Canuck In Denver's Page

Emergency Preparedness and Survival Basics
Suggested Gear and Clothing

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Canuck In Denver


My thoughts on survival.

Somewhere while I was growing up I became a "survivalist". The idea of having food, clothes, gear and other things on hand in case things went wrong makes sense to me. Maybe it was my time as a Wolf Cub or my time as a Wolf Cub and Scout leader, maybe it is because I have always been a history buff, maybe it was the role playing games like Dungeons & Dragons I played, maybe it was a combination of these and my innate personality. Who knows? I sure don't. All I know is that it makes sense to have those supplies.

To me, survivalism is not like Mel Gibson in Mad Max or the Road Warrior or any number of Hollywood versions of what happens after the crap hits the fan. Survivlism can best be illustrated by those few people in New Orleans in 2005 who made it through hurricane Katrina with little difficulty. By having a supply of food, water and a means to cook they were able to stay in their homes until government agencies could get their act together and start bringing in relief supplies.

When you get right down to it, survivalism is what our parents, grandparents and great grandparents practiced on a daily basis. They always had food in the cupboards just in case something went wrong. If they lived in a rural area they had gardens, canned, had root cellars and lots of firewood. They knew that you need to have food in case you can't get to the store. They knew you had to have light and heat in case the power went out.

At the core of survivalism is the desire to be prepared for whatever man or nature throws your way. It could be weather related, I lived 60 miles away from Buffalo, NY during the blizzard of 78 and as a kid thought that a week of being completely snowed in and then another without school during my favorite season of the year was great. It could be "man made" such as a chemical spill. It could be having no power for two weeks for whatever reason. It could be a disruption in the distribution system used in today's "just in time" delivery method for store stocking - when was the last time you went to the grocery store late Sunday and found that many items were out of stock - what if no trucks could get through for a week or more? There are any number of events that can throw a monkey wrench into your day-to-day routine that could affect your very survival.

Part of survival includes knowing what emergencies or disasters you are may experience. Do you live near a busy highway that hazardous material trucks use? Rail road tracks? Is there a chemical plant near by? What about a nuclear reactor (power company or university)? What about forest fires? Floods? Tornadoes? Hurricanes? Winter blizzard? If you live in a city you may have to deal with civil unrest and rioting. Some people have moved from the city to the suburbs, some have moved to a more rural location. Others prefer to have a cabin or some other sort of retreat to go to in case the crap hits the fan. Some plan on going to a friend or relative's. Every person's situation is different and requires different plans and gear. You must assess your situation, your means and make some plans. Regardless of your particular situation there are a few constants in every emergency, disaster or survival situation.

Riding out the emergency or "Bugging In"
There are any number of simple things the average person can do to make their chances of surviving such an event as easy and assured as possible. Simple things like having at least two to four weeks of food on hand. The more food you have the better. This food should be easy to prepare and require no refrigeration. Canned,  dried, "heat and eat" foods (MREs, boil in the bag, etc) are great for this and do not require a lot of room. Water, at 3 gallons a day per person just for food will take up more room, but between water on hand and some way to purify the water you should be able to survive on two to three days of stored water. I'd also increase the amount you store per day to 5 gallons per person per day, water jugs usually come in 5 gallon sizes.  If you are going to pack freeze dried food that needs to be rehydrated you will need to stock more water, which is another reason to round up to 5 gallons per person per day.

Water can be stored as store bought bottled water or in bottles or drums that you fill yourself and treat with a few drops of regular chlorine bleach, or a combination of the two. Water purification should also be considered as in most cases when municipal water is once again available it comes with a boil and/or treat advisory. A gravity filer such as a Berkey or Katadyn makes this process much easier. Water purifiers also allow you to use water from just about any source you may find... stream, pond, lake, etc. Smaller gravity filters can be taken with you in the event you have to evacuate your home.

There are a number of other things you can do to make life at home easier in an emergency situation. If you have a fireplace make sure you have wood to provide heat, you may also want to consider a stove insert that will allow you to cook food on the top in pots and pans. You way want to consider a basic wood burning stove such as a pot bellied stove for the kitchen for heat and cooking. Candles, candle lanterns, oil lamps, battery lanterns, camping lanterns and solar rechargeable deck lanterns can all be used around the house to provide light. Camping stoves can be used to cook on as can gas or charcoal grills. Charcoal fire pits can be used inside to provide heat (and to cook on), similar items were used in the past and are called braziers. Propane or kerosene heaters can also be used to heat your house.

I like charcoal. I have three charcoal grills, your standard Weber kettle grill, a small Hibatchi, and a large Brinkman (will also burn wood) that has two cooking areas and can fit 72 beer brats on both sides. The Brinkman will stay hot for about 4 hours with ten pounds of charcoal. Charcoal is fairly cheap, I pay about $11 for two 40 pound bags of Kingsford at Sam's Club, and with a charcoal fire pit or improvised brazier I can use it to heat the inside of the house if worst comes to worst.

Keep in mind that anything that burns indoors presents a fire and carbon monoxide hazard, get a couple of battery operated carbon monoxide monitors and keep them with your emergency supplies.  Make sure you open a couple of windows an inch or two to allow ventilation. These should be in addition to any carbon monoxide detectors already in your home, make sure you have extra batteries.

If you have a lot of frozen and refrigerated food or have medical equipment that requires electricity you will want to think about a gasoline, propane/natural gas or diesel powered generator. Gasoline powered generators are by far the most common, but gasoline should not be stored for too long. Propane powered generators are usually found as whole house backup generators due to the clean burning propane/natural gas and the long term storage capabilities of propane/natural gas, but can be found in portable models as well. Diesel generators are less common but they are more durable than their gasoline counterparts, diesel also has storage issues but can be stored longer than gasoline (not to mention bio-diesel). In some cases you can find dual or triple fuel generators that run on a combination of  liquid and LP (low pressure - propane/natural) gas. With generators in every size from small 1 kilowatt Hondas and up, there is a generator to meet every need and budget.

Without water service or electricity (to pump the water) you will not have the ability to flush your toilet. A portable toilet of some sort will come in very handy. This can be a basic five gallon pail with toilet seat attached and garbage bags to a sawdust toilet or ready made portable toilets.

That about covers the various things an average person can do to make staying at home during and after an emergency that disrupts normal services. It goes without saying that you should have the basic tools most home owners do, a shovel, axe, saw, hammers, etc to make any basic repairs that are needed, such as boarding up windows after a hurricane or clearing downed trees.

Evacuating your home or "Bugging Out"
You should also have a BOB or Bug Out Bag for every member of your family in case you have no option but to leave your home. Your BOB should contain food, water and clothing for three days to a week. You should have some means to purify any water you find. You should have basic cookin
g gear, sleeping gear, personal hygiene and first aid supplies, basic camping tools, shelter and some means to listen to the news. Don't forget basic identification and proof of where you live and copies of any other important papers. Your BOB should be packed and ready to go at all times.

When the need or order to evacuate comes the first thing you should do is get in contact with all of your family members. Next put your bug out bags in your vehicle; if there is time, load up with all the extra food, water, clothing and other gear you can safely fit into your vehicle. Getting your bug out bags loaded into your vehicle should take no more than five minutes if everyone does it at once. Keeping a few plastic storage totes and a luggage cart can aid in moving other items like cans from your cupboards and pantry and any stored water you have. A few five gallon water jugs can be quickly filled then loaded. From the time you are notified or decide to evacuate should take no more than 30 minutes in an ideal situation.

If you have the money and the room, you may want to consider getting a small trailer to tow behind your vehicle. Generally your vehicle can tow more than it can carry. If you have a small trailer you can keep most of your gear stored in the trailer with the exception of any temperature sensitive items like canned or perishable food, freeze dried food is generally fine in a trailer. With a trailer all you have to do is hook it up, load your bug out bags and any extra food or gear and leave.

You should have a plan in place in the event leaving your home is required. This should include meeting places, a number of destinations depending on how long you expect to be away and several routes out of the area you live in and to your destination. If at all possible do not take interstate or large highways, these will quickly become packed with cars as people leave. Use back roads and round about routes if you have to, have alternate routes marked to get around any bottlenecks along your route. The sooner you leave the less traffic you will encounter and the less time it will take you.

Here is a simple list of gear for your BOB:

     - 3 to 10 days of lightweight food

     - At least 2 days of water
     - Means to purify water
     - Some way to cook your food (stove, rack for fire)
     - 1 quart pot, 3 quart pot, stainless steel fry pan, coffee percolator/tea pot
     - stainless steel mess kit, two insulated or plastic mugs/cups
     - knife, fork and spoon set, steak knife
     - 5 gallon collapsible water jug
     - measuring cups, spatula, slotted spoon
     - basic spices
     - 2 quart canteens, water bottles or hydration bag
     - dish scrubby and dish soap
     - small bottle of bleach
     - manual can opener

     - tent with extra pegs/stakes and/or two tarps (8 feet X 6 feet)
     - sleeping bag or blankets
     - sleeping pad
     - 10 to 20 small nails
     - 50 feet of rope
     - 100 feet parachute cord
     - plastic sheet/tarp or heavy duty garbage bags

     - underwear, 4 to 7 pairs
     - socks, 4 to 7 pairs (wool - some cotton is OK)
     - T shirts, 4 to 8 (at least 2 all synthetic)
     - long sleeve shirt
     - fleece or wool sweater or 2
     - wind & water resistant jacket with hood
     - athletic/sweat pants, 2 pairs
     - jeans, 1 pair
     - shorts, 1 pair
     - thermal underwear, 1 pair
     - watchmen's cap (wool or fleece)
     - baseball cap
     - sneakers
     - hiking boots
     - water shoes, moccasins, flip flops, etc
     - army poncho
     - seasonal clothing
     - Woolite
     - retractable clothesline and clothes pins (6 to 10)
     - bandanas (3)

     - Multi-tool (Leatherman, Gerber)
     - folding knife, 3 to 4 inch
     - fixed blade knife, 4 to 6 inch
     - hatchet
     - machete
     - leather work gloves
     - compass
     - LED flashlight
     - squeeze/shake/windup LED flashlight
     - light sticks, three 6 hour
     - solar/crank/battery powered multi-band radio
     - whistle
     - matches, 50 to 100
     - disposable lighters, 2
     - magnesium fire block
     - binoculars, small sportsman's
     - small shovel or entrenching tool
     - basic survival kit

     - basic first aid kit
     - blister cream and moleskin
     - NP95 disposable masks
     - latex exam gloves
     - medicated foot powder
     - extra Ace bandages
     - spare eye glasses or contacts
     - 30 day supply of any prescription medications
     - lip balm/chapstick
     - sunscreen
     - 2 decks of cards (Sanity)
     - favorite book (Sanity)
     - travel/auto versions of popular games (Sanity)

     - comb/brush
     - tooth brush, tooth paste, floss
     - deodorant/antiperspirant (scentless if going into woods)
     - nail clippers & file
     - soap in soap dish and/or liquid soap
     - face cloth or body scrubber
     - hand towel
     - bath towel
     - baby wipes
     - baby powder
     - sample/hotel size shampoo and conditioner
     - antibacterial wash
     - sample size shaving cream and disposable razor
     - toilet paper
     - small unbreakable mirror
     - feminine products
     - garbage bags

     - roll of quarters
     - pre-paid long distance phone card
     - Cash, as much as possible in 1s, 5s, 10s & 20s (minimum $200)
     - Keep in mind bribes and other "tolls" or "taxes" that may suddenly appear

     The minimum amount you will need is the number of gallons of gas it takes to get to your
     destination times $5 (to account for price gouging), plus meals and snacks along the way and
     hotels based on one room for every 12 hours of travel time plus one more just in case.

     The issue of gold and silver always comes up in discussions of survival. Some people say it is
     useless since you can eat or shoot it, others say it is a requirement. I have always taken the
     middle road when it comes to gold and silver. My thought is that gold and silver should have value
     based on 6000 years of human history. I never advocate putting all of your eggs in any one basket
     and don't do that when it comes to gold and silver. If you can afford to put money aside for gold
     and silver then do so, but remember like any other insurance policy you may never need it and
     like the stock market it may lose value.
     When you buy gold or silver buy coins or bars that are priced based on their weight and purity, get
     as close to 100% content as possible. Many gold dealers will try to talk you into collectors coins,
     personally I would suggest staying away from collector as much of their value is based upon their
     rarity or condition or some other arbitrary method that will fluctuate with time much more so than
     regular bullion or content and weight priced coins. Looked at another way, if Steve buys a one
     ounce 100% pure bullion coin for $600 and Bob buys a once ounce 100% pure collector coin for
     $1000 and I am selling a cow for one ounce of 100% pure gold both coins are worth exactly the
     same to me... one cow. I don't care what Steve or Bob paid for their coins, all I care about is
     purity and weight. This means that Steve would be paying me $600 and Bob would be paying me
     $1000 for the same cow.

     In other words, it is weight and purity that is likely to matter to the average person in the end. Get
     a variety of gold and silver coins in a variety of weights, but get as close to 100% pure as you can.


Your BOB should be made of sturdy material. It can be a backpack, duffel bag or a plastic tote. I would suggest a backpack so that it is easy to carry if you are forced to walk for any distance. Older ALICE backpacks allow you to add pouches, canteen covers, etc and are fairly inexpensive.


Many of the items on this list are probably already in your home or garage. Others will have to be bought, but with the exception of the water purifiers, all are fairly cheap. Some of the items do not need to be duplicated for each member of your family, so that will help keep costs down.

Most of these items are common sense items that you will see in any hiker's backpack and should not raise any questions from local law enforcement types. Many of these items are already on the lists of the many government agencies that suggest you prepare for possible emergencies. Printing out a copy of these lists and keeping them in your BOB may be resolve any lingering questions from law enforcement types.

I have not dealt with guns since that is a personal choice and local laws and other factors can have an impact on your ability to own or carry a firearm. There are many articles and opinions on which one or two firearms someone should have in a survival situation, most people agree that a .22 rifle is a good item to have for small game while a 12 gauge pump action shotgun is the best all around defensive firearm out there. Beyond that the divisions and opinions can differ greatly.

I take a concentric or layered approach to survival kits. I have my basic survival kit, various vehicle kits, my BOB and other gear that comes into play depending on whether I am "Bugging In" or "Bugging Out". If I have to Bug Out then I can quickly load my survival kit, BOB, basic supply of food and some extra gear within 30 minutes. If I have help or have longer to load my gear I can grab extra clothes and more gear. I keep most of my gear in a 4 foot X 6 foot X 20 inch cabinet in my office. Fuel, two 18 gallon totes full of food and other items are kept grouped together in other areas of the house or in the garage.

When making your plans and packing your gear and supplies keep your pets in mind. They will need water and food as well as a safe place to be in your vehicle.

Your BOB should remain in a closet near the door you will use to exit your house or in your room. If kept in your room it is there for any last minute packing of clothes like extra socks and underwear, another sweater or your seasonal gear.

You'll notice that I put some leisure time items under first aid and medical with the notation of "Sanity" beside them, this is to keep the kids and yourself occupied when you have long periods of time to wait around, this could be keeping the kids relaxed while you are driving or once everyone has reached their final destination.

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