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When my family lived in Phoenix, we didn’t have much to worry about. The Phoenix area is remarkably free from natural disasters: There are no earthquakes worth mentioning, no forest fires, no tornadoes, no hurricanes, no blizzards. Life there was pretty good, right up to the point when the power goes out and the water stops, at which point, everyone there is going to die.
That’s not the sort of thing you can prep for, aside from slapping on a hockey mask and going full Rockatansky.
Now that I life in Florida, though, things have changed. There’s everyday disasters to worry about here, such as tornadoes, hurricanes, flooding, and all manner of other mishaps. Before that, growing up in western Canada, we learned to keep blankets, sand, and a shovel in the trunk of our car, because blizzards happen.
That’s all “prepping” really is, or rather should be. It’s being able to take care of yourself and your loved ones for a given amount of time, without the use of society’s existing infrastructure,
What things are needed to accomplish this task will vary with where you live. When I lived in Phoenix, I had two hydration bladders within easy reach because I couldn’t count on finding water nearby (or anywhere, actually). Here in Florida, water is not a problem (although I still have a filter straw near me), but I do have a machete in the trunk.
I like a layered approach to this sort of thing. I most always have, on my person, a Photon Micro flashlight, a CRKT knife, a Leatherman Multitool, and my phone, which has apps for storm alerts and an emergency radio frequency monitor. Near me (not always with me) is a small bag that has everything I need to get along for 24 hours outside of the home or office. Finally, I have that object of so much Internet chatter, the bug-out bag.
There are plenty of pre-packaged “survival” bug-out bags out there, some good, some bad. If you’re going the pre-packaged route, I really like Echo Sigma gear because they use the brands I’d use if I started from scratch. Yes, their stuff is a little more expensive than other pre-packed kits, but the items in their packs are high-quality, name-brand items, not dollar-store knockoffs.
Creating a bug-out bag from scratch is another matter. There is terabyte upon terabyte on the Internet devoted to the idea of what makes a good bug-out bag. (Here’s mine.) Making a good bug-out bag is a personal process, though. Everyone will arrive at roughly the same point, but they’ll get there by following different paths. In general, a bug-out bag should have:
- A good, comfortable bag to carry everything in;
- At least one way to get a fire going, like a lighter or matches or flint;*
- Water, and some way of making more drinking water;
- At least one flashlight, along with extra batteries;
- Some form of shelter. A mylar blanket or two, at the very least;
- A first-aid kit, and ideally, also a trauma kit;
- A knife, and preferably other tools as well;
- Paracord and duct tape for the improvised building of … stuff. All kinds of stuff;
- At least one signalling device for rescuers, like a whistle or mirror or flare;
- Regional-specific items such as dust masks, cold-weather clothing, extra water or the afore-mentioned machete;**
- The little things that make life worth living, like sanitation supplies, grooming items, coffee.***
All this stuff is not going to do you much good if it’s at home when disaster strikes, so plan accordingly. Also keep in mind that there are man-made disasters as well as natural ones, so having something to fight off the planet’s apex predator (man) might not be a bad idea to have near you when most of society temporarily breaks down.
It’s interesting to note that the most useful thing I’ve carried around in my trunk these last few years hasn’t been an AR-15 rifle or my bug-out bag, it’s been a set of jumper cables. After all, being prepared means being able to deal with all of life’s ups and down, no matter how large and small.
* Make sure you know how to use it, as it’s trickier than it looks.
** Besides that, machetes are cool.
*** Yes, you can live without coffee, but why would you want to?