Saturday, March 19, 2011

72 Hour Kit - As Minimal As You Can Get

Okay, so you want to be prepared for anything and everything that can come your way, but you're overwhelmed by all the contingencies and stuff that go into being prepared.  What should I buy, what shouldn't I?  Should I keep a kit at home or a kit in my car?  What do I really need?  Well, all those questions have answers, but in this entry, I'm going as minimal as you can go.  How minimal?  How does so minimal it could fit into a Jansport backpack sound?

Let's face it.  If an emergency arises while at home, I have it made.  Assuming the house doesn't collapse in an earthquake, you have all the clothing, extra batteries, food storage, and bottled water you'd need to ride out any emergency in style; or at least you should.  Even if your house collapses or burns to the ground, you still have the ability to put a 72 hour kit aside in a plastic container that is easy to find in any emergency.  That's the easy part.  The hard part is that there is a good chance you'll experience a natural disaster away from home.  For that, you need to be a lot more mobile. 

Now, be forwarned that I'm going to cover ground I've already covered before, so bear with me.  But this is a checklist for an actual kit I'm putting together with sole emphasis on going really light and fast.  You won't see a lot of technical stuff here; no campstoves or high tech mess kits.  You won't see an abundance of really cool gear or expensive gadgets.  What you will see is all you need to survive.

Okay, to start off, you need to last three days.  No matter what time of year it is, and no matter where you are, you need food and water.  The general rule of thumb is a gallon of water per person per day.  That means you need to store up 3 gallons of water.  Can't get around that - sorry.  Food, on the other hand, is easier.  But this food requires no preparation.  Don't pack canned goods or food that requires water to work.  Pack about 3000 calories per day.  That's about 9000 calories you need.

So what kind of food do you pack?  Here's a quick list to get you started:
  • Jerky
  • Granola Bars
  • Energy Bars (protein and high carb stuff)
  • Bags of nuts (avoid cans)
  • Dehydrated Fruits (in bags)
  • Candy (for comfort and energy boost)
  • Gum
Of course, what you pack for food is dependent on your dietary needs and taste.  But make sure it requires NO preparation before eating.  The idea here is to open a bag and eat while you're on the move.  If you need to get home, you don't have time to sit around preparing food and wasting precious minutes, especially if in daylight.  You need to stay mobile.  More importanly, what you are doing is saving a lot of weight and space by not needing a stove of any kind or a fuel source.  The more weight and space you save here allows you to either pack more food or just save the weight to make you faster.

Back to water:  3 gallons is a lot to lug around with you.  But you may run into a situation where your water supply runs out or you just have to make due with carrying less water to stay mobile.  Enter filtration.  If you can filter river water, or even water from a mud puddle, you won't need to worry.  It has to be filtered though.  And you don't want to waste time boiling it because if you don't have a stove, you need fire.  The problem is that in Washington, fire can be hard to come by if it is damp outside - or raining, or windy, or worse.  In order to be prepared to gather water from questionable sources, you need a few things:
  • Water Filter (see my previous entry about Aquamira filtration)
  • Hydration Bladder
  • Cheese Cloth and rubber bands
  • Extra bottle (wide mouth - don't get the small mouth one - you'll find out why later)
Okay, the water filter is a no brainer.  You filter the water to make it drinkable.  The hydration bladder is so you can squeeze the filtered water into the bladder and resupply yourself with drinking water when you have a large supply available.  Now, the cheese cloth is to ensure that no sticks, rocks, bugs, or heavy particles get into your water bottle.  Now, the trick is to use the extra wide mouth bottle to harvest the water initially.  Take the cheese cloth and wrap it around the mouth of the bottle and secure with a rubber band.  Then dip the bottle in the water and gather as much as you can.  Clean off the cheese cloth and remove it.  Using a clean part of the cheese cloth, place over wide mouth bottle.  Pour into your filtration bottle.  The water should be free of bigger chunks of watever and relatively clean looking - but it could be brown.  Now, put the filter on the bottle, cap it, and squeeze out into the hydration bladder or just squeeze right into your mouth.  Done!

Now, onto first aid.  I'm still recommending a light and fast first aid kit with nothing but the essentials.  Your individual kit will vary from mine, but here's mine:

10 adhesive bandages (regular band-aids)
2 adhesive pads, 3"x3"
3 sterile gauze pads, 3"x3"
4 butterfly bandages
1 roll of adhesive medical tape
1 roll of cohesive bandage wrap (better than elastic)
1 moleskin pad, 3"x6"
1 small bar of soap or small pack of cleansing (alcohol) pads
1 tube of antiseptic (I used Neosporin w/ pain reliever)
3 small packets of basic first aid creme
3 small packets of burn gel
1 pair of Scissors
2 pairs of non-latex gloves
1 mouth/protection barrier for CPR
1 pencil and paper
1 small baggy of medications I take and pain relievers
Iodine and neutralizer tablets (for further treating of questionable water)

Place all this into a zip loc freezer bag.  This will fit into the extra wide mouth bottle you stow for water filtration.

Now, for tools.  This is where you can easily pack way too much into your kit and it can be more trouble than it's worth.  Here's what I like to have:
  • Good knife (pocket/utility or fighting knife)
  • Map and Compass
  • Survival Kit in a Can (just buy one, okay)
  • Flashlight and a Headlamp
  • Spare Batteries
  • Whistle
  • Signal Mirror
  • Emergency shelter (tube tent or small tarp)
  • Emergency blanket
  • Poncho
  • Waterproof Matches
  • Flint/fire starter
  • Pocket Radio
Now, the Survival Kit in a Can comes with a cheap whistle and a piece of foil that is supposed to pass as a signal mirror, but I listed them separately for good reason.  You can buy a good whistle and a signal mirror for next to nothing and they take up very little space.  As for the matches and fire starters, I include those because you might just need fire although it's not desirable when you're on the move. 

Get a decent flashlight.  You don't have to spend a lot, but don't get some Eveready plastic garbage with a crappy bulb.  Get something (preferably metal) with a good LED or krypton bulb.  You can buy one of those so-called "tactical" flashlights for about $20.  You will also want a headlamp.  I've hiked and camped with and without one and let me say that hiking and camping with a headlamp is a million times better than without.  The ability to use both hands while having light available makes a world of difference at night.  Just make sure you pack extra batteries for each accessory.

A map and compass can tell you where to go.  They don't need to be fancy, but they should have enough detail to help you navigate.  Just remember that traveling on foot is much different than traveling by car.

As for a knife, if you're like me, you'll already have one on your person anyway, but pack a good one just in case.  Make it something you know how to use and make it a good one.  It could save your life in a pinch.

A radio can help keep you in touch and keep you company.  They can be had fairly cheap and will help you stay informed.  Just be sure to get extra batteries for it too.

The tube tent or tarp and emergency blanket are no brainers.  If you don't intend to put a sleeping bag in your kit (like me), then you will need something to give you an extra layer against the wind.  A disposable poncho just makes sense in Washington.

Now to clothing.  Don't go hog wild, but remember that clothing is weather dependent.  Change it out as needed for Spring, Summer, Fall, and winter.  Also remember that what you are wearing needs to be taken into consideration as well.  Store in a dry bag to keep safe from water.  Basically, for clothing you need:
  • Change of weather appropriate clothes
  • Extra Socks
  • Extra underwear and undershirts
  • Good boots
  • Dry Bag
When you put boots into your 72 hour kit, make sure they are broken in, but not worn out.  There is nothing more frustrating than trying to break in a pair of boots when you need to walk a hundred miles in them.

And that's it.  Now, here's the list all in one place:

Food (3000 calories a day)
Jerky
Granola Bars
Energy Bars (protein and high carb stuff)
Bags of nuts (avoid cans)
Dehydrated Fruits (in bags)
Candy (for comfort and energy boost)
Gum

Water (1 gallon a day)
Water Filter (see my previous entry about Aquamira filtration)
Hydration Bladder
Cheese Cloth and rubber bands
Extra bottle (wide mouth - don't get the small mouth one)

First Aid
10 adhesive bandages (regular band-aids)
2 adhesive pads, 3"x3"
3 sterile gauze pads, 3"x3"
4 butterfly bandages
1 roll of adhesive medical tape
1 roll of cohesive bandage wrap (better than elastic)
1 moleskin pad, 3"x6"
1 small bar of soap or small pack of cleansing (alcohol) pads
1 tube of antiseptic (I used Neosporin w/ pain reliever)
3 small packets of basic first aid creme
3 small packets of burn gel
1 pair of Scissors
2 pairs of non-latex gloves
1 mouth/protection barrier for CPR
1 pencil and paper
1 small baggy of medications I take and pain relievers
Iodine and neutralizer tablets (for further treating of questionable water)

Tools
Good knife (pocket/utility or fighting knife)
Map and Compass
Survival Kit in a Can
Flashlight and a Headlamp
Spare Batteries
Whistle
Signal Mirror
Emergency shelter (tube tent or small tarp)
Emergency blanket
Poncho
Waterproof Matches
Flint/fire starter
Pocket Radio

Clothing (Weather Appropriate)
Change of weather appropriate clothes
Extra Socks
Extra underwear and undershirts
Good boots
Dry Bag

All of this stuff needs to be packed into a sturdy backpack that is small and comfortable to use.

-James

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