Survival Gear 101
My DIY survival gear advice. Be ready to grab-and-go at a moment's notice!
There has been a huge wave of survival gear products on the market since The Walking Dead hit show. The zombie apocalypse trend seems to finally be over. But, the brief fear brought more attention to surviving catastrophic disasters, survival food like MRE's (Meals, Ready-to-Eat) and survival gear. Let us not forget eco-friendlier homes and the underground bunker niche in the real estate market.
One of the basics is to always have a plan. If you have to travel, know where you're going. Just like when you prepare for a vacation, get familiar with landmarks, have a map of the area, and look at it before you arrive to familiarize yourself with the environment. Be sure to pack appropriately for the weather and season. A few essentials, for basic hygiene and nutrition, can make it easier and can become useful in case you need to trade later on. Always have water on yourself to stay hydrated and keep protein bars for energy. Rest when you need to. Don't exhaust yourself. And please, please remember: NEVER, EVER PANIC. The calmer you keep yourself, the less of your energy you waste and the easier it will be to take the steps necessary to survive.
I'm a huge fan of Popular Science and Popular Mechanics mags. None of the advice today is really too new to me. As a child, my Army Veteran grandfather told me of the tips and tricks he had learned. At most, it helped keep me entertained and out of everyone else's hair. I never did catch on how to start my own fire (even though I also had a stepfather who tried to teach me this useful tactic) which is ok because I found there are so many other ways to get one started.
I bet a lot of people can relate to aggravations during basic family travel. Who else hates the soggy sandwiches in the bottom of the cooler? Survival foods need to last a lot longer in case of power outages. A long power outage stretch would affect most furnaces and sewers. Making sure your diet is balanced and maintaining proper hygiene are important during a disaster crisis. You'll want to prepare ahead. You'll eventually have to hunt for meat if it's a huge cataclysmic event, like an asteroid smashing us or nuclear fallout. These probably won't happen anywhere but on Call of Duty, but over-preparing is no crime! Knowing how to recognize edible plants and find wild bird's nests is definitely something to learn. I get grossed out when it comes to butchering animals so I already know I'll have more of a vegan-based diet. I had ducks as a child, but they weren't for egg-laying. Even though their eggs are more nutritious than a hen's. My youngest son and I are both picky eaters, so for my survival food packs, I have to plan wisely.
#1 Always pack light.
You'll want to pack light-weight, freeze-dried and dehydrated foods, and drink powders. Heavier items, like cans, should be positioned close to the spine in your backpack. Things you'll use more often (binoculars, an ax, flashlights, water bottles, etc) should be packed on the outside pockets. This also makes these items easy to reach.
- Tools - Definitely have a durable, multi-purpose knife on you. This will come in handy for cutting material and is a must in any basic survival pack. In an emergency situation, you never know for exactly how long you will be without the usual necessities and you'll want to protect yourself (and your supplies) from thieves.
- Clothing - There's no need to bog yourself down with an entire arsenal and wardrobe. Pack for the weather and think ahead. Even when it's hot during the day, nights might can get cold. Two sweaters, a couple of pairs of warm pants, shirts, a few pairs of socks and underthings. Even guys can find a pair of stockings very useful. They not only keep you a bit warmer in frigid temps, but stockings can keep bugs away from feet and ankles, and can also be used for a fishing net.
- Nutrition - Food should be high-protein and contain plenty of calories. Choose things like dry milk, oatmeal, instant coffee, nuts, dried fruit, beef jerky, bouillon cubes, dry pasta, canned tuna, and dry beans (peas, kidney beans, etc). Spices like salt (to add electrolytes), sugar (which can be used for trading), alum (for water filtering which you can learn more about HERE), vanilla extract, and vinegar doesn't just add flavoring but are pretty handy. Plastic containers are not recommended because the material is porous. Glass or aluminum foil works best for packaging.
You can dehydrate food for preparation readiness using your oven. Set oven very low, between 140-225, depending on the water content of the food. Amount and thickness of slices also play a part in how long it will take.
Outdoors, you can dehydrate food using the heat from your campfire. Just don't hang anything too close to the fire and make sure to bring it in at night. The moist night air can dampen the entire days of hard work. Did you ever think you could dehydrate food in your car? Check out this off-grid living website to find out HOW! Plus you can get yourself some free downloads, which will probably be useless on your laptop, tablet, or cellphone when the power goes out. But at least you'll know what to do when that does happen.
Some tips to remember:
- Small batches will dehydrate quicker. For the higher water content of certain fruits and vegetables, cut smaller slices.
- Berries can be blanched, which will puncture the skin, allowing moisture to escape and this will also sterilize them. To blanche, you boil berries for 30 seconds. Then shock them with cold water before laying out on a sheet pan to dehydrate.
- For most fruits and vegetables, it will take between 4-16 hours. You want it to become very dry, almost crisp, NOT CHEWY. Even in an oven, expect at least 4 hours or more of time. Just be sure to cool completely before storing.
#2 Know Basic First Aid!
I am definitely not a medical doctor, but everyone should know some basic first aid. The Red Cross card I have had since 1988, and the basic training I received to earn it, came just in time. My younger sister came along later that same year. I learned the Heimlich Maneuver, CPR, how to apply a tourniquet, how to prevent and treat shock, how to treat burns, and how to recognize and apply a splint to a broken bone. Needless to say, to this day I have never had to apply a tourniquet (Thank-GOODNESS!!) or apply a splint to a broken bone! But with my little sister, my own two sons, and all the kids I've babysat (I was even a nanny for one summer) knowing how to treat burns, using the Heimlich Maneuver, CPR, and even treating shock came in handy! Ever see a toddler throw a temper tantrum in the aisle of a grocery store when they are told NO? Yea... remaining cool under pressure, and preventing the delicate head of a flailing, hysterically crying toddler from coming into contact with hard, sharp surfaces practically became second nature for me... and that 'hippie-protest' move they use is anything but peaceful!
*Check out the official Red Cross Training website here for information and access to your local training and certification classes OR you can choose one of their online training programs. You can also purchase supplies and products from their website store for Storm Preparedness, caregiving or First Aid books & DVD's, 3-day Home or Travel Kits for your car, 72-hour kits, refills and more!
#3 Know how to start a fire.
Unless you know how to start a fire with wet sticks, you'll be out of luck, just like I would be. I've never mastered that flint or wood trick to get any kind of useful spark. In order to sterilize water, cook, keep warm, or just in case you or your survival gear gets wet, you'll need to know how to start a fire. Keep some waterproof fire-starting materials on hand for emergencies. A plastic container (like an old pill bottle) or glass jar can hold matches and black sandpaper. You can also coat the tips of matches in turpentine, nail polish, or wax, in case they come into contact with the elements, to make sure they'll still be useful later. A couple of fire-starting materials to keep on hand is cotton pads dipped in wax or Dorito's. Even stale Dorito chips will work. So go ahead and buy a few extra snack bags, just in case of an emergency!
Old pill bottles can be useful for a number of different uses. They're child-proof so they don't easily open, which also makes them water-resistant. You can use them for sewing kits, money, seeds, spices, first aid, and pretty much anything else too small to just throw in your back-pack. So why not keep some of your pill bottles and re-use them for your survival gear? One thing to always be, besides calm, is PREPARED!
Now that I have the 3 basics of my DIY Survival Guide covered, here's something to keep in your car or in your survival shack: A coffee can survival kit! The metal can itself can be useful to cook in.
- Large metal coffee can
- 30 ft of nylon rope
- plastic-framed mirror
- water-proofed matches
- fire-starting material
- mini flashlight
- 1 roll toilet paper
- sewing kit (in an old pill bottle)
- paper & pencil
- fishing line & fishing hooks
- protein bars
- Alum (for water purification)
- mini first-aid kit
- candle (wrapped in foil)
- money (2 rolls each of quarters, dimes, nickels, a $20 bill)
- soup packets & bouillon cubes
- multi-use tool
- large black garbage bags (useful for gathering water, heating water, waterproofing bedding, protection from elements, etc)
I discovered some great tips on Survival Life at this website, which will open on their essential oils to always have on hand page. I signed up for free samples of MRE's (Meals Ready to Eat) and only received them from Wise Food Storage. There is also My Patriot Supply. My sons liked the free samples received from Wise! I liked the available choice of kits and packaging. The pails can be re-used to hold water, fresh food, and other supplies.
Remember, it's not always 'city killing' asteroids we have to worry about! Just 4 days ago New York City and the surrounding areas had been without power for a week. That's 100,000 people with no power due to a lightning strike sending a power surge through a faulty relay switch belonging to Con-Edison. Residents on Staten Island had said in one article I read that smoke was coming out of a manhole cover. We have also been on the lookout for powerful Sun flares, which will knock-out every working satellite circling our planet. Just read this article by The Weather Channel. Considering most of our global communication is done by satellite, we'll be pretty screwed for a while! You never know when you'll need a survival kit, but be prepared... just in case!
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