In the event of an evacuation, like at all other times, having our basic needs met is of primary importance. However the way in which we will need to meet them can vary greatly from normal life. Therefore to have the gear, which helps provide these, readily available and the skill to use the gear is of great importance. We tried to accomplish this by assembling gear in a backpack and using it. Once we have learned how to provide our basic needs, these skills are with us wherever we go.
In planning our packs, we first wrote out a list of the basic necessities that we felt they needed to be able to meet. Here they are. They had to provide shelter (which includes warmth), food and water (which provide strength), and medical (for both sicknesses and trauma). Plus, they all had to be transportable by hand, meaning that they had to be light and small enough that we would be able to take them with us even if we had to leave on foot. This means, that depending on the person, we had to adjust the size/weight of the packs to be carryable by them personally. We actually ended up making each person two packs, one a full sized backpack and the other a smaller fannypack. These would preferably be used in conjunction with one another in an evacuation. The fannypack has an advantage even though it is very small in size, and thus not able to carry nearly so much gear, of being able to be carried when we go on trips (not emergency related) so we are able to have it with us when we are away from home. The small quantity of gear in the fannypacks would be difficult to survive with, but because it is more likely to be with us, it is of utmost importance. Also it is small and light enough to be worn at all times during an emergency, thus insuring that we will each have enough gear to be able to survive even if we are separated from our backpacks and/or one another.
The packs started out as an idea of my parents. We built one for each of us a long time back, I would have been under 10 at the time and remember very little. I helped where I could, but that would not have been very much. The first actual backpacks that we got were seven surplus Swedish backpacks, this made it so I was the youngest one that got one. I was so pleased, I had a pack like all the big kids. The trouble was the backpack was so large it was useless for me at that time, so to my grievous disappointment all sorts of loose odds and ends were packed into it and I was given a book bag for my gear, which was far better for me at that time simply because it was small enough that it actually fit me. TIP: When looking to buy a pack, try to find some place where you can try it on (like a large sporting goods store) for fit and also, put some weight in it so you can really get to feel for how it rides, fits, etc.
After we had built those packs, we did not do much with them for a number of years. However, recently we have started getting into backpacking and to cut expenses we have just used our survival backpacks. (Of course being careful to replace consumables after each use.) This has also allowed us to get familiar with their contents and will make them much easier to use in case of an emergency.
When we started using our survival backpacks, we soon learned that they were far too heavy for even us men to comfortably carry. The military surplus packs that we were using also did not fit any of us and so made it all the more difficult to carry, thus defeating one of the major reasons for going with backpacks in the first place. We had gotten inexpensive gear, mainly military surplus, which, although it is of excellent quality and strength, it is prohibitively heavy. The heaviest three things (all of which were military surplus) were: sleeping bag 10lbs., canvas tent halves 10lbs for two, and our empty backpacks at 4-12lbs. each. Decreasing the weight of the tents was easy, we swapped from canvass to nylon tents which we had collected over the years. (Still heavy but better at only 5lbs.) Reducing the weight of the other two is much more difficult as fewer "good" sleeping bags or backpacks show up second hand. For the sleeping bags, we have tried ordering some 0° 3lb. bags but they ended up being out of production so we are still looking for something under 4lbs. that is in our price range. With the backpacks, we were able to get a few on closeout from a large sporting goods store. The rest of us older people are using backpacks that we were able to pick up second hand over the years. This has made it so that each older family member has a good pack which should meet our needs for the foreseeable future.
Learning about and ultimately getting the equipment was a major learning process, but even after we had the gear in our hand, we had just begun, as we still had to learn to use what we had acquired to its best advantage and learn what needed to be changed to meet our personal needs. Using the gear on our camping trips has shown us the need to learn many of the more basic of these skills. We also realize the need for more training and practice, especially in the more technical areas. Practice is the only way we have found to really learn the skills and cement them in our minds where they will be available when we really need them. Having read something in a book is good but it just does not compare to having actually done it yourself.
Many of the skills we have acquired have come from books, for example; wild edible identification. Our parents couldn't teach us much in this area since they weren't really familiar with it. About all they could show us was: Dandelion, Cat tails, Lambs-quarter, Plantain, Purslane, Shepherds Purse, Nettle, wild berries and nuts, Garlic, and Maple sap. Needless to say we would be hard put surviving on just these as they tend to only be available at certain times of the year and only in limited places. Therefore we have collected quite a library of plant identification guides.When we find a new unusual plant that we do not recognize, we enjoy being able to look it up and see if we can eat it and if so, how. We have found this to be a much better way of learning wild edibles than just trying to memorize the guides.
No matter how good the gear is, it will not help you unless you know how to use it. And an emergency isn't a good time to do this. We won't have time.
On our backpacking trips we have plenty of opportunities to realize how many skills we need to learn, so we could survive with no re-supplying - just what was on our backs and what we could get from the land around us. These are the types of skills we have found that we needed to know. This is not an exhaustive list but it gives some idea of what is involved.
BASIC KNOWLEDGE of how to use all the individual gear and all of the group gear. The ability to improvise.
SHELTER. Fire building, especially in wet weather. Best type of location to make camp. Building a more permanent shelter than a tent.
FOOD. Being able to cook on a wood fire. Wild edible identification. Fishing. Building and placing traps and snares. Hunting with carried or made weapons. Butchering. Preserving of foods.
MEDICAL. First aid. Diagnostics and prescription. Wild herbs and their uses.
TRAVEL. Packing. Direction finding. Map and compass.
Many of these things, like the area of medical, can easily go far beyond the level of skill that we will each choose to learn, and they can take far more time than we could possibly give. Yet having even a small amount of knowledge in the simpler areas makes it so that we can care for stings and bites, can care for shock, and clean and bandage cuts, sores or burns, ect,. Most members of our family have taken a course in CPR and first aid. That covers the basics. For most other medical needs, we carry some books with us, and rely on God.
Most of the skills that we have learned for our "survival preparedness" have helped us in our day to day lives. Actually the only skill that I can even think of that is exclusively "survival" would be being able to use a "Personal Locater Beacon", not something most of us are likely to learn! Overall the skills that we have worked on learning have been fairly simple and straight forward. We have no one to teach us new skills so we do much of our learning from books, both from our own personal libraries and from the public library, then we take to the woods to put into practice what we learned and to solidified it in our minds.
Providing the basic necessities not only requires tools and gear but also skills, many of which we already had because of the way we live with a garden, animals and the woods behind our house. The more gear we are able to have with us the easier it will be to survive because we will need less skill. Therefore if we can stay right here at home, we will definitely have the easiest and simplest time in an actual emergency situation, If however we are reduced to just our fannypacks it will take a large amount of skill to survive for any length of time with no outside assistance. - but it can be done.
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