Sunday, August 24, 2014

Emergency Preparation, Part 18: Travel light, or stay heavy?

Miss D. and I moved house this month.  In the process we're deliberately shedding more than half of the 'stuff' we (mostly I) have accumulated during our lives so far.  We're going to force ourselves to fit into a relatively small duplex, so that when the next move comes (probably during the next twelve months) we have much less to move and are able to be more 'nimble' in responding to opportunities.

This has led me to fundamentally reappraise our emergency preparations.  We've long since agreed that most of our reserve food should be things that we eat regularly, so that in effect our emergency supplies are really an 'extended pantry'.  As we use up older supplies, we replenish the 'stash' with new ones, so that everything's rotated over the course of a couple of years.  However, this has the notable disadvantage of being heavy and bulky.  Canned goods are great if you're planning to stay put during an emergency.  If you have to 'bug out', they'll probably be too bulky and heavy for your available transport - or, if you can somehow fit them in, you'll have to leave other, equally important things behind.

I'm therefore in the process of re-evaluating our emergency preparations.  I still want to have two to three months food on hand, but it's virtually certain most of it will no longer be in the form of cans, bottles, etc.  They simply take up too much space and weigh too much.  We'll have to spend a bit more money and stock up on dehydrated vegetables, some freeze-dried meals, and dry foods such as beans and rice.  Most of these will be lighter and less bulky than large quantities of cans.  (We'll keep a supply of high-quality canned meat, though, as this is by far the tastiest, easiest-to-use preserved meat I've found.  Textured vegetable protein is a lighter, relatively palatable alternative, but some people have adverse reactions to it.)  I'm going to try to store our supplies along the lines of 'one week's food in a bucket' - it's much cheaper to make up your own bucket's contents rather than buy the pre-filled buckets or other pre-packaged supplies sold by many vendors.

The same principle applies to many other aspects of emergency preparation.  Water purification chemicals and/or equipment, makeshift clothes-laundering supplies, tools . . . the list is almost endless.  Big, heavy equipment is often very capable and highly useful;  but it's not very portable.  Can you afford to tie it, and yourself, to a geographical location that may turn out to be far from secure in troubled times?  I suggest not.  Better to have backup equipment that's lighter and more portable, so you can abandon the big stuff and take the smaller gear with you if necessary.  If you can't afford both, or only have space to store one alternative, go with the most versatile option - one that lets you stay or go, depending on the circumstances confronting you.

This carries through to other aspects of emergency preparation such as firearms and ammunition.  I'm not going to dispose of my relatively small collection of firearms, but I'm going to rearrange and prioritize it to make sure that certain cartridges and calibers are pre-packaged for an emergency, and the weapons to go with them are similarly prepared.  In the event of a crisis, it'll be a matter of a few moments to take the essential guns out of the safe, grab a bag pre-packed with all the necessary magazines, holsters, cleaning gear and other accessories, pick up an ammo can and a soft case for each gun, and toss them all in the truck.  The other guns and gear will have to look after themselves until we get back.  (If we decide to shelter in place, of course, they may come in useful, or become worthwhile trade goods.)

A few friends and I are also discussing the possibility of storing a gun or two at each others' homes.  Given that trouble can erupt at any time, we may not be able to get back to our own places for a while.  If we can go to a friend's house in another suburb or town to collect a handgun and/or long gun that we've stored there, this will render us better able to get home during times of trouble - or 'get out of Dodge' if worst comes to worst.  At the very least, we'll be able to help our friend defend his home and family until we can find out what's happened to our own.  The old saying about there being 'strength in numbers' is still true.

Finally, think about this.  You may have plenty of food and other supplies stored at home;  but if widespread civil unrest erupts, it's probably going to be looted.  The looters may walk over your dead bodies to get it, too.  Too many possessions can be a trap, in that they come to own you rather than the other way around.  If your emergency supplies can't be moved easily, you're tied down to them and by them.  Better by far to have at least part of them in a form that allows you to toss them into a vehicle, or pack them on a utility trailer, and get out of the way of oncoming trouble - even if that means the loss of your home and remaining supplies.  Possessions are nowhere near as important as your life and health, and those of your family and loved ones.

Take a good look at what you own.  Are you so attached to some of your possessions (e.g. a nice house, or an extensive gun collection, or a well-equipped workshop, or a fancy bass boat) that you can't bear the thought of abandoning them in an emergency?  If so, they own you, not the other way around.  That's a fundamentally unhealthy situation - a trap waiting to be sprung.  You need to start doing something about it now, before the trap closes during an emergency.  The same applies to your emergency supplies.  They exist to keep you secure in time of need.  If, instead, you have to limit your options in order to secure them, something's cockeyed.  Again, you need to start fixing that problem now, before an emergency arises.



Judy said...

May I suggest you and Miss D look into a dehydrator? One with a temperature control is a must. Shape (square or round) is a matter of preference. Dehydrators allow you to control what has gone into your food and cost. There are a lot of resources on the web on what you can dehydrate and ways to store what you have dehydrated. One of the less obvious places to look for meal ideas are backpacking sites.

tweell said...

I'll keep my canned goods for now, thanks. You live where water isn't an issue, aside from purifying it. I'm in Arid-zona, and water is my biggest and heaviest storage item. If you have to carry the water to rehydrate that food, cans start looking pretty good.

Anonymous said...

Peter, After about a month of school opening, backpacks go on sale. I have one packed for each caliber I own with the actual firearm in the safe. Magazines, ammo, spare small parts, and most of all for my wife, I have a baggage tag with a picture of the corresponding firearm on the outside. Makes matching this up a lot easier. Mark

Rolf said...

Food: Emergency lifeboat rations, a case or two. Datrex, SOS, Mainstay, whatever you like best. Compact, not too expensive, last a long time, high calorie density, zero-prep.

Love the "backpack per gun" idea. I'll have to sew up a basic purse-like gun-pouch (with simple shoulder-strap) for several of the gun-safe residents, with ammo, magazines, speed-loaders, etc.

I have the "bug out stuff," which has a lot of overlap with "camping stuff" in the garage where it can be loaded quickly. Not a perfect arrangement, but decent.

Ryan said...

I think that your stuff getting to own you is more of a psychological issue than one that automatically exists at certain levels of stuff.

Also I think if/ when you get over whatever amount of stuff you are comfortable having at home but are not secure in your preparations it's time for caches.

Sarthurk said...

I have two routes out. One if by sea, the other by land.
I have a location that could be cut off by land in the event of an earthquake. The other blocked by the tsunami wave(debris). Initially, I can run uphill. But my driveway could easily become a boat ramp if the Cascadia Fault slips.
In my time? I don't know how much longer I will live.

John Cunningham said...

A comment by a radio talk guy, Bruce Williams, impressed me long ago. he gave business and career advice, and once he was talking to a guy who had lost his job in a town with minimal job openings. Williams advised him to relocate to a growing region, and the guy said that he loved his house too much to leave it.
Williams said, "Never love anything that can't love you back."

Anonymous said...

You are old sick and immobile, Keep the caned goods; they last longer and offer much higher food value as well as supplemental fluids. Whether its TEOTWAWKI or just SHTF "shelter in place" is ALWAYS a better bet than trying to be a sick and semi-helpless refugee at the mercy of the "mob". Your home offers every survival need as well as many comforts for as long as the food and water last, and you will have far more in the way of food, water TP and support meds at home ,than you can ever fit in a car.---Ray

Anonymous said...

I really have no place to go. I'm not really sure surviving as a refugee is really better than being dead. Sure, I'll fight for my life, but living on in misery isn't as appealing as it sounds.


Peter said...

@Ray: I agree that sheltering in place is in most cases the best option. However, in cases of severe social disruption (such as happened after Hurricane Katrina, or may happen with other extended interruptions to normal social services for any reason) then your 'bug-in' location may become untenable for any of a number of reasons. Under those circumstances, your 'safe haven' isn't, and you'd be better off moving away to a safer area.

I agree, that's not ideal, but emergencies typically don't ask what you'd prefer before they strike.

Will said...

for vehicle bugout, you might consider getting one of the small trailers from Horror Fright. The bigger one folds up and rolls on casters, so you could put it up against a wall for storage. I expect you could do something similar with the smaller one.

These are light duty, and don't weigh much. You will need to install your own plywood for a deck, so you can decide if you need a heavy, thick sheet for support, or very thin. Might consider building a bolt together box to mount on it, for general security of your supplies.

If you are really pressed for space, you could store it disassembled, since it bolts together. Doesn't take long. Best to test assemble it before storage, though!

The small wheel/tire they use are the weak point. However, they keep the load close to the ground, at the expense of ground clearance for the axle. The small one uses 8" wheels, and the bigger one has 12", IIRC. Buy extras, they're cheap.

Anonymous said...

@ Will - RE: trailers for Getting Out Of Dodge.


Pulling a trailer will demand different driving techniques which most people have not mastered; whom do you know can back up with a trailer as fast, or even nearly so, as they can in a car without a trailer?

Trailers will need spare tires; in stop-and-go traffic it takes only seconds for two people to disconnect a small trailer and push it off to the side. Do you perform a "jump out" with guns blazing to rescue your supplies?

Try this: in a large empty parking lot, set a marker (cone, cardboard box, whatever) drive up to it at normal speed, perform an emergency stop, put the car in reverse and back up at maximum speed for 50-75 yards - without hitting anything or losing control. You're simulating getting out of a threatening situation ASAP.

Now try it with a trailer. Any trailer.

A slightly better bet is a trailer hitch mounted carrier; be sure to use a locking pin for it, and don't put anything critical to survival in the basket.

Roof racks work well, too, as long as one stays within their weight limits and knows how to secure items.

While we're on driving, start practicing what cops learn in their driving schools: when stopping, at a light, for example, always be in the curb or median lane, and stop with 3/4 car length between you and the car in front.

That space gives you room to spin the wheel and quickly drive away from trouble. In the center lane(s) you're trapped, in curb or median lanes you have an escape path. Small plane pilots are taught to always have someplace to land within sight in case of trouble, and often will temporarily alter course a few degrees to do so. Be a pilot.

Peter said...

@Will: Agreed. I recommended that option in the 13th article in this series - see the list in the sidebar.

@Anonymous at 1:10 AM: I understand your concerns about the security of goods on a trailer, but you have to balance them against the need to carry supplies with you. I'd divide my load, putting some essentials in the vehicle, and some on the trailer. One can provide reasonable 'overwatch' for a trailer from within one's vehicle if one stays alert, and the hitch can be secured to prevent it being quickly and easily detached. As for rapid reversing, sure, that can be a problem: but to my mind, the advantages of a small cargo or utility trailer outweigh its disadvantages. YMMV, of course.

Anonymous said...

I definitely agree with leaving a pair of firearms at several friends homes, you never know if you will be unable to return to your home.

And what if there is a fire - gas explosion before that awaited emergency occurs ? Those spare may become your one and onlys.

Lightweight food is your best bet for packing, I'd definitely add some flavor packets in the stash. Dried food has a reputation for becoming rather 'blah' after a period of time.

Anonymous said...

Passing thought on food that I daresay your readers already know. I fully agree with your philosophy that it ought to be things you already are eating. Or at least try it before buying it in bulk if only so one knows about potential unfortunate reactions ahead of time, such as the vegetable protein.
I was forcibly reminded of this in a graphic fashion the other week. I can eat just about anything...except as it turns out, xanthan gum, which is an increasingly common thickener in prepared foods.
One doesn't want a large portion of one's food store to be poison!

Will said...


Memory? What memory? Arrghh! I find I left a comment on that original article, AND the add-on article. Sheesh...

On the food, I would suggest that ingredients be stored separately, if possible. Over the past few years, I've developed reactions to several common foods, which makes buying pre-made stuff an adventure, as the contents of manufactured foods can vary without notice. I have to read the contents EVERY time I shop. Invariably, the one time I don't bother, is the time it changes for the worse. Sigh...

On a Wing and a Whim said...

When I lived in Alaska, I always prepared for staying where I was. After all, I lived on a peninsula with two roads in and out, and one went across a marsh that used to be high ground before the '64 quake, and the other regularly gets shut by avalanches in the winter. Nowhere to go!

Down in the lower 48, there are different challenges and opportunties - and more things to prepare for than earthquake, volcano, forest fire (how many air filters can you go through?), tsunami, and port strike shutting down the food supply.

I liked preparing for nature better than people. Nature always tries to kill you, but it's refreshingly honest about it. People are harder.