Thursday 06/07/17

A couple of weeks ago I updated the gear in my Bug Out Bag (BOB). Expired medicines and hygiene supplies had to be replaced, my jumper was too small (thanks to my efforts at the gym), my multi-tool and knife appreciated a light resharpening and reoiling, and my non-perishable food needed to be replaced. As I checked the equipment in my backpack, I took the opportunity to review the practicality and durability of each item. I was still happy with my initial choices.

This review also included the food I had in my pack. I'd only packed protein bars, packets of trail mix, chocolate bars, and tinned food (such as baked beans, processed meat, salmon, and tuna). I know conventional wisdom emphasises the inclusion of dehydrated food, and MREs (Meals Ready to Eat), but this isn't always practical choice. "How can this be? Why would you ignore conversation wisdom?", I hear you ask.

Where I live, prepping is seen as an unhealthy obsession by many people. For some reason, people believe they will have plenty of time to prepare for an emergency when a flood or bush fire is tearing its way toward their house.

These same people have given rise to the attitude that camping is meant to include as many luxuries as possible. This philosophy does not include low-brow foods such as MREs. As such, there is no financial incentive for camping stores to stock MREs. However, they do stock dehydrated meals. Unfortunately, these become expensive bin-fillers if you don’t use them before their expiry date.

To keep my prepping costs to a minimum I restrict my emergency supplies to the same food I have in my pantry. The food in my BOB is kept fresh by regularly swapping it with newer items from my pantry (food rotation).

In addition to trail mix, protein bars and chocolate bars, the choice comes down tinned food versus dehydrated food. Logically, dehydrated food weighs a lot less than canned food, but you must also carry enough additional water to rehydrate the dehydrated food (negating any initial weight difference). You must carry this water in addition to the water you will already be carrying for drinking. If you try to use your meagre supply of drinking water for cooking, you will quickly run out of water. Contrary to what you may have seen in movies, the Australian countryside is not littered with freshwater creeks. Fresh water is not easy to find. Even if you find fresh water, unseen pollutants are a serious concern. Freshwater creeks can become temporarily polluted by flood water, or permanently polluted by human interference.

The best reason to carry canned food is it can be eaten straight from of the can, without any preparation. Dehydrated food requires cooking utensils and a fire to boil your water. You can’t guarantee you’ll find firewood along your route, so you will need to include a small pot, cutlery, a hexi-stove, and a supply of hexamine tablets in your BOB. This additional gear will take up space in your backpack, adds weight to your load, and needs to be cleaned when you’ve finished eating.

Security is a huge problem when you are away from home. If you are in a group with people who have failed to prepare, and information about your supplies become public knowledge, it is likely the group will demand that you "share" your supplies with them. Immediately. This is not a good position to be in.

Natural disaster or not, criminals still see the world in terms of predator and prey. And not just criminals. The average person can do unforgivable things if they are desperate. Be realistic; if they see you as a victim, and they have you outnumbered, there won't be a lot you can do to stop them. Especially in the absence of law enforcement.

Remember; if you carry more gear, you’ll need a bigger backpack. Be conservative when packing. There is a limit to the amount of weight you can carry. You must be able pick your BOB up from the ground and put it on your back, without any help. There are no exceptions to this rule. Also, think about how far you'll have to walk, the terrain you'll be crossing, and how many hours you'll be walking. Unless you are in the military, or an experienced hiker, it is unlikely you are used to this sort of activity. You will struggle if your backpack weighs more than 10-15% of your body weight.

If you have lapsed in your preparations, now is the time to correct that oversight. For the same amount of time it takes to watch a movie, you can organise and pack your Bug Out Bag. Trust me; you’ll sleep a lot easier at night knowing you have done your best to prepare for disaster. As a child, I grew up hearing the expression “Failure to prepare is preparing to fail”.

By this Sunday I hope your Bug Out Bag will be up to date and stored in an easily accessible place. As always, please share this information with your friends and family on social media.