Hurricane Katrina and the devestation of New Orleans is a useful reminder of just how horribly wrong things can go when the complex network of communications, supplies and social relations of modern cities break down. Luckily, if you’re a climber, hiker or camper, you already know about fending for yourself, sheltering from the elements in the rough and feeding yourself when the the lights go out.
It pays to prepare in advance, so think about where your gear is and whether you have what you need. If you’re already a camper, you have the basics, and may just have to add a few things to your kit.
Your imediate priorities are shelter, clean water, food, light and communications. If you’ve got to get out fast these will meet your minimum needs (a more complete list is lower down):
- Water: A purification system or chemical disinfectant. In an emergency you can use a few drops of plain unscented household bleach (1 drop per litre) or baby-bottle sterilizing fluid. Easier yet are the chlorine pills or iodine drops. I keep a couple of tabs of pills in my hiking kit anyhow and a second bottle of iodine water cleaner at home. That way I’m always good for enough water for a couple of days.
- Sheter: Your best bet is a proper hiking tent. If you have a freestanding dome you can seek shelter along the way, and literally walk yourself out of a disaster zone once it’s safe to do so without waiting for rescue. In a pinch some tarp or plastic sheeting may be enough to keep you warm.
- Stove: If you already have a hiking stove, just be sure you always have a couple of canisters of fuel ready. I keep a litre of fuel for my liquid-fueled MSR Dragonfly on hand. If you are buying a stove specially to keep in reserve you can pick up a cheap Trangia alcohol stove. They’re pretty cheap, easy to use and come packaged with a little pot. If you’re looking to spend a bit more go for a multi-fuel stove such as the Dragonfly or Optimus Nova, which can burn just about anything from white gas to jet fuel. It’s not ideal but if you have to you can run one of these babies off the gas in your car (just try not to inhale the toxins).
- Warmth: On this score I’m also relying on the sleeping bags and fleece jackets in my closet. It’s a 100 times more comfy and warmer than any space blanket.
- Food: Check your kitchen. How much imperishable food do you have there. I’m talking rice, lentils, beans, tins of stuff. We’re not talking gastro-pub grub, just survival. If you haven’t got much that will survive when the lights go out and the fridge goes off, then now’s a good time to buy a couple of bags of rice and some tins of fish and stick them at the back of the closet. Hopefully that’s the last you need to think about it until you throw out the old stuff and repeat in a couple of years.
- Light: If you haven’t already got a modern LED headtorch such as the Petzl Tikka or Tikka XP (reviewed here ) then go out and get one right now. The cheapest will set you back a small amount of money and come in useful from day one. I used mine just last night when I arrived home and found the lights had tripped at the main. My Tikka lives next to my bed and comes away with me whenever I travel. A box or two of ordinary candles are always good to keep around the house. A chemical lightstick could be useful but I don’t bother. Since here in the U.K. they cost about the same as a cheap torch (and have a limited shelf life) I don’t really see the point.
- Communications: Emergency services recommend you keep a battery-powered radio handy to listen in for emergency advice. My old walkman should do that trick perfectly well.
So there we go. Total cost of buying my gear for camping. Probably more than a 1000 pounds ($2000) over the years. Additional cost of preparing for a disaster. $0.00
With proper backmountain camping gear you’re far better equipped than many of the poor saps who’ve spent a pile of money buying commerical survival kits such as this $299.95 four person gettaway kit that includes such items as:
Warmth & Shelter
- 2 Deluxe 2-person 8′ Tube Tents
- 1 U.S. Made Wool Blanket
- 2 Survival Sleeping Bags
- 1 Emergency Rescue Blanket (yellow)
- 3 Compact Emergency Space Blankets
- 4 Emergency Ponchos
This is what the U.S. military recommends you need to survive a hurricane.
Hurricane Survival Kit
|The most important part of your hurricane plan is a Hurricane Kit, that includes the basic life support you will need after a disaster. Prepare to be self sufficient for at least 3 days to two weeks. Here’s a list a thorough hurricane kit list of Survival Materials:Food/Water *Bottled water ( 1 gallon per day per person) for 14 days*Manual can opener*Non-perishable foods:*
Flashlight (1 per person) *
- Portable battery powered lanterns
- Glass enclosed candles
- Battery powered radio or TV
- Battery operated alarm clock
- Extra batteries, including hearing aids
- Ice chest and ice
- First Aid Kit-including aspirin, antibiotic cream, and antacids
- Mosquito repellent
- Sun screen (45 SPF recommended)
- Waterproof matches/butane lighter
- Plain bleach or water purification tablets
- Disposable plates, glasses, and Utensils
- Maps of the area with landmarks on it
- Cooking :
- Portable camp stove or grill
- Stove fuel or charcoal, lighter fluid
- Disposable eating utensils, plates & cups
- Napkins & paper towels
- Aluminum foil
- Oven mitts
- Personal Supplies:
Prescriptions ( 1month supply)*Photo copies of prescriptions*
- Toilet paper
Entertainment: books, magazines, card games etc*
- Soap and detergent
Toiletries*Bedding: pillows, sleeping bag*Clothing for a few days*
- Rain ponchos, and work gloves
- Extra glasses or contact lenses
Disposable diapers*Formula, food and medication*
- Photo copies of prescriptions
- Proof of occupancy of residence (utility bills)
- Medical history or information
- Waterproof container for document storage
- Back-up disks of your home computer files
- Camera & film
- Pet Supplies
- Dry & canned food for two weeks
- Water (1/2 gallon per day)
- Litter box supplies
- Traveling Cage
- Other Necessities:
- Tools: hammer, wrenches, screw drivers, nails, saw
- Trash bags (lots of them)
- Cleaning supplies
- Plastic drop cloth
- Mosquito netting
- ABC rated fire extinguisher
- Masking or duct tape
- Outdoor extension cords
- Spray paint to identify your home if necessary
- One of your home phones (many people lost theirs during Andrew, even though their phone service still worked)
* If you are planning to evacuate be sure to at least take these items.