Posts Tagged ‘outdoors’


Saturday, September 26th, 2015

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.

I Wanna Move

Friday, May 20th, 2011

I’ve arrived at a time in my life where I’m ready to move on. I’ve always wanted to be “somewhere different” and dreamed of living overseas, but I’ve finally gotten to a point where I know exactly what I’m looking for and why where we currently live isn’t it. Yes, I am quite aware of my pronoun usage and you’ll be happy to know Melissa and I (more or less) agree on all these points – I just don’t like to speak for others.  Here’s what I know…

I want to live within walking and biking distance to much of the things I like to do. This means walking to our favorite restaurant, being closer to central social activities, riding to the market for produce or heading down to the corner cafe on a beautiful Sunday morning for coffee. This is possible in some planned suburban communities, but the location of our current neighborhood is not one of them. We (currently) can only walk to an Exxon and biking anywhere includes a fairly perilous batch of roads that pose a true safety concern. We’ve actually taken to racking our bikes to Ashburn-proper after work, just to have somewhere decent to ride. Lame.

I want to live in a place where the great outdoors is at our fingertips. Northern Virginia is actually a fairly decent place in this respect with the mountains to the west and beaches to the east. We don’t make a good use of them, but that is partially because you have to drive 2+ hours in both directions to get to the good stuff. To do any of these things, you’re talking about a seriously long day trip or looking for cheap ways to spend the night. I’d much rather be able to enjoy hiking, biking, waterways, parks, trees and nature in my own backyard or with a short car ride.

I want to live in an area with less traffic. I don’t like having to plan my life around certain times of the day and I am most certainly not into sitting at countless lights among a mass of cars every time I want to go somewhere. I don’t mind cars on the road per se, it’s being forced to deal with the sheer volume or getting stuck behind a wall of vehicles I can’t see around that doesn’t agree with me. A lot of this can be remedied by living closer to the places I want to be, but there’s just something about traffic in this area that really gets to me.

I want to live in a climate where I enjoy the weather more than four months of the year. It’s no secret I hate humidity and while it’s true I love the winter, I don’t feel this region makes good use of it. We get a solid level of cold but much like this past winter, we often suffer through it without the pleasantness that is snow. Give me real winters with legitimate winter activities, or give me an area that’s temperate all the time and within a reasonable distance to the mountains.

I want to live in a house with an interesting floor plan and an attention to detail. Don’t get me wrong, I love our house and the home we’ve made out of it. I do, however, find myself drawn to really old places that were gutted and rebuilt or trendy (gasp!) open condos with multi-use rooms. I’ve really gotten into shows like House Hunters & House Hunters International (especially) and after seeing many of the featured places, I’ve realized a big house in the ‘burbs ain’t for me. I’d rather have less space that is highly functional instead of several rooms we heat/cool and never use. Honestly, I’d rather spend time outside enjoying people, places and things than holed up in my house. I’m pretty sure France is to blame.

(Note: I typo’d 3 of 5 paragraphs above as “I want to love…” before catching it. I suspect it was not fortuitous.)

I can hear you asking the questions now.

First, I think there was a confluence of events that led to us living in the suburbs so far from all the things we like doing. After getting married, buying a house just seemed like a natural progression. Unfortunately, we couldn’t afford anything closer than Leesburg, which led to jobs in Loudoun County, which led to another house in Loudoun County. Combine this with a Chris in his 20s who was unhappy and didn’t want to do stuff; you get the perfect recipe for a homebody. Now that I’m more accepting of who I am and know what I like, I feel as though my house should be less of an excuse to keep me busy. Before, I did what I thought was expected because I had no idea what I wanted. Now, I know I want.

Second, a lot of people raise kids in smaller houses located in more urban areas. No, I’m not saying we’re going to have kids. I am saying that it would be silly to discuss our future living situation and not at least consider the possibility that we’d be raising a family at some point. I think the suburbs are the right fit for a lot of families, and we might end up there eventually should we have one, but I don’t think it’s an automatic. For the time being, and at least the first five years of any yet-to-be-planned-kid’s lives, I want my family to be city dwellers.

So what does this all mean? Absolutely nothing… until Melissa finishes grad school.

Outdoorsy Gear

Friday, June 26th, 2009

After 15 years with the same sleeping bag, I decided it was time to upgrade for this year’s canoe trip. I found a great deal at REI on the ALPS Mountaineering Fusion and since I was sick of always sliding off my camp pad, I couldn’t pass up one that comes with an inflatable one that slides into a built-in pocket. Given the amount of time that has passed since I got my last one, I’m somewhat impressed by the advances in sleeping bag technology. It performed well on our recent trip and I really have no complaints about the money I spent. Speaking of the money, it retails for $140, Amazon sells it for $135, it’s on REI Outlet for $90 and I got it for $75. 🙂

In preparation for a trip to Europe next year, I picked up High Sierra’s Long Trail 90 backpack. I obviously haven’t used it yet, but considering it’s been 20 years since I bought a technical backpack, I have to think it’s going to be a huge advance in design. I’ve been a fan of the High Sierra brand for awhile and this pack is extremely customizable on fit so I think it’s going to work out well. I’m both nervous and excited at the notion of keeping everything I need for a month in a 90 liter pack. Hopefully the FIA doesn’t go and mess up our basic plan. As to the reason why I’m planning so far ahead (other than I like to)… I can’t pass up a good deal. The pack retails for $215, is listed on REI Outlet for $120 and I got it for $100. Man I love getting deals on things I want/need.