Society has done a great job of convincing us that wants are actually needs but when you get right down to it for the past hundred million or so years human existence has flourished with only four basic needs.
The more I think about it, these four things are a launching point for any survival situation. I always have people coming up to me and asking where they should begin to plan out their 72 Hour Bag, Earthquake kit or emergency bunker.
No matter how small or large that ark you’re building is going to be you need to think of these four basic components and scale up from there.
Shelter – How many people does it need to support? What is the climate in which this shelter needs to support life? How secure does the shelter need to be?
Water – 1 Gallon of water per person / pet per day. Is there a method for replenishing the supply? Rain Water? Underground spring? Water filtration methods need to be evaluated and learned. For how long do you estimate you will need to support life when a disaster has occurred? Keeping a gallon of unscented bleach is a very simple way of purifying water. Write the following in Sharpie on the side of the bottle with the date you purchased the jug.
Fire – Since the dawn of man this has been the one skill which has separated human from animal. The ability to create security at night, warmth and cook foods to gain more nutrients from them is literally what evolved our brains to a higher capacity. Know at least three methods of making fire beyond using a match or lighter. Understand the principals of fire: Heat>Fuel>Oxygen. Lose the balance between this triangle and your fire will be extinguished.
Food – Begin to think about food in terms of calories and shelf life. What foods will give you the greatest bang for their buck, will last the longest AND are palatable to you and the people in your care. The average human needs 1500 – 2000 calories per day. This number can rise and fall due to body type, size and work load. During stressful times the body will be working in overdrive so it’s best to air on the side of more calories in the calculation. Again, know how many people you will need to support and what the expected duration will be. At the very least in all emergencies I say you should have a 10 day supply of rations. This is the MINIMUM! I feel it is better to calculate for 30 days. During Katrina and Sandy some people went much longer without assistance – this will be something you will have to evaluate for yourself and do a cost to benefit analysis for yourself.
I weigh each of these four things as the foundation to survival, with each being of equal value. In extreme survival situations we can fall back on knowing the rules of threes to figure out which is of vital importance but like fire if we lack one of these four the structure of survival will fail.
30 Seconds of Arterial Blood loss
3 Minutes without air
3 hours without shelter causing a disruption in our 98.6 body temperature
3 days without water
3 weeks without food
We need all four for a solid foundation, so begin to think of all of these as one solid unit to build upon.
As many of you know I’ve advocated for people to have the LifeStraw in their 72 Hour Bags for a long time. They are incredible products because they are so light weight and effective in removing dangerous materials from water you find in the field. There has always been a problem with the original model however.
With the original model unless you have a vessel to carry water there really isn’t a way of storing water for later use. This was originally designed as a device for people in Africa to allow them to have access to clean water. In an area where people die from water born illness all the time there is a huge need for people to carry a device which can filter water and they have access to watering holes quite often. But in an area such as the South West you will need to forage for water and collect what you find when you find it because you may not find more when you need it.
I use a hydration bladder in my backpack when I hike with a purification filter in line with the hose leading to the mouthpiece. It’s a pretty good setup because you can carry a large amount of water, some bladders can carry up to 3 liters of water, but I still struggle with this application because there are two problems with using a hydration bladder. One is where to put it. Backpacks are designed to carry the bladder close to your back vertically along your spine close to your shoulder blades. But when the bladder is full and in the sleeve it is designed to fit in it severely depletes the cargo capacity of your pack. When pack manufacturers calculate the liter capacity of the pack they include that area, so with every cubic inch of water you carry, you loose that much cargo capacity. The other issue with a hydration bladder is that when it is in that sleeve and you are under way a person becomes less willing to stop, unpack a portion of the backpack, pull it out and refill it. In areas where there is abundant water this isn’t so much a problem because when you run dry you can fill it immediately. But here in the South West when you see water you need to take advantage of it, even when you’re hot, tired and probably a little dehydrated from the get go. I have been in situations where either I or my hiking buddy hasn’t filled up when they should have and we’ve suffered for it.
Below is the next evolution to the LifeStraw. I call it the LifeStraw 2.0, not it’s real name just what I’m affectionately calling it. I think this bridges the gap between the two worlds. It’s lightweight at 7.8 oz and carries 22 fl oz. At barely over half a liter I’m waiting for LifeStraw to come out with a bottle which has a larger volume. However, with so many water bottles on the market these days I bet you could find a bottle with the same thread pattern which has a larger capacity. If you were to find a bottle allowing you to switch the top it would allow you to either carry one bottle with a larger capacity or have two bottles and one filter which could be moved from one bottle to the other. In a pinch you could always have a cheap Gatorade bottle with a large mouth to collect water and then pour it into the LifeStraw bottle. I’ve always been a fan of the Gatorade bottle because they are repurposed, lightweight and hold a pretty good quantity of liquid.
In any event at roughly $35 this bottle is a great deal. Here are the specs:
- Hollow-fiber filter membrane offers a high flow rate; sip on the straw and it filters the water while it’s on the way to your mouth
- 0.2-micron filter physically removes 99.9999% of all bacteria, such as salmonella, cholera and E.coli; removes 99.9% of all protozoa such as giardia and cryptosporidium
- Detachable filter is effective for cleaning up to 264 gallons before needing replacement; bottle can be used indefinitely
- BPA-free Tritan® plastic bottle is lightweight and durable; leakproof lid and durable, flexible mouthpiece detaches for easy cleaning
- 22 fl. oz. LifeStraw Go Filter Bottle includes a carabiner for easy carrying
There are endless amounts of gear and trinkets you can pack away into your 1996 Honda Accord Hatchback but let’s face it, looking like a bag lady with an engine is not what the goal is. So while it’s tempting to assemble every piece of gear you can and prepare for armageddon to rival the Mormon Church this is not going to be an effective way to utilize your time, space and money. The goal is to assemble a kit PLUS some items which may help you in an emergency situation.
So what are the potential items you might throw in your car that you might not put directly in your 72 Hour Bag? The first thing on my list is a pair of boots with a fresh pair of socks tucked inside. I am not the kind of guy who goes out to the store or work wearing flip flops but ultimately I recognize that I’m not always wearing the best pair of shoes if disaster strikes. My wife keeps a pair of running shoes in her trunk. You can bet dollars to donuts that if a seismic event happens there is going to be lots of glass and nasty sharp objects strewn about and open toe evening strappy shoes that look great with that Little Black Dress aren’t going to do you much good while humping back to your home.
A case of bottled water. Yes, it’s bad to keep bottled water in heat and over time the plastic will degrade. Simple solution: rotate it often. When you’re stuck on the side of the road the ability to hydrate far outweighs any environmental or long term health concern. Drink the freakin water.
Road Flares, not only are they used to signal other motorists when your car is broken down on the side of the road, but if disaster strikes you can take them with you and you’ll be guaranteed to be able to start a fire. Heck, these things will even burn under water… Don’t you remember that scene in Water World?
Duct Tape is a good addition to any emergency kit. I always try to figure out where I can roll some tape onto, like my pen or walking stick. I try to stash a good 5-10′ of tape in my 72 Hour Bag, but the ability to have an ENTIRE ROLL in your car can be worth it’s weight in gold if you need it. A whole roll of Duct Tape weighs way too much to carry, but if you need to repair something on your car and then can drive home? You’ll be writing a testimonial to the company that makes Duct Tape.
A better Jacket. I have a down jacket loosely packed into a large stuff sack in the trunk. It’s important to never over stuff anything made from down, in time it will damage the ability of the down to loft and the amount of loft correlates to how warm you’ll be by trapping more warm air with the greater loft. Having said this, if it’s go time I’d take that jacket and cram it in my bag and go. The 72 hours it’s going to take to get home won’t damage it and even if it does replacing a jacket and having been warm would’ve been worth the $100-200 bucks.
Perhaps the best thing you can do from the start is avoid having to use your 72 Hour Bag at all. Let’s face it, if your automobile is functional you’re not going to need or even want to pull out your 72 Hour Bag and walk some crazy distance back to the safety of your bed. One way to avoid having to abandon your vehicle is to carry four cans of Fix A Flat in the trunk of your car. It comes in a variety of sizes so pick the can which will work best for your tire size. A lot of cars either have a donut spare or no spare tire at all anymore. If you have no spare at all chances are you were given one can of this in the repair kit which sits in the spare tire well under your trunk mat. Check and see, know what items are in there. Sometimes they have a little cigarette lighter pump which can come in handy at pool parties.
Toilet Paper, it’s a good idea if you’re packing extra items in your trunk that you put a roll or two of toilet paper in there because you’re not going to be as concerned with taking up too much room in your 72 Hour Bag. I like the kind which are wrapped in the paper because it can then be used as tinder to get a fire going without wasting any of the actual toilet paper. Toilet paper has many uses other than what it is actually intended for. Fire starter, tissues for blowing nose, using as a layer over a small wound etc…
Wipes are also a good item to keep in your car, both kinds baby wipes (unscented) and clorox wipes because sanitation is going to be an important thing if you’re stuck somewhere away from readily available water for washing. By washing I mean not only you but items and surfaces you’re going to want to keep clean. If you have some kind of injury and you need to change a dressing it’d be a good idea to clean the surface where you’re laying out your medical items before applying them to your body. The Clorox wipes will help sanitize that area. I’m guessing they aren’t going to do a perfect job, but it’ll be better than what was there if you didn’t.
Lastly, you should already have a folding map of the area you live inside your 72 Hour Bag but because you have the room and weight isn’t an issue tuck an old school Thomas Guide inside your car. Most vehicles have pockets on the back of the front seats. Just tuck it in there, that way it’s out of the way but won’t get destroyed lying in the back seat floor. It’s just as important to have a paper map when in your car during an emergency as it is when you’re out hiking. You wouldn’t go into the wild with out a paper map and rely on an electronic device to save your ass, so don’t do it with you’re car either. Many of us go to different locations for work daily and you can’t possibly know every road and shortcut, but the Thomas Guide has very detailed maps and they are pretty easy to use. Nowadays you should be able to find one at a garage sale for pretty cheap.