Cash Money – I’m one of the few people left in this country that always carries cash. I feel naked when I don’t have “enough” in my pocket as it’ll still be good when you need water and power is out at 7-11. I’ve considered buying into precious metals for bartering should the dollar go to hell, but I haven’t made that leap yet. I know reasonable people who have though, so it’s not as far out there as it seems.
  • Guns and Ammo – I purposely saved the most controversial item(s) for last as not everyone is a fan of firearms. I like them as a hobby, but I also appreciate their value as a preparedness item. Whether it be protecting your family from two and four legged creatures or securing yourself food in a time of crisis, I don’t think I’d feel fully prepared without at least one. I like the flexibility a handgun, shotgun, and rifle offer as a trio; I recognize that’s a tall order for many people. Guns were very much verboten in my childhood home and I didn’t own one until my 30s, so unfamiliarity can be overcome. If you simply do not want a gun in your home, I respect that choice. At least consider keeping some home defense spray handy as a proxy. They serve as a good non-lethal option and ours serves double duty as bear spray when we’re hiking in the woods.

So, that’s it. It may seem like a lot of stuff, but much of it we already owned to suit our somewhat outdoor lifestyle. You can start on almost any budget and you can take solace in the fact you’ll think no price is too great if you actually need any of this. An important thing worth mentioning is to keep your things relatively close together (if not all in the same place) and organized in such a way that you won’t have to think about it. You won’t want to go digging through your junk drawer if a volcano, terrorist attack, earthquake, or hurricane threatens your safety. Most importantly, have fun. I think doing all this is great fun – I’m always happy to field questions or help, if you don’t.

I will, on occasion, create follow up posts as a reference for others. You can find them below.

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One Response to “Preparedness”

  1. Chris.Derecola » Blog » GPS Maps Says:

    […] Garmin GPS receiver.” It also, conveniently, meets our needs for both outdoor life and emergency preparedness. […]

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