Most of us buy insurance to protect our cars and homes. Some of us also buy life insurance to provide for our loved ones in the event of our untimely death.
The topic I'd like to discuss is whether or not it makes sense to have a camping backpack prepared ahead of time if an unexpected emergency should force you and your family to leave your current home.
There are a variety of things that could force me to abandon my home. Fire, for example. Or a hurricane. I have also considered the possibility of a foreign power attacking the United States. There are lots of other things that could make me abandon my home, but these few examples are enough.
The big question is: Where would I go?
If the emergency that forced me to abandon my home had a restricted impact area (fire, hurricane) then I would probably visit with family who lived outside the affected area, or I would stay in a motel. In either case, it would be nice if my family had the things we needed to make life comfortable while we were away from home.
On the other hand, if staying in a motel or with another family member was NOT an option, and it was NOT really cold outdoors, then I would take my family to a national forest and find a good camping spot until it was safe to return home. Most national forests are open to the public. You and I own those forests. We have a right to be there. Most national forests allow the public to camp in the forest as long as they don't try to homestead, or destroy the forest in any way (such as cutting down trees for firewood).
Therefore, a national forest is where I would take my family. We might stay at one of the public campsites in the forest if it was not very crowded. However, depending on the type of emergency (such as the outbreak of a contagious disease), we might avoid a public campsite in favor of a private spot somewhere inside the national forest.
I would not stop on the way to the national forest at some apparently vacant land a mile or two from some farm house. Think how you would feel if someone camped in your front yard. That's how country people feel about strangers who set up camp anywhere "close" to their homes. A national forest is generally a much safer place to be.
The items required during a motel visit (or a visit with a relative) would not be the same as those required when camping in the woods. Therefore the following discussion applies to a camping backpack as opposed to a motel suitcase.
Hiking and camping are related but different. When people are on a hiking expedition, they camp briefly at the end of the day (camping is secondary to the hike). When people are camping, the hike takes second place. The following discussion assumes you will be camping most of the time and only hiking every now and then.
When you go camping, the items in your backpack will vary depending on the weather. It isn't practical to carry long-johns (or a winter coat) in your backpack in the summer when you don't need them.
The second decision concerns how much you can carry. When you start to evaluate an item for inclusion in your backpack you must look at two related factors: its weight and its size (bulk, mass). Some items are small but they are very heavy in relation to their size (bullets). You can't carry very many of them. Other items are large but they are not very heavy in relation to their mass (sleeping bag). Again, you can't carry very many of them due to their size (not their weight). It is important to strike the right balance between these two factors and still end up with items that are both practical and necessary. Items that will fit in your backpack and not be too heavy to carry.
The next thing to consider is the life of the item. Some items are gradually used up (food, matches, bullets, socks). Other items continue to serve faithfully for a very long time (sharpening stone, compass, fingernail clippers). The items that are used up will gradually lighten your load but they will need to be restocked on a periodic basis. Therefore, you will start with a pack at maximum weight and it will gradually get lighter. But at some point you will restock and it will be at its maximum weight again.
I have found it useful to carry my assortment of camping items in three different locations:
It is NOT practical to attach items to the belt that holds your pants up. If you do, those items will pull your pants down as you walk and rub blisters on your hips. Not only is it painful, but it is also very annoying. Therefore, let your normal belt (or suspenders) hold your pants up. Then use another belt for your knife, pistol, and canteen (don't thread that belt through the belt loops on your pants). I prefer a belt canteen to a shoulder strap canteen because the shoulder strap wears a blister on your shoulder in a very short time (even when you keep changing shoulders). Some backpacks have a side pocket for a water container and that is also another acceptable method for carrying a water container.
Now let's look at the weight of the items on your waist belt. The weights in all the tables that follow are in decimal pounds which makes addition and subtraction relatively easy. I chose that method instead of pounds and ounces because you would have to convert ounces to pounds to find the total weight.
|Empty Military Carry-All Belt||0.70|
|Canteen with 30 Ounces Water||2.32|
|Hunting Knife in Sheath||1.25|
|Loaded Pistol in Holster||2.34|
|- - - Waist Belt Total - - -||6.61|
I carry the items I use most often in a waist pack. The reason is because I want those items with me when I scout the area around my camp or when I go hunting or fishing. The only time I take my entire backpack with me is when I move to a new campsite.
If you are going to temporarily leave your campsite, my recommendation is to carefully hide your loaded backpack to the best of your ability BEFORE you leave. If someone finds your campsite while you are away they will not know how long you will be gone and they will probably just take whatever is in full view.
These are the items I carry in my waist pack:
|Empty Waist Pack||0.58|
|Pocket Watch and Extra Battery||0.18|
|Flashlight on Headband (2AA) (Duplicate)||0.21|
|One Lighter (3000 Lights) (Duplicate)||0.03|
|60 Matches in 35mm Film Can (Duplicate)||0.06|
|2 Trioxane Fuel Tablets (Emergency) (Duplicate)||0.07|
|Metal Whistle (Communication)||0.03|
|Fishing Tackle Kit (No Rod or Reel)||0.36|
|Rubber Gloves (Skinning Game, Cleaning Fish)||0.16|
|Leather Work Gloves||0.47|
|4 One-Gallon Freezer Bags (Fish, Game, Plants)||0.12|
|12 Kleenex Tissues (Emergency) (Duplicate)||0.05|
|First Aid Kit (7" X 4.5" X 1.5")||0.80|
|Snake Bite Kit||0.08|
|30 Feet of Snare Wire - 26 Gauge (Duplicate)||0.03|
|Mosquito Face Veil||0.09|
|99-Cent Plastic Rain Poncho||0.15|
|- - - Waist Pack Total - - -||3.70|
Some of the items in my waist pack are duplicates of the items in my backpack, and some items I split between my waist pack and my backpack. For example, I have two compasses. I have found that it is really easy to walk “into” the woods. But it's not so easy to walk back out again. With a good compass, you have an above average chance of finding your way back to where you started. However, accidents happen in the woods and things do occasionally get broken. That's why I carry a back-up compass along with a duplicate of a few other essential items.
Fire is a valuable asset to have in the woods. You can heat a meal, or cook raw food, or use it to get warm by, or keep wild animals at a distance at night. And it is a moral booster like nothing I know when you are alone. If you should get lost then you can start a signal fire and create a smoke column to draw rescuers to your location. Therefore, I have at least two lighters with me (3000 lights each) and two sets of matches in empty waterproof 35mm camera film containers. Some matches fit really well in those plastic containers but you may have to trim a little off the wooden end of some of the longer matches to get them to fit. (Or you can buy special waterproof match holders at most camping stores.) If you don't have the strike-anywhere matches, then cut the striking strip off the match carton and put it inside the waterproof container with your matches. But be careful that the match heads don't rub against the striking surface. You can wrap the striking surface in clear plastic wrap to protect it and keep it dry.
The reason I carry matches and a butane lighter is simple. During freezing weather the striking wheel on the butane lighter can freeze and render the lighter useless for starting a fire. In that situation the matches usually work just fine. However, during really damp humid weather it is possible that the matches may get a little damp and be difficult to strike. In that situation the butane lighter works just fine. If you have a different backup method for starting a fire then you will have a much better chance of starting a fire under a variety of adverse weather conditions.
I recently purchased a Magnesium Fire starter unit. It is a unique way to start a fire and it should easily start a fire if both my matches and my butane lighters fail.
I also recently purchased a "Blast Match." When it is used near a little bit of normal "clothes dryer lint" it will start a fire very quickly.
The Trioxane Fuel Tablets cost about ten-cents each. I don't use the Trioxane Fuel Tablets to start a fire or to heat food under normal circumstances. I would only use them if I was desperate to start a fire and for some reason my usual method wasn't effective. For example, freezing rain and everything is wet and frozen and I need a fire really bad. The Trioxane burns extremely hot for about 15 minutes and it will melt the ice on my frozen firewood sticks and get a normal fire going. If I can get a normal fire started, then I can keep it going by putting additional frozen (or wet) firewood close to the fire so it will dry before I need it to put on the flames.
I carry those small 12-tissue packs of Kleenex with me for use as emergency toilet paper. I don't carry any extra toilet paper with me but I try to have some at my campsite when I am camping in a tent. If I am away from camp, I use the green leaves from broad leaf trees to wipe with instead of my Kleenex. If you spend enough time in the woods your toilet paper will run out sooner or later and you will have to resort to what Nature has available. If I have no toilet tissue and all I have are my few Kleenex tissues, then I use Nature's toilet paper and save my Kleenex for those rare occasions when I get a case of diaper rash. The Kleenex is a true morale builder just knowing I have it in reserve if I should ever really need it.
I don't carry a fishing rod or reel but I do have a reasonable selection of fishing tackle items, such as assorted fishing hooks in various sizes, swivels, sinkers, fishing line, some plastic worms and grubs, lots of flies, and a 1/8 ounce white rooster-tail fishing lure.
I carry a pocket watch in my waist pack instead of a wrist watch. It doesn't get banged up as much as a wrist watch when I am in the woods. My pocket watch is not a wind-up unit, but the battery is new and it should last for 3 or 4 years. And it has hands on it so I can tell which direction is South if the sun is visible. Just point the short hour-hand at the sun and South will be half-way between the short hour-hand and the number 12 on the watch. Works consistently on normal time but not daylight saving time. (On daylight saving time, use the number 1 instead of the 12.) Plus you have to be north of the equator. (Note: If you are south of the equator, then point the number 12 at the sun and North will be half-way between the number 12 and the short hour-hand.)
Enough about the waist pack. Now let's take a look at the backpack.
I would recommend the following items for an extended stay in the woods when you don't know how long you might be there. You can add or subtract from this list as you see fit. I have divided the items into major groups so you can see the weight within each group.
|Four Pair of Socks||0.66|
|Four Pair of Ankle High Hose||0.02|
|Two Pair of Underwear||0.18|
|One Blue Jeans||1.30|
|One Long-Sleeve Summer Shirt||0.80|
|...(Winter Shirt Add 0.70 Pounds)||-|
|- - - Clothing Sub-Total - - -||2.96|
|Rain Poncho (Emergency Tent) (50" X 94")||1.95|
|Heavy Duty Tarp (Emergency Tent) (8' X 10')||2.12|
|Space Blanket (Emergency Body Heat Conservation)||0.12|
|Thin Wool Blanket||2.10|
|Very Small Pillow||0.50|
|- - - Sleeping Gear Sub-Total - - -||6.79|
|One Lighter (3000 Lights) (Duplicate)||0.03|
|60 Matches in 35mm Film Can (Duplicate)||0.06|
|4 Trioxane Fuel Tablets (Emergency) (Duplicate)||0.15|
|Spoon and Fork||0.10|
|Military Can Opener||0.01|
|Metal Scouring Pad||0.02|
|- - - Food Preparation Sub-Total - - -||2.29|
|Item Description||Pounds||Total Calories (Calories/Ounce)|
|Half-Pound of Pickling/Canning Salt (Not Iodized)||0.53||-|
|5.5 Ounces of Black Pepper in Can||0.35||-|
|10 Tea Bags||0.06||-|
|Half-Pound of Sugar in Zipper Bag||0.50||850 Calories (106 Calories/Oz.) td>|
|4 Hot Chocolate Mix||0.28||480 Calories (107 Calories/Oz.) td>|
|5 Ramen Noodle 3-Ounce Packages||1.07||1,900 Calories (111 Calories/Oz.)|
|Nine 400-Calorie Marine Food Bars||1.59||3,600 Calories (142 Calories/Oz.)|
|1 Pound Bag of White Rice||1.04||1,500 Calories (90 Calories/ Oz.)|
|4 Instant Mashed Potato Mix||0.49||640 Calories (82 Calories/ Oz.)|
|6 Powdered Gravy Mix (7/8 Ounce Each)||0.40||480 Calories (75 Calories/Oz.)|
|Hard Candy (Assorted, Individually Wrapped)||0.50||800 Calories (100 Calories/ Oz.)|
|- - - Food Sub-Totals - - -||6.99||10,250 Calories b>|
|Hand Lotion (Corn Huskers 7 Fluid Ounces)||0.56|
|70 Assorted Medicine Tablets||0.22|
|Anti-Itching Creme (1 Ounce Tube)||0.09|
|Vaseline (3.75 Ounce Jar)||0.29|
|Deet Insect Repellant (2 Ounces)||0.15|
|Unbreakable Mirror (3" X 4")||0.03|
|Fingernail Clippers with Nail File||0.04|
|Toothbrush in Plastic Container||0.06|
|Toothpaste (2.5 Ounce Tube)||0.18|
|Dental Floss (100 Yards)||0.06|
|Shaving Razor (Bic or Gillette)||0.01|
|12 Kleenex Tissues (Duplicate)||0.05|
|Hand Soap in Container (5 Ounce Bar)||0.40|
|- - - Personal Care Items Sub-Total - - -||2.61|
|Folding Multi-Blade Knife||0.25|
|Flashlight (2AA, Spare Batteries, Bulb - Duplicate)||0.36|
|Combined Folding Shovel, Ax, Saw||2.30|
|Commando Saw (with Snare Rings)||0.04|
|270 Feet of Snare Wire - 26 Gauge (Duplicate)||0.27|
|260 Feet of Nylon Twine - Rated for 150#||0.25|
|One Pair of Pantyhose (For Straining)||0.06|
|Small Book on Survival (Contents Below)||0.40|
|(Edible Plants, Snares, Traps, Shelters, Etc.)||-|
|- - - Survival Items Sub-Total - - -||4.65|
|Small Bible in Plastic Case in Freezer Bag||1.12|
|Copy of Favorite Hymns (Words Only)||0.01|
|Deck of Playing Cards||0.22|
|Book of 100 Solitaire Card Games||0.23|
|Hoyle's Book of Rules||0.28|
|Five Yahtzee Dice||0.06|
|Small Pad of Paper and Writing Pen||0.11|
|One Paperback Fiction Book (Short Stories)||0.23|
|- - - Special Items Sub-Total - - -||2.26|
|Extra Clothing Sub-Total||2.96|
|Sleeping Gear Sub-Total||6.79|
|Food Preparation Sub-Total||2.29|
|Food Supplies Sub-Total||6.99|
|Personal Care Items Sub-Total||2.61|
|Survival Items Sub-Total||4.65|
|Special Items Sub-Total||2.26|
|- - - Total Weight of Loaded Backpack - - -||29.64|
Under the item description, some of the food and personal care items show the net weight printed on the package. However, the total weight includes the weight of the package.
The weights in the above tables are the actual weights of the items I have. Your items may weigh a little more or a little less. Mess kits are a good example. Some have more components, some have fewer. Some are stainless steel and some are not. Some are made of thicker material and some are really thin. Therefore, use the above weights as a general planning guide and not as the final answer to the weight issue.
I personally don't eat breakfast in the morning. I do enjoy coffee or hot tea. I know you can make coffee by putting the coffee grounds in a clean sock and boiling it in some water but I usually do without coffee unless I have a coffee percolator (or enough spare coffee filters) to make coffee. When I have neither coffee or tea, I dice up some green pine needles and boil them in some water to make a hot cup of nutritious herbal tea that is loaded with natural Vitamin C.
The food will last about one-week if you can't find anything else to eat. But with a little luck you can use your food to supplement what you find in nature. (For example, fish, squirrel, acorns, pine needles, pine cone seeds, berries, etc.) Wild berries are excellent eaten fresh or you can squeeze the juice out of them and make a really nice fruit drink (about half juice and half water). However, like many wild food sources, berries are only available a few weeks each year.
I don't recommend carrying a lot of heavy water-packed canned food inside your backpack. Not only is it heavy but it also takes up valuable space in your pack that could be better used for more permanent items. I also don't carry meat items in my backpack. Instead, I prefer to rely on my ability to fish, or set snare traps, or shoot squirrels with a 22-caliber pistol or rifle to put meat on the table. I also don't mind eating evergreen needles or other wild edible plants to supplement my diet. On the other hand, I know that some days the pickings will be slim and on those occasions I eat some my store bought food (Ramen noodles, marine food bars, etc.).
The foods listed in the above tables are dehydrated (no water) and are therefore relatively light. Just add water and heat to make it tasty. I have listed the calories per ounce for each food type. If you want to substitute other foods, then I suggest you do this calculation to see how much energy you are spending to carry those foods with you.
Water is also very heavy (one-fluid ounce of water weighs one-ounce). It is a mistake to try to carry too much water with you. Instead, camp near a source of clean water whenever possible. Filter that water through a clean cloth, and then boil it for one-minute. Wait for it to cool before putting it into your canteen.
The rain poncho and/or the heavy duty tarp can be used as an emergency tent shelter. They can also be used to channel rain water into a storage container for future drinking purposes. For additional information about water, you may click on the following link:
Safe Drinking Water
Lets take a closer look at a few of the food items in the above list:
Tea Bags: One tea bag can make 2 to 5 cups of tea so don't throw it away after your first cup. If you are alone, put the used tea bag in a small plastic bag for the next time (it will only last a day or two). The tea will gradually get weaker, but it is better than plain water, in my opinion.
Salt: Salt is a necessity of life. When you sweat your body loses valuable salt that must be replaced or you will get sick. I avoid extra salt when I eat commercially processed food. However, if you are eating mostly wild foods then they don't contain any salt and you will need to add salt to stay healthy. And some items are better if they are boiled in salt water (squirrel, for example). Finally, a little salt and pepper can transform an ordinary meal into something that is truly palatable.
Gravy: A little gravy is good on almost anything, especially some wild meats.
White Rice: A little white rice goes well with almost anything you find to eat in the wild (fish, squirrel, plants, etc.). It is easy to fix, it is high in calories, and it is a complex carbohydrate.
Marine Food Bars: Marine food bars contain an assortment of vitamins, they are not thirst provoking, they have a five-year shelf life, they can tolerate temperature extremes from -40°F to +300°F, they have a pleasant taste (in my opinion but my youngest boy disagrees), and you can buy them at some marine supply stores, some Army/Navy stores, some camping stores, or over the internet. Also, since they can tolerate temperature extremes from -40°F to +300°F they could be stored in the trunk of an automobile. If they are stored in a more suitable temperature controlled environment, then their shelf life could easily exceed five-years.
There are two major brands of Marine Food Bars, Datrex and Mainstay. They are sold in different package sizes, but the 3600-calorie size is the best buy. Each 3600-calorie package contains nine 400-calorie food bars. A reasonable sale price for a 3600-calorie food bar package is about $6.49 for the Datrex and $5.50 for the Mainstay (January 2008). A case of ten 3600-calorie food bars weighs about 16 pounds and the shipping cost varies from about $15 to $25 per case. The Mainstay Food Bar intentionally has less protein in order to minimize the amount of water required for proper digestion, which is necessary in a marine survival scenario. The Mainstay is a better value in my opinion. The following table compares the two brands:
|Protein||6 g or 14%||3 g or 7%|
|Cholesterol||2 g||0 g|
|Carbohydrates||43 g||46 g|
|Vitamin A||2 %||50 %|
|Vitamin B6||0 %||90 %|
|Vitamin B12||0 %||20 %|
|Vitamin C||2 %||60 %|
|Vitamin D||0 %||50 %|
|Vitamin E||0 %||25 %|
|Calcium||0 %||50 %|
|Folic Acid||0 %||30 %|
|Iron||0 %||10 %|
|Magnesium||0 %||30 %|
|Niacin||8 %||30 %|
|Pantothenic Acid||0 %||100 %|
|Phosphorous||0 %||40 %|
|Riboflavin||10 %||25 %|
|Thiamine||16 %||15 %|
The following companies sell both the above brands on the internet:
If I could add more of any of the above food items, I would probably choose more salt, more pepper, and more dry gravy packages. However, my choice is based on personal experience and the knowledge that I could probably find something to eat somewhere in the woods, and that salt, pepper, and gravy can make almost anything enjoyable enough to eat.
When it is time to prepare a meal, don't cook over open flames. Let the fire burn down to red hot coals. Use a stick to scrape the hot coals between two rocks or small logs and put your cook pot above the coals on the rocks. Think charcoal. Most people wait for the charcoal flames to go out before they start cooking over the hot coals. Do the same thing with a campfire. You can keep the campfire burning in the center of a circle of stones and scrape hot coals over to one side of the circle for cooking.
If you are evacuating your home by car, then extra food is one of the more important items you should pack in your car and take with you. Canned meat items and dehydrated or dry foods would be better than water-packed canned foods because you get more nutrition for less weight. Your car can only carry a limited amount of weight and the roads in many national forests are NOT that good.
The same suggestion applies to heavy or bulky camping gear, such as tents, cots, and sleeping bags. Most of them are either too heavy or too bulky to carry on my back (in my opinion). However, I love to sleep in a tent on a nice cot in a sleeping bag and I will take them with me if I can transport them most of the way by car. But I don't enjoy hauling them on my back for several miles through the woods. My tarp (and poncho) make a real nice tent structure if you know what you are doing.
Keep your fingernails and toenails trimmed in the woods. You will be using your hands a lot and long nails get caught on stuff and break or tear (very painful). Long toenails will wear holes through your socks. Sewing up the holes will extend the life of the socks for a short time but at the expense of foot blisters at each place you sewed up a hole. To avoid foot blisters, wear one pair of ankle high hose next to your skin and your regular socks on top of that.
I have a nice GPS receiver and I really love it. It does all the thinking for me. On the other hand, I don't use it anymore. I found it is too much like the hand calculator I began using in the 1970's. I have to think to do math in my head nowadays. I am ashamed of myself. I know my multiplication tables and how to add and subtract but if I have to balance my checkbook by hand I make simple math mistakes that I use not to make (and it isn't old age - my mind hasn't gone downhill near as fast as my body). That's why I don't use the GPS unit. If I relied on it I would not pay as much attention to my surroundings. If my GPS unit broke for any reason, then I would be up the creek. But if I don't use it and rely upon my powers of observation instead, then I can continue to find my way back from most anywhere I go.
If you have a survival manual (or a Boy Scout Handbook), then you should take it with you when you camp out. If you don't already have one, then I recommend the SAS Survival Guide, by John Wiseman. It measures 5” by 3.5” by 1”, it contains 384 pages, it has color prints of edible wide plants, it has first aid instructions, many camping ideas, and it only weighs 6.4 ounces. The small portable version has been recently reprinted and you should be able to find a copy at the link below:
SAS Survival Guide, by John "Lofty" Wiseman
I also carry a hunting rifle and extra ammo with me when I go camping. The weight of those items will depend on what type of rifle you have. Be sure to add those weights to the above totals based on your own equipment.
The above lists are for an adult male. A female would need to add a few personal items and maybe deduct a few items if she were traveling with a man who could carry the tarp and food preparation items, for example.
A backpack for a young child should be limited to extra clothes, personal care items, food items and treats, and entertainment items. Entertainment items might include a coloring book and crayons, a paperback story book, puzzles, small travel size games, a doll, or other relatively light, small toys that require imagination or interaction. If you include battery-operated items, such as a Game Boy, then you will need to address the issue of recharging the batteries. Some basic instructions on how to build a portable solar power generator is at the following link:http://www.grandpappy.info/wsolar.htm
If you are looking for a nice, private camping spot inside the woods, then you will not want to walk too far from your car and all your supplies. About one-half mile is enough for the first day. You can stop and make a temporary camp, and then make as many return trips to your car as necessary to retrieve all your other supplies. After you have safely removed all your supplies from your car it will be a less desirable target for vandalism. The next day, you can move all your supplies another half-mile deeper into the woods. Generally, if you end up two or more miles from any road, you will be in a really remote area of the forest and you will be relatively safe.
If you intend to transport a LOT of supplies in your car, then you should consider investing in a two-wheel luggage carrier. Not a wheeled-suitcase, but a simple two-wheel frame structure for moving boxes. The wheels should be a BIG as possible and the carrier should be able to hold at least 150 to 200 pounds. This will make the movement of cases of canned foods or boxes of supplies from your car to your campsite much easier. The bigger the wheels the easier it will be to negotiate forest terrain.
There are three things you can do to keep your secluded forest campsite relatively safe:
Finally, please remember that your primary objective is to find a safe camping spot near a reliable source of water. This is NOT a military exercise. It is okay to stop and rest as often as the weakest member in your group requires it.
The important thing is to plan now for the possibility of an extended camping adventure for you and your loved ones at some point in the future. If you are prepared then the adventure may be an enjoyable one. If you aren't prepared then your only option may be to enter a government shelter and trust that they will take care of you and your family in the manner in which your family has become accustomed.
Today the choice is still yours. But if you wait until an emergency occurs before you decide to take action, then you may not like the limited number of options available to you at that time.