Happiness is being prepared
Tonight a bit of a different kind of post for the Ministry of Happiness. It’s been a weekend where we have had several small earthquakes in the Bay Area of California. While I didn’t feel any of the ones this weekend, when you live less than a mile from San Andreas Lake, on the San Andreas Fault you take earthquakes pretty seriously. There are a lot of scary things in life. Over the last year, I think we’ve all had a healthy dose of living with our fears. One of the best ways to address any fear or concern is to get educated and prepared. First, learning what you can about the threat, what could realistically happen and how it happens is the first step. The second step is to understand what you can and can’t control, and preparing yourself for the things you can do to make yourself safer and how best to respond if your fears come to life.
In the Bay Area people are encouraged and many have what they call “earthquake kits,” essentially a set of supplies to get you by in case of a major earthquake. In case of an earthquake it’s possible to be without power or water for several days. Additionally, you or a family member may have become injured during the quake. So the kit typically consists of several days of food and water, a first aid kit, a radio for news and any medications you need in the short-term. Essentially the basic necessities you need to survive the initial emergency with the expectation that after several days you’d be able to access assistance from the authorities.
A Survivalist is prepared
Most earthquake kits are in a box or stacked under the sink. But another way to go is something called a go bag. Now that terminology comes from the survivalist movement and I’ll admit to being a low level survivalist. Don’t start imagining secret bunkers, armories and shelves of supplies. I’m very much a low-level survivalist. What does that mean? It means as you’ll read below that I have a well supplied go-bag at the ready. It also means that I’ve done some reading around the topic as well as having educated myself on some basic wilderness survival techniques. That all sounds far more impressive than it is, the best way to think of it is I’m a really advanced camper. Spending three months hiking the Appalachian Trail was a great bit of training toward this interest. So this also means that as a hiker and camper I have the supplies on hand to head and live in the wild if I need to, hopefully that won’t happen.
So when COVID started, I was a bit less stressed than most people. I already had N95 masks, only a couple but I had some. I always have on hand basic cold/flu medicines as well as a couple of weeks of food and water available. So I was able to be cautious and patient as we all figured out what we needed to be doing.
In having a conversation with a friend recently, her family has a similar mindset but is not quite as prepared as I am, I told her I’d let her know what was in my go bag. So tonight’s post is to let her and all of you know what’s in my bag. Hopefully, this will help you in developing your own emergency preparedness kit at home. I think everyone should have the necessities at home that you could live off of for several days in case of an emergency. Not only may it come in incredibly handy someday, but it will also give you an additional sense of safety knowing you have those supplies to fall back on. The last thing to mention is that every few months it’s a good idea to go through your kit and make sure things are up to date. That nothing is broken, change out batteries if necessary and rotate any food to keep it fresh. Also, in addition to your supplies, you should always have a plan with your family about how you’ll stay in contact, and someplace you would gather if you ever get separated.
My go bag
So below are images of the items in my go bag, the entire packed bag is pictured above and as you can see it is basically a fairly standard backpack. I’ll talk through the items in each picture and provide as much detail as possible. Of course, if you have any questions please feel free to throw them in the comments, if you’re asking, someone else probably wants to know as well.
Here we go:
There is no particular order to the photos and the first one is camouflage gear. While most of the times a go bag will just be needed to get by in your car in the street, if something worse happens and there is social disorder, it pays to be able to get at least a little remote and stay concealed. The other thing to keep in mind in order to minimize what you need to carry is to make sure items have multiple uses. So while the jacket pictured is camouflage, it also serves as both a wind-breaker, waterproof shell. Additionally, a cap, gloves, a buff, a bandana, and two small roles of camouflage tape.
Not much description needed, shirts, underwear, socks and gloves. Having a couple of pairs of socks is incredibly important to keep your feet clean and healthy. You’ve likely left home in a hurry and might be doing a lot more walking than you’re used to doing.
Electronics and safety devices. The Nekteck is actually a solar charger that can used to charge anything with a USB. Also a chemical and solar flashlight, a hand-crank flashlight/radio combination. I also have several small sets of earphones, if you’re trying to stay concealed, the earphone allow for listening to the radio discretely. Sunglasses, batteries, a compass, a GPS unit, a headlamp and local/regional maps. Finally, a small MP3 player which is the only luxury I allow myself in this setup.
Of course, food and water are your primary concerns for your go bag. Pictured above is a life-straw, which is a filter straw that allows you to drink water out of ponds, streams or puddles if necessary. My absolute favorite water filter, the Sawyer mini-filter, same concept as the life straw but but filters up to 10,000 gallons, comes with a liter bag and conveniently the Sawyer cap size is the same as some soda bottles. This means you can utilize larger bottles for convenience. Also, some iodine tables and both a plastic water bottle as well as a light plastic liter bottle. Water is the one area where I believe in redundancy in an emergency kit. Additionally pictured is my Jet Boil which contains a cooking gas container and the ability to boil water. The green cup is a plastic cup with a lid that also could serve as bowl when necessary, the cup has a click-on lid which is nice. But also allows me to store things while packed, the cup holds a set of matches and my hand lamp in the pack.
Pictured above are five Mountain House freeze-dried camping meals and a box of six Cliff Bars. All total this is about 4500 calories. This is enough easily for 3-4 days of decent survival eating. The dinners only need boiled water to be added, which is where the Jet Boil comes in, I also often have several packets of tea, hot chocolate and instant oatmeal in as well which can bump up the calories. Actually, if absolutely necessary the camping meals can be hydrated without boiling water, but just take much, much longer to prepare.
After food and water, shelter is the most important thing. The tarp is a six by four foot tarp, just enough for a one person camp cover. I also include two survival (space) blankets and one of my favorite things, a survival sleeping bag, same material but in the shape of a mummy sleeping bag you can slide into. The cotton roll up is not in the bag, but is something I would grab if I could and tie to my bag.
These are all optional items that are not in the bag. A hammock, a sleep pad and the one I would absolutely grab if I can, my mylar sheet. This sheet, made up of the sunshield material people use in their cars, reflects heat and makes a great under surface to lay on that will keep you dry and warmer than without it and is super lightweight and can easily be carried or tied to my bag.
Materials to stay sanitary. The obvious toilet paper, in the actual bag I’ve removed the cardboard tube so it can be smashed down and stored more easily. I have a couple of bandanas that have so many uses and a microfiber washcloth that I use as a towel. Also an ace bandage, soap, hand sanitizer and sunscreen sticks.
First aid materials including an array of bandages, alcohol wipes, antibiotic wipes, small packs of ibuprofen, a tube of antibiotic cream. A snake bite kit, medical tape, duct tape and a tick puller. I also have a sewing kit, two sets of latex gloves, and very importantly two small tubes of super glue. Super glue was actually invented for the Vietnam War as a way to quickly seal soldiers wounds in the field and as such is a must in any first aid kid. Finally, make sure to include some anti-diarrhea tablets like Immodium D. After an emergency if water is in short supply you could end up getting some bad water that makes you sick. Vomiting and diarrhea can be very dangerous when untreated, so these pills could really save your life.
This is the necessary tool section of the bag. A couple of knives including a Swiss Army Knife, a leatherman tool, a small pair of scissors, a sharpie and pencil, a titanium spoon, a couple of spools of rope, a fire-starter and the black bag is actually hand-held chain saw. And finally a hatchet. The hatchet and hand-held saw are really extras, very useful but far more useful for a longer period of time. I’ve also got some matches and a lighter and caribiners in the bag. One note on why many things are in sealable plastic bags. One thing you learn when living out of the mainstream is that it’s really nice to have plastic bags to store foods and other things in. So they serve as a way to protect materials and for future storage.
Some safety items. A couple of N95 masks, a bug net, which if you’ve ever hiked in an area with severe gnats, black flies, midges or mosquitoes are, you’ll know a head net can keep you sane and takes up minimal space. The binoculars are a small extra but it’s nice to have the ability to see a ways ahead of you if you’re having to search for shelter, water, food, etc.. as well as for safety reasons. Finally, there are two boxes of shotgun shells. In an emergency as I grab my go bag I’ll also be grabbing my shotgun with the slug barrel installed. With the five rounds in the weapon it mans twenty-five rounds to serve as self-defense and useful for hunting if needed.
Finally a small backpack. You can see it in the first picture hanging from the pack in a small ball. The pack folds in on itself into a tiny pouch. The bag really serves two purposes, one, as an additional bag to store or carry things in. Second, if needed you could hide your main bag and use the small bag to go out foraging or to get materials from relief workers.
No one can ever tell you what the perfect contents of a go bag would be for you. We all have particular needs and preferences in types of materials. The only certainties are water purification, food and something to assist in shelter and staying warm including fire starting. Beyond those things you need to decide for yourself how many of them you need to include. Every item is a choice between usefulness, comfort and how much weight you want to carry. One thing not pictured are my medications but I have a small bag where I keep them so I could quickly grab them, however it’s wise to keep a five day supply inside your bag.
I hope this helps you in thinking about your own safety and preparedness and as always, have a happy day my friends. ~ Rev Kane