Survival Thinking: Learning from Camping

12 August, 2011
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63/365 - Camping Nights
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Camping is a simple, inexpensive, and fun way for everyone to enjoy the outdoors and get away from the rat race of day-to-day life. Regardless of whether you enjoy light-weight, family-style ‘car’ camping or more intensive overland backpacking, camping can provide some interesting lessons in disaster readiness planning. The same thinking you use to pack for a weekend in the woods is very similar to the thinking you want to use to plan for most emergencies.

Think about it for a moment. You’re removing yourself from the luxuries of home, if not civilization entirely. You have limited supplies of food and supplies dictated by what you can bring yourself and how you budget the use. You need to provide your own protection from the elements. You’re setting off a controlled emergency in a way that you can, in theory, relax and enjoy the experience. Basically, camping is just a controlled crisis situation for fun.

Exercise for you: Take a moment, before reading further and think a little about camping. Imagine you and some friends or your family are going to spend the weekend camping. Take a few moments and think about the things you’ll bring. Got that in mind? Good, now keep reading.

Food and Water: First and foremost, is food and water. When you plan for your weekend, what are the things you’re going to bring with you? Did you bring enough for everyone, for three meals each day? How are you transporting it? Does any of it have secondary requirements (can openers, etc)? Does any of it require water to prepare or require being cooked? How much space is all of this going to take and how are you going to store it? Now about the drinks? Are you bringing enough? Did you consider things like water for preparing and cleaning up from cooking? And, again, you have enough for each person to last the entire trip?

This is the same thing we have to ask when planning a food and water supply for emergencies. How many people do we need to supply? Are the foodstuffs going to require specialized storage or need special tools or supplies just to make eatable? What about the water? Do you have enough? Not just for drinking, but also for everything we need water for?

Shelter and Protection: What will we bring? Probably a sleeping bag for each person, probably a tent of some kind. We’ve probably given some thought to our environmental specifics. If we’re camping in a desert terrain, we’ll probably add some sunscreen. In a rainy area, some kind of tarp. If there is a lot of water nearby, maybe some insect counter-measures. If we want to have a campfire, we’ll want to ensure we have a supply of wood and some mechanisms for starting it. Methods for disposing of waste and garbage are also something we’ll probably want to consider.

Again, this is exactly the same kind of thinking we want to use when preparing for emergencies. If you have to seek shelter in a crisis, where are you going to go? What are you going to do? Do you need to consider special circumstances for your environment? Does your home experience climate extremes (very hot weather, very cold weather, etc)?

Tools and conveniences: When you’re packing for your trip, you’ll probably want to bring some tools and items to make the whole experience easier. A flashlight for a night or an axe to cut wood. That kind of thing. What criteria to you use to pick what you bring? There is only so much you want to bring and weight and size is a factor if you’re going to hike in. What about the durability and reliability of the item? One can get a flashlight for less than a dollar, but you may want to spend a little more for a good, reliable model that you’ll be certain won’t let you down under pressure. What tools do you need, versus tools that you want?

For disaster preparation, these are the same kinds of questions you want to ask. Every item you add to your kit should be justified. Just as you plan for the camping trip, you want to ask those same questions. Is this item really needed? Can its functions be replicated by something else? Are my items reliable? How encumbering are they? A chainsaw will cut wood faster, but is a lot heavier than a hatchet (never mind the fuel limitations). Everyone advises having a radio in your kit, but that giant boombox the size of a small child is probably a poor choice.

Fun stuff: How about some field entertainment? Maybe you want to bring something to read, or a deck of cards, a camera or a musical instrument. How much space can you afford to allocate for these items? How much weight? Are we packing toys that are going to be immediately useless in the field? A paper book in a rainy environment, for example, is a good example of a bad idea.

You probably see where this is going now. For survival, the concept is the same. Most sources advocate having some minor entertainment items, especially if you have children in your party or you think you’ll be in one place for any serious duration. What fits well in your kit by-size, by-weight and by-cost?

Now think back to the items you were planning on at the beginning of this page. Do you need to make any changes?

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